The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Briefing.
From the Office of the Press Secretary: The White House announced a new initiative, ConnectALL to ensure more American have the broadband they need to get a job, engage their community, and deliver opportunity to their children. The ConnectALL vision is to connect 20 million more Americans to broadband by 2020. The program includes initiating a national service effort to deliver digital literacy skills, increase access to affordable devices, and create a tool, in collaboration with various state and private entities, to support broadband planning. The initiative also will bring together private sector companies to help deliver affordable connectivity to low income families. It also released a new study on the economic importance of broadband and calling for nonprofits, businesses, technology experts, and Government to join a national effort reach the ConnectALL goal.
The amended text of HR 4596, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, as passed by the Committee on Energy and Commerce, has been released. As reported previously (See the Regulatory Mix dated 2/24/16), the bill would permanently exempt small businesses from complying with the FCC’s Open Internet Order’s enhanced transparency rules. As a result of changes agreed to at the mark-up, small business will now be defined as any provider of broadband Internet access service that has not more than 250,000 subscribers. (The definition of a small business in earlier drafts was one with 1,500 employees or 500,000 subscribers.) In addition: (1) the exemption would sunset in five years; and (2) the FCC would have to recommend to Congress, within 180 days, whether or not the exception should be made permanent and whether the definition of small business should be modified. A date for consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives has not been announced.
The granted the objections filed by CenturyLink and Verizon to a request from Neil Stevens, and the objections of AT&T and Verizon to a request filed by Bruce A. Kushnick, seeking access to Confidential and Highly Confidential data and information submitted in response to the special access data collection (SADC). The FCC concluded that Mr. Stevens is a tech policy writer and contributing editor for RedState.com, a website focusing on reporting politically-oriented news. In filing his Acknowledgments, he did not claim to represent or be employed by any other entity or party to these proceedings. Accordingly, the FCC found that he was not an Outside Consultant, Outside Counsel of Record, or Outside Counsel employed by a Participant in this proceeding, as those terms are used in the protective orders. Therefore, he is not eligible to review confidential information pursuant to the protective orders.
With regard to Mr. Kushnick, the analysis was more complicated as it was unclear exactly what activities his company actually engaged in and what his specific role with them is. Among other things, there was concern that his organization or its affiliate engaged in activities such as bill auditing, which would be disqualifying. There were also questions as to his purpose for reviewing the confidential materials. The FCC noted his lack of prior involvement in the proceeding, the very general nature of his filings, and his work as a journalist and author. The FCC said that providing a person with background knowledge of an industry or “insight into a marketplace” is not a proper reason under the protective orders to be allowed to review companies’ most highly competitively sensitive information. Based on all of these factors and the evidence in the record, the FCC concluded that Mr. Kushnick had not shown that he is qualified under the protective orders to review the SADC confidential information.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) made an ex parte filing in the FCC’s Lifeline docket in support of updating the Lifeline program to subsidize access to broadband for low-income consumers.