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.
In his written testimony in connection with the Senate Commerce, Science, And Transportation Committee’s FCC Oversight Hearing, FCC Chairman discussed several pending issues including universal service reform to rate-of-return ILECs, modernization of the Lifeline program, and broadband privacy.
- On rate-of-return carrier reforms, he noted that a bipartisan Order was being reviewed by the Commissioners and that the proposed Order “sets forth a package of reforms to address rate-of-return issues that are fundamentally intertwined – the need to modernize the program to provide support for standalone broadband service; the need to improve incentives for broadband investment to connect unserved rural Americans; and the need to strengthen the rate-of-return system to provide certainty and stability for years to come.”
- On reform of the Lifeline program, he said: “The first principle of Lifeline reform is allowing the program to support both fixed and mobile broadband service. We will establish minimum standards of service that Lifeline providers must deliver to receive funds. We will also improve Lifeline’s management and design to get to the heart of the historic issues that have undermined this program’s efficiency. We will streamline the requirements to become a Lifeline provider and take a hard look at the burdens we place on those providers to make it easier for carriers to participate in the Lifeline program.“
- Regarding broadband privacy issues, Wheeler said: “We’re committed to taking a thoughtful, rational approach to addressing privacy protections and data security for consumers’ use of Internet access services. We’ve begun the process of talking to stakeholders about section 222 in the broadband context, and continue to invite conversations about core privacy principles – transparency, choice and security – while also taking into account the FTC’s complementary leadership and precedents, consumer expectations and the thriving innovation economy.”
In his testimony Commissioner O’Rielly discussed wireless spectrum and infrastructure, as well his concerns about recent actions that appear to expand its regulatory mission. He also offered suggestions for possible legislative reform, including a suggestion that fines or penalties paid due to failure to contribute to the Federal USF or fraud committed against the fund be remitted back to the USF rather than the US Treasury. He explained that: “Payments that are made to the Fund in a given quarter as a result of enforcement actions can be used to offset overall program spending in the next quarter, thereby reducing the amount that consumers need to pay on their phone bills that next quarter. While this may not provide full compensation to each individual consumer that was harmed, it is better than the current situation where no money is returned to USF and no ratepayer receives any offset. And with USF spending trending higher each year, I imagine that even a modest reduction in fees on consumer phone bills would be a welcome change. Further, by dedicating such collected monies to the Fund, it should decrease concerns in this instance that the Commission’s enforcement activities could be driven by its desire for additional budgetary resources.”
Commissioner Clyburn’s testimony addressed universal access and diversity; Commissioner Rosenworcel’s testimony focused on spectrum policy; and Commissioner Pai’s testimony focused on ensuring direct dialing for 911 calls, combating the threats posed by inmates’ use of contraband cell phones, and spectrum issues.