Legislative and Regulatory Activity

E-rate Modernization

The FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) during its Open Meeting on July 19, seeking comment on rules to update and modernize the E-rate program in order to support high-speed broadband for digital educational technology in classrooms and libraries. FCC staff indicated that they have three goals in the proceeding: (1) to ensure that schools and libraries have affordable and robust broadband access that supports digital learning; (2) to maximize the cost effectiveness of E-rate purchases; and (3) to streamline the E-rate Program.

E-rate Hearing

Last week the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the E-rate Program, which was originally authored by Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and championed by new Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) while he was in the House. Republicans criticized, and Democrats supported, the E-rate Program. Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) expressed support for FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s recently announced student-centered E-rate proposal due to its cost-matching requirement, but warned that the President’s ConnectED Initiative could exclude many students in rural areas. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) complained that her state benefits the least from USF funding relative to its contributions, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) argued that it is “not working all that well.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called the E-rate Program “a real American success story” and Chairman Rockefeller called its impact “nothing short of extraordinary.”

E-rate FCC Forms 470 and 471 Changes

On July 17, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on proposed revisions to FCC Forms 470 and 471, which are used by applicants seeking support from the E-rate Program. The proposed changes to the forms include inquiring about broadband connectivity based on individual funding requests and requesting additional information about the current number of broadband connections, their type, and speeds. The FCC also proposes consolidating funding requests for telecommunications and Internet access services into one field on the FCC Form 470. Comments are due by August 16, 2013, and replies are due by August 30, 2013.

Improving Access to Accessible Services

The FCC adopted an order and a further NPRM setting minimum standards for the Speech-to-Speech Relay Program and seeking comment on ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the that Program. Comments and reply comments will be due after the further NPRM is released and published in the Federal Register. The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs, Wireless Telecommunications, and Media Bureaus reported during the FCC’s Open Meeting on the status of the FCC’s implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).

AWS H Block

The FCC announced that the AWS H Block spectrum license auction, 1915-1920 MHz (Lower H Block) and 1995-2000 MHz (Upper H Block), will take place on January 14, 2014. The FCC seeks comments on the proposed structure, design, and bidding procedures for the auction. Comments are due by August 5, and reply comments are due by August 16.

Incentive Auction Hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold an oversight hearing regarding the federal government’s efforts to implement the incentive auction requirements under the JOBS Act. Witnesses will include Rick Kaplan, Executive Vice President for the National Association of Broadcasters; Gary Epstein, FCC Chair for the Incentive Auction Taskforce; Preston Padden, Executive Director for the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition; Kathleen Ham, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for T-Mobile US; Harold Feld, Senior Vice President for Public Knowledge; and Joan Marsh, Vice President for Federal Regulatory Affairs at AT&T.

Spectrum Legislation

Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), the co-chairs for the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Spectrum Working Group, recently introduced the Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act, which seeks to reallocate and auction federally held spectrum in the 1755-1780 MHz band. The legislation follows last month’s hearing held by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, titled “Equipping Carriers and Agencies in the Wireless Era,” and signals growing bipartisan interest in reallocating federally managed spectrum that could be used for private commercial purposes.

Wireline Hearing

The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will hold a hearing on Thursday, July 24, on the state of wireline competition. The subcommittee has previously held hearings on the state of the wireless and video industries. Possible topics for the wireline hearing include: network emergency resilience, rural broadband access, and Universal Service Fund programs.

Copyright Hearings

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Chairman Howard Coble (R-NC) announced that the Subcommittee will hold two hearings before the August recess that examine current copyright law.

Video Competition Report

The FCC adopted its Fifteenth Report on the status of competition in the market for the delivery of video programming. During the FCC’s July 19 Open Meeting, the Media Bureau reported that the deployment of digital technology is increasing consumer access to video programming anywhere and anytime. Some consumers now have access to four different video providers, consumers are increasingly watching online video programming on television sets, and the number of households relying on over-the-air broadcast service remained steady at approximately 11.1 million households.

This Week’s Hearings, Meetings, and Deadlines:

  • Monday, July 22: Questions from respondents regarding the 10 Requests for Information released by the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet) on July 10 are due.
  • Wednesday, July 24: NTIA Spectrum Management Advisory Committee meeting.
  • Thursday, July 25: The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will hold a hearing on the state of wireline competition.
  • Thursday, July 25: NTIA Public Meeting on Developing a Consumer Privacy Code of Conduct for Mobile Applications. NTIA is overseeing the multi-stakeholder development of a code of conduct to provide transparency in how companies providing applications and interactive services for mobile devices handle personal data.