TR Daily China Mobile, 1670-1680 MHz Items Teed Up for Votes on May 9
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

China Mobile, 1670-1680 MHz Items Teed Up for Votes on May 9

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that he plans to ask his fellow Commissioners to vote at the agency’s May 9 meeting to deny a 2011 application by China Mobile USA for international section 214 authority because of national security and law enforcement concerns, as federal executive branch agencies asked the Commission to do last year.

Chairman Pai also plans to ask for a vote on a proposal for shared use of the 1675 megahertz to 1680 MHz band by incumbent federal users and new non-federal users.

In a blog post today, Chairman Pai said the actions he will ask his colleagues to take at the May 9 meeting will “advance the goal of security” for U.S. communications networks.

Chairman Pai also announced that he plans to seek votes at the May 9 meeting on an application by Theia Holdings A, Inc., to construct, launch, and operate a constellation of 112 nongeostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites; an order and further notice of proposed rulemaking regarding video relay service; a public notice to initiate the “833” toll-free number pre-auction process; the FCC’s annual proposal on regulatory fees; and ways to streamline and expedite interference complaints in the wake of the growing number of FM translators for AM radio stations.

During a conference call with reporters this afternoon, a senior FCC official said that the China Mobile application marks the first time the federal executive branch agencies that it consults on section 214 applications involving companies with foreign ownership have advised the FCC to deny an application because law enforcement and national security concerns indicate that granting the application would not be in the public interest.

China Mobile, which is indirectly majority-owned by the People’s Republic of China, had sought authority in 2011 under section 214 of the 1934 Communications Act to provide telecommunications services between the U.S. and points outside the U.S.

In a filing submitted on their behalf by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration last summer, the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Commerce, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of U.S. Trade Representative recommended that the FCC deny the application (TR Daily, July 2, 2018).

China Mobile responded in August, the executive branch agencies responded to China Mobile in September, and following that, the FCC sought public comment, with the pleading cycle closing in December, the FCC official said today.

A grant of section 214 authority would enable China Mobile to connect to telecom networks in the U.S., and potentially give it access it could use either to intercept U.S. communications traffic or interfere with U.S. networks if the Chinese government directed it to do so, the FCC official said.

The draft order circulated to the FCC Commissioners today would find that China Mobile is vulnerable to influence and control by the Chinese government and that there is not a sufficient baseline level of trust to address the issues through a mitigation agreement such as has been used with other telecom companies, such as T-Mobile US, Inc., and Sprint Corp., that have significant foreign ownership interests.

The senior FCC official said that the concerns raised in the draft order would apply to other companies owned by the Chinese government, and that some of the concerns would apply to Chinese companies that are not owned by the government.

The FCC official said that the executive branch agencies considered the possibility of retaliation by the Chinese government against U.S. telecom companies but still decided that it would be better to deny the China Mobile application, and the draft order agrees with that assessment.

In his blog post, Chairman Pai said, “Promoting secure communications is a long-standing FCC priority. In fact, the second-stated mission Congress gave the Commission in the Communications Act is ‘the national defense.’ One facet of our work on security involves our review of foreign companies that seek to do business in the United States.”

He added that based on the executive branch agencies’ recommendation “and the full public record in this proceeding, I have determined that approving this application would not serve the public interest.”

Regarding the proposal for shared use of the 1675¬–1680 MHz band by incumbent federal users and new non-federal users, Chairman Pai noted that President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal calls for the FCC to “either auction or use fee authority to assign spectrum frequencies between 1675–1680 megahertz for flexible use by 2020, subject to sharing arrangements with Federal weather satellites” (TR Daily, March 18).

“I agree with opening this spectrum for commercial use so that’s exactly what I intend to do. So today, as the first step down that path, I’m circulating a proposal to reallocate spectrum in the 1675–1680 MHz band for shared use between incumbent federal operations and new, non-federal fixed or mobile operations,” Chairman Pai said.

Competitive Carriers Association President and Chief Executive Officer Steve responded to Chairman Pai’s announcement about the 1675-1680 MHz band in a statement, saying, “I thank Chairman Pai and the FCC for its efforts to make critical mid-band spectrum available for competitive carriers. All spectrum, including the 1675-1680 MHz bands, provides real opportunities for carriers to deploy next-generation technologies and meet consumers’ ever-increasing demands for advanced mobile services. While CCA looks forward to reviewing the draft item slated for consideration at next month’s Open Meeting, freeing-up more mid-band spectrum for terrestrial use is especially important for the overall economy, as the U.S. attempts to compete in the global race to 5G. I thank Chairman Pai and the FCC for recognizing the need to inspire innovative use of valuable and finite spectrum resources, and look forward to seeing further details in the item next month.”

Ligado Networks Board Chairman Ivan Seidenberg said, “The entire wireless industry desperately needs more mid-band spectrum for emerging 5G networks, and FCC Chairman Pai deserves credit for recognizing the importance of this spectrum to our country’s future. This NPRM has significant potential to free up critical mid-band spectrum that will help ensure the United States commercializes the wireless spectrum necessary to accelerate, strengthen, and secure 5G networks across the country. As a company, we are ready to invest in this spectrum and help deploy the 5G technologies that will not only improve all our lives but also give our economy a competitive edge against the rest of the world.”

Mr. Seidenberg added, “Making this spectrum available for commercial use would create a huge benefit for the American wireless industry, because if combined with other available frequencies, it could unleash 40 MHz of vital lower mid-band spectrum to serve mission-critical industrial Internet of Things and other emerging 5G applications.”

Regarding the application by Theia Holdings for a constellation of 112 NGSO satellites, Chairman Pai said, “In addition to supporting broadband connectivity, Theia’s satellites promise to deliver remote sensing analytics, which could enable precision agriculture, first-responder support, and other applications.”

Regarding the draft order and further notice of proposed rulemaking on VRS services, Chairman Pai said, “The new VRS rules we hope to establish will make it easier for people who rely on American Sign Language to communicate directly with signing customer support representatives. And to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the VRS program, the order would strengthen our mechanisms for call validation?—?essentially, making sure it’s a legitimate VRS call (and hence one properly supported by federal funds). As part of an accompanying Further Notice, among other ideas, we’ll propose expanding the available pool of qualified sign-language interpreters by converting the current pilot program on at-home interpreting into a permanent one.”

As for the draft public notice to initiate the 833 toll-free number pre-auction process, Chairman Pai said, “Although the Commission has typically held auctions of spectrum, last year we voted to use this market-based tool for the allocation of toll-free numbers. Next month, we’ll vote on a Public Notice to initiate the pre-bidding process for the auction of certain toll-free numbers in the 833 code. Over 17,000 numbers which have been requested by more than one applicant will be available in this first-of-its-kind auction.”

Last fall the FCC decided to test the use of an auction to distribute 17,000 numbers in the 833 toll-free code for which there were multiple, competing requests, in an effort to “ensure that sought-after numbers are awarded to the parties that value them most.” It said it would “study the results of the auction to determine how to best use the mechanism to distribute toll free numbers equitably and efficiently in the future as well.” The FCC also said it would “reserve certain 833 numbers for distribution to government and non-profit entities that request them for public health and safety purposes” (TR Daily, Sept. 26, 2018).

Yesterday the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau has invited government entities and nonprofit health and safety organizations to submit requests for phone numbers in the “833” toll-free code by May 16 (TR Daily, April 16).

Chairman Pai also plans to ask his colleagues to vote at the May 9 meeting on the agency’s fiscal 2019 proposal for collecting the fees from regulated entities that provide the bulk of the agency’s operating budget. He noted that “it may not be the most exciting work we do, but laws old and new make us do it and these fees pay most of our bills.” He added that the draft item also “seeks input on ways to improve our regulatory fee calculations.”

Regarding the planned vote on streamlining and expediting interference complaints about FM translators for AM radio stations, Chairman Pai said, “Thanks to the Commission’s AM Radio Revitalization Initiative, the FCC has granted AM stations 1,707 construction permits for new FM translators, and almost five hundred of these translators are already on the air. These translators are helping AM broadcasters attract more listeners and advertisers. But with this success has come an uptick in interference complaints from FM stations due to the increasing number of translators on the air. To address this problem, the FCC will vote on streamlining and expediting our current process for resolving interference complaints. Among other things, the order would establish simpler interference remediation procedures, clarify listener complaint requirements, and make it easier for translators causing interference to change channels.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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