TR Daily Spectrum, Suicide Number, VoIP ‘Symmetry’ Items Teed Up
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Spectrum, Suicide Number, VoIP ‘Symmetry’ Items Teed Up

The FCC plans to consider 5.9 gigahertz, 3 GHz, three-digit suicide hotline number, and voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) “symmetry” items at its Dec. 12 meeting, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today.

Rounding out the agenda will be two media items – one dealing with consumer notice of broadcast carriage disputes and another modifying the agency’s licensing process for noncommercial educational full-service FM and full-power TV and low-power FM broadcast stations – and three enforcement items. The FCC plans to release the text of the draft items tomorrow, along with the tentative agenda.

In a blog posting, Mr. Pai noted that he is proposing a notice of proposed rulemaking (see separate story) to make “the lower 45 MHz of the [5.9 GHz] band available for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi. Since its launch, Wi-Fi has become a staple of everyday life. Wi-Fi now carries more than half of the Internet's traffic. It has become a foundational technology for the Internet of Things, connecting our TVs, thermostats, baby monitors, refrigerators, washing machines, toys, and even toilets. We therefore need to make more spectrum available for unlicensed use to meet growing consumer demand. At the same time, my plan would allocate the upper 20 MHz of this band for a new automotive communications technology, Cellular Vehicle to Everything, or C-V2X. This new technology would use cellular protocols to provide direct communications between vehicles, and, as the name suggests, everything—including other vehicles on the road, infrastructure like light poles, cyclists, pedestrians, and road workers. We also propose to make an additional 10 megahertz available for transportation-related communications, for a total of 30 megahertz, and invite comment on whether it should be used for DSRC [dedicated short-range communications] or C-V2X. If adopted, my new plan for this band would make far more productive use of this spectrum, and would deliver far more value to American consumers, than the status quo.”

Mr. Pai said the Commission will consider another spectrum item at next month’s meeting.

“In March 2018, Congress passed a law calling for the exploration of commercial uses in the 3.1-3.55 GHz band [TR Daily, March 23, 2018],” Mr. Pai noted. “Currently, the Department of Defense operates high-powered radar systems in this band, with some non-federal users offering radiolocation services on a secondary basis. To prepare the upper portion of the band for potential shared use between commercial wireless services and federal incumbents, I'm proposing to remove the existing non-federal secondary radiolocation and amateur allocations in the 3.3-3.55 GHz band and relocate those services to the 3.1-3.3 GHz portion of the band or other frequencies. Clearing this upper portion of the band of existing non-federal operations could help us make as much as 250 megahertz of spectrum available for advanced wireless services. This would promote the development and deployment of 5G services across the country and advance American leadership in this next generation of wireless connectivity.”

As Mr. Pai announced in a speech yesterday, the FCC also plans to consider an NPRM that proposes to establish “988” as a nationwide, three-digit phone number for a suicide prevention and mental health hotline (TR Daily, Nov. 19).

“Under my proposal, anyone calling 988 would be routed to the established National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), which is already saving lives. I believe that an easy-to-remember 3-digit number for emergency suicide prevention and mental health services would result in more people reaching out for assistance and would help to combat this crisis,” Mr. Pai said.

In a report sent to Congress in August, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics recommended allocating “988” as the dialing code for the national hotline, saying that it could be implemented more quickly than any of the “N11” dialing codes (TR Daily, Aug. 15). Mr. Pai announced when the report was released that he planned to move forward to implement the recommendation. The report was prepared pursuant to the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018.

Mr. Pai also said the FCC will consider “an item that will help encourage the ongoing transition from legacy voice networks to Internet Protocol-based networks. Traditionally, the Commission has indirectly subsidized the construction and operation of telephone networks through a complicated system of rules known as intercarrier compensation. One of these rules allows local phone companies (or LECs) to charge long-distance companies for delivering long-distance calls to customers on the LEC's network. But as more and more telephone calls are carried on both the traditional phone network—known as the public-switched telephone network—and IP-based networks, and as more and more consumers look to alternatives to traditional phone service like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), it raises questions about which carriers should be able to collect these charges. At our December meeting, the Commission will consider a Declaratory Ruling interpreting what is known as the VoIP symmetry rule. The prior Commission's interpretation of this rule (over my dissent) was rejected by the D.C. Circuit, and this Declaratory Ruling would take a different tack. Specifically, it would determine that LECs may assess end-office switched access charges if, and only if, the local carrier or its VoIP partner provides a physical connection to the last-mile facilities used to serve an end-user. This all sounds very complicated to the uninitiated, but the thing to know is that this will help ensure that carriers have the right incentives to deploy modern, IP-based networks throughout our country.”

In 2016, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated and remanded to the FCC (TR Daily, Nov. 18, 2016) a declaratory ruling in which the Commission said in 2015 that the VoIP “symmetry” rule adopted in its 2011 Universal Service Fund/intercarrier compensation order does not require a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) or its VoIP service provider partner to provide the last-mile facility to the VoIP provider’s end-users in order to be eligible to assess access charges for providing the functional equivalent of end-user switching (TR Daily, Feb. 11, 2015).

“Rounding out our December meeting will be two media items. The first seeks to make sure consumers are accurately informed and not confused when there are disputes between broadcasters and cable programmers, on the one hand, and cable operators, on the other,” Mr. Pai said. “So to make consumer notices more meaningful and accurate and to make our rules clearer, we will consider a proposal to change the notice deadline from 30 days in advance to ‘as soon as possible’ in cases in which carriage negotiations fail during the last 30 days of a contract.”

Mr. Pai said the other “media item would tweak our licensing process for noncommercial educational full-service FM and full-power television (NCE) and low-power FM (LPFM) broadcast stations. The proposed changes build upon lessons learned from the most recent NCE and LPFM filing windows and are designed to improve our comparative selection and licensing procedures, expedite the initiation of new service to the public, eliminate unnecessary applicant burdens, and reduce the number of appeals of our NCE comparative licensing decisions.”

He also said that the FCC “will also consider three enforcement items at our December meeting. Because we cannot discuss enforcement actions before they are adopted, I can't share any further details about these actions at this time.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation

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