Federal Communications Commission

Live Blogging the Open Commission Meeting

November 18th, 2009 by George Krebs

For more information and a host of resources pertaining to today's meeting click here.

10:03 AM EDT
Welcome to the November Open Commission meeting. Today the commissioners will review the state of the National Broadband Plan and consider a draft ruling on the wireless tower siting time frame petition (an explanation will follow). For a better sense of the gaps the team will be looking at in the Broadband Plan, Executive Director Blair Levin provides brilliant analysis here.

First, the commissioners will vote on the "draft declaratory ruling" on setting a timeframe for processing wireless tower siting applications. With little fanfare, Chairman Genachowski launches into the agenda. The stage is set for Ruth Milkman, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief, and she begins.

10:18 AM EDT
While the docket file with the draft of the rule seems quite dense and involved (at 44 pages in the pdf), the Wireless Bureau presentation is fairly straight forward. Angela Kroneberg, Special Counsel in the Wireless Bureau explains that "The act requires that state and local governments act on wireless facility siting applications within a reasonable period of time." The rule concerns a request for state and local jurisdictions to act on tower citing requests -- mostly made by wireless carriers.

Some applications have laid fallow for three years while providers have been anxious to build their network for consumers. This rule would require applications to be processed within 90 days for co-locations (sites where two or more providers are sharing a tower or sharing a zoned plot of land for more than one tower) and 150 days for all other tower siting applications (say, if a carrier wanted to build a new tower). This rule adopts a fair time frame for all parties involved. Without a fair timeframe for decision making, the providers cannot adequately assess their position in constructing their infrastructure.

10:37 AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski notes that is was an "Excellent and clear presentation." Commissioner Copps exlpains that this rule will provide easier access for broadband and mobile services and says, "This sounds like a win, win, win to me." Commissioner McDowell notes that this ruling adheres to his philosophy of helping businesses. Streamling this process for carriers will pass along cost savings to their consumers and will spur business. Commissioner Clyburn concurs, emphasizing that the ruling will facilitate infrastructure buildup for carriers and ultimately, and most importantly, will benefit consumers. Commissioner Baker says that the rule will provide certainty for wireless carriers. The Chairman takes a vote and with it says, "We have a unanimous approval of this item."

10:50 AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski describes the importance of universal broadband and gives the floor to Blair Levin, Executive Director of the National Broadband Plan. Mr. Levin lays out the agenda for today’s presentation which includes providing a description of the most important broadband gaps, ensuring public awareness of areas of inquiry, beginning a focused discussion of solutions, and setting the agenda for the next 91 days.
The plan is about an ecosystem involving devices, adoption and utilization, applications and content, and devices. These elements are interdependent. The success of one element can bolster the success of the others and in the same way a bottleneck facing one element, say in network services, affects the other spheres of the ecosystem.
11:02 AM EDT
Ruth Milkman, again from the Wireless Bureau, speaks to the need for spectrum. She explains that the demand for mobile data will grow dramatically. A chart on the PowerPoint presentation (which you will be able to find here following the meeting) shows that in 2009 mobile users are consuming 17 petabytes of data a month. A study from Cisco VNI predicts that users will consume 397 petabytes per month in 2013. This will require the commission to free up large swaths of spectrum that is currently unavailable. From our experience we know that it takes years to free up spectrum for use. Milkman says, “We know there’s a spectrum gap and we need to act quickly.”
11: 17 AM EDT
Brian David, Adoption and Usage Director for the Omnibus Broadband Initiative (the Broadband Team), sounds a clarion call. He warns that “the cost of digital exclusion is large and growing.” Education, health care, public safety, small business functionality, and job searches are increasingly dependant on the universality internet. FCC Managing Director Steve VanRoekel adds to Mr. David’s presentations and states that “increasingly job training is only online.”

Mr. VanRoekel continues the panel with a discussion on the importance of protecting the privacy of consumer information. He then transitions to the FCC’s own relationship to the issues the Broadband Team is reviewing. “Around the FCC we’re working on closing a significant gap,” he says, “the gap of data.” To be data driven agency it’s crucial that we utilize existing internal data.

11:38 AM EDT
Erik Garr, Managing Director of the Broadband Plan, wraps up the presentation. The way to do this right is to look at the whole ecosystem. He details the road ahead with a list that includes resolving workshop responses, accessibility for people with disabilities, spectrum for broadband, telework, and public safety and homeland security issues. He says, “The important thing for you [the Commissioners] and the public is if there’s anything not on this list, please let us know. It is important we get all the public input we can.” He concludes by saying that the “February date,” February 17 when the plan is due, “is the one that keeps us up at night.” The team has scheduled a handful of future hearings and workshops and set up a schedule for the next three months. In December the team will report on their policy framework, in January on opportunities to drive national purposes, and February will see the completed plan. With that the presentation concludes and the panel opens for questions.

11:59 AM EDT
Following brief questions from the Commissioners, Chairman Genachowski wraps up. The broadband plan will provide the country with infrastructure that it “needs and deserves,” he says. Speaking to Executive Director Blair Levin and the collected panelists, he says, “We deeply appreciate and acknowledge the ‘round-the-clock work and willingness to engage in spirited public dialogue. It all makes it a lot harder; we note it and appreciate it.” With that, the commission secretary announces the date of the next commission meeting and the November Open Commission Meeting is adjourned. Until next time.

12:15 PM EDT
The press conference, which always follows the meeting, has commenced and the Chairman is giving answers to the questions of the press corps. You can watch the livestream of the press conference here. Key commission staff members have remained in the Commission Meeting Room and will also answering questions on the topics that were discussed this morning.

3 Responses to “Live Blogging the Open Commission Meeting”

  1. Guest says: - live video is not working. I am getting an error message trying to view it from different computers. Will it be fixed soon?

  2. Guest2 says:

    live webcast is not working. It is 10:23 am...

  3. Guest says:

    Live stream's worked for me since the event's start. Gvie it a refresh if you haven't had any luck yet.

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