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Live Blogging the April Open Commission Meeting

April 21st, 2010 by George Krebs

10:30am ET 

Today we put the plan into action. After months of envisioning an effective national broadband network, this is the exciting stuff we’ve been waiting for. Today we begin a long but fast-paced process to implement policy. The baton has been passed from the Broadband Team to the FCC’s Offices and Bureaus to put the plan to work. In presenting the final document, and in his last appearance before the commission, Broadband Team Executive Director Blair Levin told the commissioners, “The value of this plan should be judged by what comes of it. You have a Plan. Now is your time to act.”
 
Today we will present six items for the chairman and the commissioners to consider. These items range from planting the seeds for the Connect America Fund to efforts to bolster cyber security.
 
For background on today’s items visit our April Open Meetings page.
 
10:44am ET
 
“A full agenda,” Genachoswki says after Secretary Marlene Dortch announces the items to be considered. The chairman runs down a lengthy list of reforms the FCC has already put into place. Like the Broadband Plan that came before it, “the processes for implementing the plan will be characterized by transparency, inclusivity, and openness.”
 
11:04am ET
 
Item One - Connect America Fund: Tackling long awaited Universal Service reform
 
First up, Carol Mattey from the Wireline Competition Bureau introduces the Connect America Fund. She tells the story of a child she met who had trouble completing her homework without the Internet access available to other students. The Connect American Fund would directly support broadband without increasing the cost of the existing Universal Service Fund. The proposed Notice of Inquiry considers replacing the “legacy high cost program” with “efficient, targeted funding of networks that can provide data and voice service.”
 
Commissioners are overwhelmingly supportive. The item is voted for approval across the board. Reservations expressed arise from their recognition that this is a herculean undertaking. There’s a reason it has taken such a long time to enact reform. The Chairman sums up the sentiment of the bench saying, “[reforming Universal Service is a] multi-layered, complex, rubik’s cube of a project. It will not be easy. But it is also what we’re committed to do…There’s no dispute that we need to do this. It’s a big challenge.”
 
 
11:23am ET
 
Item Two – Roaming for mobile
 
Mobile data roaming is crucial these days. Consumers purchase phones for more than voice service. The Commission looks to adopt an automatic data roaming requirement. Again, the chairman and the commissioners come to a consensus and unanimously vote to adopt the item.
 
11:57am ET
 
Items three and four – Video devices
 
The Media Bureau’s Notice of Inquiry urges the Commission to develop an interface standard for all video services. This standard will encourage four goals:
  • Spur investment and innovation
  • Increase consumer choice
  • Allow unfettered innovation in multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) delivery platforms
  • Encourage wider broadband use and adoption (televisions are the most widely present screens in the home)
 
The second prong of the presentation seeks to fix the problems with the CableCARD regime in the interim before a successor takes it place. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would achieve this through ensuring that these devices have equal access to programming, transparency in billing, and other mechanisms.
 
Commissioners and Chairman are, again, in agreement of the pressing need in this arena. The results of video services and CableCARD have been, in Commissioner McDowell’s words, “disappointing.” Both segments are adopted unanimously in the vote.
 
 
 
12:12pm ET
 
Item five – Survivability features of broadband
 
Moving to the public safety realm, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau urges the Commission to consider “A Notice of Inquiry that examines the survivability of broadband infrastructure and seeks comment on the ability of existing broadband networks to withstand significant damage or severe overloads as a result of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, pandemics or other major public emergencies.” More broadly the bureau asks what the FCC can do to improve the resiliency of broadband networks during times of crises.
 
The importance of this examination cannot be overstated. Not surprisingly, the chairman and the commissioners lavish wide spread praise for the proposal. “This item and the next item are last today,” the chairman says, “but they’re certainly not least…This is very important work that you are engaged in, that our commission is engaged in.”
 
12:30pm ET
 
Item six – Cyber Security Certification Program
 
Remaining at the table, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett begins, “At the same time that we’re seeing increasing dependence on these networks, communications providers are seeing increasing threats.” The Broadband Plan recommended the commission create a voluntary cyber security certification program. This Notice of Inquiry will look into establishing such a program. The proposed program will provide consumers more complete information about their providers’ cyber security apparatus. The presenters note that 87% of cyber security breaches could have been avoided if necessary cyber security measures were in place.
 
Commissioner Copps initiates comment from the bench. He, along with the others, sides with brevity. “The importance of these two items speaks for itself.” Chairman Genachowski summarizes, “Our broadband communications networks are becoming more essential in the lives of every American.” At the same time, the vulnerabilities are more alarming than ever before. These are items we need to move on forcefully. All those on the bench vote in favor of the Notice (constituting a trend on the day).
 
The meeting is adjourned.

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