FCC Considers Three Proposed Rule Changes

December 17, 2021 by Reece Nations
FCC Considers Three Proposed Rule Changes
Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communication Commission hosted an opening meeting on Wednesday to consider proposed rule changes to the Emergency Alert System, E-Rate program and spectrum sharing for low-earth orbit satellite systems.

The meeting was attended by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Secretary Marlene Dortch and Commissioners Nathan Simington, Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks, as well as representatives from the different industry sectors affected by the rulemaking changes. The FCC officials considered the three proposed changes to its rulemaking and outlined the goals associated with each of the revisions.

Proposed changes to the rules regarding the nationwide Emergency Alert System were considered in an effort to improve the system’s overall functionality and accessibility of visual messages for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The changes would require EAS participants to use a preset script as the visual message for broadcast-based alerts and would revise some of the terminology defined for the nationwide EAS test event code.

Instead of using the “National Periodic Test” event code, the officials suggested the term be changed to “Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System” to improve the clarity of the formatted visual message for its “Common Alerting Protocol.” When EAS warnings are broadcast by the system’s participants, they feature both a recorded message and a text crawl—although the audio component of the message may not always match the visual text because of the legacy television architecture of the alert system.

Rosenworcel specifically referenced the deadly tornadoes that tore across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee on Friday in a written statement accompanying the notice of proposed rulemaking. In the statement, Rosenworcel said it was the FCC’s responsibility to improve the warning systems in place as much as possible in instances of natural disasters.

“When we send out these potentially life-saving emergency alerts it is vital that as many Americans as possible have the opportunity to receive that critical information in a timely manner,” Carr said during the meeting. “That obviously includes those in the disability community as well, so I’m very pleased to vote in favor of this item.”

The FCC’s order on revising spectrum sharing rules for fixed satellites in non-geostationary orbit came about from a petition filed by Space Exploration Holdings, LLC, or SpaceX. The proposals in SpaceX’s petition related to spectrum-selection priority for satellites that travel closer to Earth than traditional low- and medium-orbit satellite constellations, like the ones the company is using to deploy its satellite internet constellation known as Starlink.

Spectrum sharing is the process of optimizing wireless systems of communication by allowing multiple categories of users to share the same bands of frequencies, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. SpaceX petitioned the FCC to increase certainty in spectrum sharing obligations for satellites to provide low-latency broadband internet to its customers worldwide, including in deeply remote regions where internet access is uncommon.

In June, the GSMA, or Global System for Mobile Communications Association, published public policy position recommendations that included support for spectrum sharing as a means to bolster customers’ access to mobile services. The FCC has seen a significant uptick in applications for satellite systems licenses and its notice of proposed rulemaking includes a 60-day comment period for stakeholders to provide input.

“The last few years have seen a transformation in the American space sector,” Starks said during the meeting. “So far this year, the United States has launched nearly 50 missions to place satellites in Earth-orbit or deep space. Satellite imaging and sensing companies are helping governments, commercial actors and other organizations assess how our planet is experiencing conditions ranging from climate change to the spread of COVID-19. Non-geostationary fixed satellite services are beginning to bridge the digital divide.”

Starks continued, “Commission policies must keep pace with these changes to encourage innovation while preserving a level playing field between encumbrance and new entrance.”

The last item considered by the FCC officials during the meeting pertained to the commission’s E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications and broadband services. An audit conducted by the Government Accountability Office last year unveiled the possibility for applicants and service providers to misrepresent compliance with competitive bidding requirements under the program which present underlying fraud risks.

Further, the Office of Inspector General recommended safeguards in response to the GAO audit, such as establishing a central repository for submissions of competitive bidding documents. OIG also recommended the institution of a holding period in order to ensure bids are not released to applicants until after the closing of a 28-day bidding window.  

The FCC responded by proposing changes to the E-Rate program that would modernize program requirements for applicants and service providers through the implementation of a central document repository or bidding portal. Service providers would be required to submit E-Rate program bids to the Universal Service Administrative Company rather than directly to applicants under the FCC’s proposed changes.

“The FCC spends billions of dollars a year on the E-Rate program,” Simington said during the meeting. “While most of that money is spent legally and according to rules, we have uncovered troubling cases of defective bidding programs and even outright fraud. These discovered cases may only be the tip of the iceberg… as for the concern some have expressed, I’m also satisfied with the notice asking the right question to make sure the resulting order does not harm the ability of E-Rate applicants and providers to effectively use these funds.”

The full details of the FCC’s proposed changes to the E-Rate program were published on Thursday. All three of the proposed initiatives were approved by the commissioners and will be subject to public comment periods prior to their adoption.

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

A+
a-
  • E-Rate program
  • Emergency Alert System
  • FCC
  • Federal Comunication Commission
  • spectrum sharing
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    Regulation

    Climate Change Concerns Grow, but Few Think Biden's Climate Law Will Help, an AP-NORC Poll Finds

    Like many Americans, Ron Theusch is getting more worried about climate change. A resident of Alden, Minnesota, Theusch has noticed increasingly... Read More

    Like many Americans, Ron Theusch is getting more worried about climate change. A resident of Alden, Minnesota, Theusch has noticed increasingly dry and mild winters punctuated by short periods of severe cold — symptoms of a warming planet. As he thinks about that, future generations are on his... Read More

    Oil and Gas Companies Must Pay More to Drill on Federal Lands

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Oil and gas companies will have to pay more to drill on federal lands and satisfy stronger... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Oil and gas companies will have to pay more to drill on federal lands and satisfy stronger requirements to clean up old or abandoned wells under a final rule issued Friday by the Biden administration. The Interior Department's rule raises royalty rates for... Read More

    The Biden Administration Will Require Thousands More Gun Dealers to Run Background Checks on Buyers

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands more firearms dealers across the United States will have to run background checks on buyers when... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands more firearms dealers across the United States will have to run background checks on buyers when selling at gun shows or other places outside brick-and-mortar stores, according to a Biden administration rule that will soon go into effect. The rule aims to close a loophole... Read More

    New EPA Rule Says 200 US Chemical Plants Must Reduce Toxic Emissions Likely to Cause Cancer

    WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 200 chemical plants nationwide will be required to reduce toxic emissions that are likely to... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 200 chemical plants nationwide will be required to reduce toxic emissions that are likely to cause cancer under a new rule issued Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency. The rule advances President Joe Biden’s commitment to environmental justice by delivering critical... Read More

    April 3, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    FDA Approves New Antibiotic for Three Different Uses

    WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the drug Zevtera for the treatment of adults with certain... Read More

    WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the drug Zevtera for the treatment of adults with certain bloodstream infections, those with acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections, and adult and pediatric patients 3 months to less than 18 years old with community-acquired... Read More

    Hospitals Must Obtain Written Consent for Pelvic and Similar Exams, the Federal Government Says

    Hospitals must obtain written informed consent from patients before subjecting them to pelvic exams and exams of other sensitive areas — especially... Read More

    Hospitals must obtain written informed consent from patients before subjecting them to pelvic exams and exams of other sensitive areas — especially if an exam will be done while the patient is unconscious, the federal government said Monday. New guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top