FCC to Move on Broadband Subsidy Items

Hardly had FCC chairman Ajit Pai ended the July 13 public meeting when he announced the agenda for the next one (Aug. 3), and it will be focused on rural broadband, having declared August to be Rural Broadband Month at the commission.

Items up for a vote will include comment on the procedures for auctioning the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II broadband buildout subsidy money that incumbents did not apply for—some potential $2 billion—to competitors like cable broadband providers.

The FCC has been migrating its basic telecom subsidies from phone to the new baseline communications connection—broadband. Pai said that the CAF Phase II auction is on track for 2018. 

The commission will also vote on a proposed order establishing the challenge process for resolving disputes over eligibility for up to $4.53 billion in subsidies it is auctioning for advanced 4G mobile broadband service (the Mobility Fund Phase II auction) to rural areas where there is not a business case for it absent government support. 

The chairman also said the FCC will propose reforming its 477 form for collecting data on broadband service, saying in a blog post about theAug. 3agenda: "You can’t manage what you can’t measure." 

He said the proposal includes improving the value of the data it does collect and identifying and eliminating unnecessary filing requirements. That data will help the FCC decide what areas should be included in the auction for the Mobility Fund Phase II support.

On the spectrum front, the FCC will vote on exploring the use of mid-band spectrum (3.7 GHz to 24 GHz) for next-gen wireless. Wireless operators were applauding.

“CTIA has long stressed the need for a mix of high, mid and low-band wireless spectrum to meet soaring consumer demand and deliver next generation 5G services," said CTIA VP of regulatory affairs Scott Bergmann. "We applaud the Commission’s action today in proposing a Notice of Inquiry focusing on critical mid band spectrum which complements its recent moves to provide more spectrum for wireless consumers, including the Incentive Auction and Spectrum Frontiers proceeding.”

"In my first remarks to FCC staff as Chairman onJanuary 24, I declared that my highest priority would be making sure every American who wants Internet access can get it," the chairman wrote. "During the almost six months since, we have repeatedly and consistently taken steps in service of this goal. I’m pleased that our August agenda includes yet more measures that will help us bridge the digital divide."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.