FCC to Take Over National Broadband Map

The FCC Thursday effectively took over the job of
maintaining the National Broadband Map, but for now will not add broadband
pricing information to the info it collects from broadband providers as part of
that effort.

"The changes we make today will ensure that the
Commission, other government agencies, and the public will continue to have
access to the National Broadband Map," said acting FCC chairwoman Mignon
Clyburn in a statement.

The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration had been maintaining the map, which is meant to show where
broadband is and isn't available, but the grant to the states to supply the
information that went into the map is running out in 2014.

The order, which was approved unanimously, changes the FCC
collection to include deployment.

The FCC currently collects data mostly on subscriptions and
customers, while NTIA has been collecting info on deployment.

But Clyburn made it clear that pricing data collection was
still on the table -- it was raised in two separate NPRMs that remain open.
"While this Report and Order does not collect pricing or more granular
subscription data as some parties have requested, it leaves the door open to do
so," she said in the statement.

According to a source familiar with her thinking, it was
important to Rosenworcel that the item made it clear collecting data on pricing
and service quality were still on the table.

The source said Rosenworcel believes that if the FCC is
going to be serious about broadband adoption, pricing obviously plays a role.
The commissioner understands it is complicated and sensitive information, but
that the conversation is not over.

That source said the reason pricing was not included was so
that the order could be approved expeditiously to ensure that there was no gap
in collecting data for the National Broadband Map.

The decision not to include pricing info did not sit well
with Free Press, which saw politics rather than expedience in the decision not
to include pricing data.

"We're deeply disappointed that politics
once again trumped the public interest at the FCC," said Free Press policy
director Matt Wood. "The Justice Department, the National Broadband Plan, numerous
prior FCC proposals, the current acting FCC chairwoman, Commissioner Jessica
Rosenworcel and the incoming FCC chairman have all identified the need to
collect broadband pricing data. But because powerful broadband companies oppose
the collection of any information that would show just how uncompetitive this
market is, the FCC is once again refusing to collect the basic data it needs to
do its job."

The Commission also reviewed an update of telecom carriers' use of Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) as established in the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Responding to a staff member's observation that the last FCC review was in 2007 when "smartphones were in their infancy," Clyburn declared that the Commission's update assures "appropriate protection against unauthorized action" for data via wireless devices, and she added that the "Commission stands ready to enforce" its new rules.

Commissioner Pai added that there should be "no wireless exception to the CPNI rules" and that being "located on a mobile device" should not exclude privacy protections.

The Commission also adopted a Report and Order that will add 10 megahertz to the wireless broadband inventory for flexible use services in the "H Block" spectrum (1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz) for commercial licensing. The ruling establishes that the bandwidth will be licensed on an "Economic Area basis" and auctioned through a system of competitive bidding.

Ruth Milkman, chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, said she expects 10 MHz of spectrum will be available for use - including for mobile broadband - with a target of February 2015.

Gary Arlen contributed to this article.

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.