When I first learned that President Obama had nominated the former president of CTIA and the National Cable Television Association to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, my stomach turned: If there’s one thing that this country doesn’t need, it’s yet another former lobbyist appointed to a high position in the United States federal government. But after my initial gag reflex wore off, I found myself intrigued by the reaction from many activists whom I’d expected to slam the pick — Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn, for instance, said that Wheeler was likely to champion “strong open Internet requirements, robust broadband competition, affordable broadband access for all Americans, diversity of voices and serious consumer protections, all backed by vigorous agency enforcement.” And Ars Technica notes that Cardozo School of Law professor Susan Crawford, who has long been a fierce critic of the cable industry, has also endorsed the nomination. More →
The chances that the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will investigate ISPs’ use of bandwidth caps now seem decidedly slim. Unnamed sources have told The Wall Street Journal that President Barack Obama is poised to nominate Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and “former top lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries” to serve as chairman of the FCC. The Journal notes that Wheeler in the past has signaled that he would have been willing to approve the now-dead merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, which puts him at odds with outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, who was instrumental in blocking the AT&T-T-Mobile deal. Obama is expected to make the announcement as soon as Wednesday, the Journal reports.
Data caps for home broadband services have been one of the less popular innovations ISPs have rolled out over the past couple of years and now one activist group is demanding that the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission conduct a formal investigation into ISPs’ practice of capping how much data their customers can consume per month. The group, which is sponsored by Public Knowledge and includes representatives from the National Film Society and several online content creators, has launched a new website called “Don’t Cap That” that urges lawmakers to “insist that the next FCC Chair commit to making a detailed examination of data caps a priority during his or her tenure.” The group says that it opposes broadband data caps because they are “an easy way for existing pay television providers to make their online video competitors less attractive to viewers” and that it wants the next FCC chairman to “recognize the threat that data caps pose to the future growth of the internet, and to the growth of online video specifically.”
Julius Genachowski announced on Friday that he will be stepping down as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a position he has held since 2009. During his tenure, Genachowski supervised the regulation of radio, television, broadband, wired and wireless communications within the United States. He also attempted to free up additional spectrum for wireless carriers and oversaw the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. More →
A new law recently went into effect that made it illegal to unlock a cell phone purchased from a carrier without prior permission. The decision was met with widespread backlash from consumers and resulted in an online petition that was singed by more than 100,000 people asking the government to reverse the law. According to TechCrunch, the Federal Communications Commission plans to investigate whether the ban is harmful to consumers and competition in the industry. Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the “ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns,” adding that “it’s something that we will look at at the FCC to see if we can and should enable consumers to use unlocked phones.” The Chairman did note, however, that the FCC may not have the authority to overturn the law.
Given carriers’ past efforts to quash municipal Wi-Fi plans, it isn’t any surprise that they aren’t big fans of a Federal Communications Commission plan to deploy a free Wi-Fi network across large areas of the United States. The Washington Post reports that the FCC has proposed creating “super Wi-Fi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month,” and carriers are extremely unhappy about it. It isn’t exactly hard to understand why, since the Post writes that the new free Wi-Fi networks will be used “to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet” and “could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.”
UPDATE: Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica has found that the premise of the Washington Post’s entire story is completely faulty. Essentially, the Post took the FCC’s old plans to open up spectrum on the 600MHz band for unlicensed use and decided this constituted a new plan to create a free Wi-Fi network that people could use to replace their carriers. But as Brodkin puts it, we’ll get free super Wi-Fi from the FCC when unicorns come to life.
Good news for everyone who’s tired of shoddy Wi-Fi connectivity in crowded cafes: the Federal Communications Commission is here to help. As CNET reports, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski made an important announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday when he discussed plans to free up 195MHz of spectrum on the 5GHz band, a move that will significantly boost Wi-Fi performance and ease congestion on crowded networks. The reallocation of spectrum on the 5GHz band would also represent “the largest block of unlicensed spectrum that has been made available for expansion of Wi-Fi since 2003,” CNET writes. The 5GHz band is currently being used by numerous federal government agencies, although Genachowski expressed confidence that the FCC can work with others in the government to get the spectrum free for unlicensed use.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday detailed plans to offer additional wireless spectrum to mobile carriers. The agency is on track to free up 300MHz of new spectrum that will be available for commercial use by 2015, IT World reports. Mobile carriers have been in dire need for additional spectrum, some have even turned to massive acquisitions and mergers in an effort to build-out their respective networks. Genachowski revealed that the FCC will auction several blocks in the AWS band essential for LTE networks to wireless carriers in 2015. The wireless trade association CTIA is not satisfied, however, and is seeking additional spectrum from the 800MHz band by 2015. More →
While it likely won’t quench the wireless carriers’ thirst for more spectrum anytime soon, the Federal Communications Commission on Friday took an important step toward opening up more airwaves for mobile data use by voting 5-0 to approve a new spectrum auction process that will reward television broadcasters for voluntarily relinquishing unused spectrum. The New York Times reports that “a portion of the proceeds” from the auctions will go to broadcasters that relinquish their spectrum licenses and notes that the government estimates the incentive auctions “could generate $15 billion” in total revenues. Any auction of relinquished broadcaster spectrum will likely not take place until 2014 at the earliest. More →
The Federal Communications Commission’s home broadband speed tests have been such a success that they’re now coming to the wireless world. The FCC on Wednesday proposed a new program that would let smartphone users test their wireless connections and upload the results onto a government data base to “develop information on mobile broadband service performance in the United States.” The FCC will hold an open meeting on September 21st to hear industry and consumer comment on “the technical methods for performance testing of mobile broadband Internet service, methodological approaches to remotely acquiring and analyzing such data, and other methodological considerations for the testing of mobile broadband performance.” The commission’s full press release follows below. More →
The Federal Communications Commission has apparently taken some industry criticism to heart and is planning to take a long, hard look at how it evaluates proposed wireless mergers, unnamed sources have told The Hill. Chairman Julius Genachowski will reportedly send a proposal to his fellow commissioners next week asking them to reevaluate the current merger review process whereby the FCC adopts different rules for evaluating each merger on a case-by-case basis. More →
An upcoming tablet from ASUS (2357) recently passed through the Federal Communications Commission’s testing facility equipped with the model number TF500T. Few details are revealed in the resulting documentation, however the model number suggests the tablet could fall between the budget-friendly Transformer Pad TF300 and the high-end Transformer Pad Infinity TF700. The Taiwanese manufacturer’s upcoming tablet will be Wi-Fi only and will feature an HDMI port and a microphone. We can also safely assume that the TF500T will have the ability to transform into a laptop with the help of ASUS’s keyboard dock. More →
Cable companies just love to sell bundled services for one important reason — it makes them buckets of money — but Comcast last year made an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission that it would actively promote an affordable standalone broadband option to customers as one condition of being allowed to purchase NBC Universal. Per GigaOm, it seems that Comcast didn’t live up to its end of the bargain because the FCC has slapped the company with an $800,000 fine for allegedly making it difficult for consumers to find its cheap standalone broadband plan. The FCC said in a statement that Comcast “was not adequately marketing its standalone broadband services.” In addition to paying its $800,000 fine, Comcast will agree to continue offering its cheap standalone broadband plan through at least February 21st, 2015, one year longer than in the original agreement. More →