FCC seeks more info from Comcast, NBC

The Federal Communications Commission is requesting additional information from Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal as it reviews the cable operator’s plan to acquire a controlling stake in the media company, reports the Associated Press. The FCC on Oct. 4 sent letters to Comcast and NBC Universal asking questions about both companies’ businesses. Among other things, regulators are seeking details about Comcast’s distribution agreements for several popular cable channels that it already owns. The FCC also wants details about Comcast’s current channel lineups and about the thinking behind Comcast’s decisions on which programming to carry. From NBC Universal, the FCC is asking for details about existing agreements with a number of cable, satellite, and phone companies to carry popular NBC Universal channels. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, is seeking FCC and Justice Department approval to acquire a 51 percent interest in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. The combination has raised worries among satellite companies, rival cable operators, and other subscription video providers that Comcast would use its control of NBC Universal to push up prices for must-have programming or even withhold it altogether. In addition, regulators are studying the likely impact of the deal on the nascent market for online video, which has the potential to threaten Comcast’s core cable business. Public interest groups are worried that Comcast could try to stifle the market’s growth by withholding programming from the internet or forcing consumers to subscribe to cable to get access to content online…

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Coming soon: ‘Super Wi-Fi’ connectivity?

Tapping unused TV white spaces could help bring wireless connectivity at speeds ranging from 15 to 20 Mbps.
Tapping unused TV white spaces could help bring wireless connectivity at speeds ranging from 15 to 20 Mbps.

A new flavor of Wi-Fi, with longer range and better wall-piercing power, could show up in wireless gadgets a year from now if the Federal Communications Commission works out the last details of new spectrum rules that long have been in the making.

Nearly two years ago, the FCC voted to open up the airwaves between broadcast TV channels—so-called “white spaces”—for wireless broadband connections that would work like Wi-Fi on steroids.

But wrangling over key technical details, including concerns about interference with TV signals and wireless microphones, has prevented exploitation of these spaces.…Read More

FCC seeks input on rules for online services

Genachowski continues to push for a net neutrality plan despite resistance from some in the private sector.
Genachowski continues to push for a net neutrality plan despite resistance from some in the private sector.

In the latest twist in the Federal Communications Commission’s pursuit of “net neutrality” rules to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against certain types of traffic flowing over their lines, federal regulators are seeking public input on what rules should apply to wireless internet access and specialized services that aren’t part of the internet but are delivered over wired broadband connections.

The agency’s move comes a few weeks after Google Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. announced a proposal of their own that would allow the FCC to enforce net neutrality rules for wireline broadband traffic would but exempt wireless carriers.

The companies’ plan, which was not popular with public interest groups, also would leave room for broadband providers to charge extra to route traffic from so-called “premium services” over dedicated networks that are separate from the public internet.…Read More

FCC votes to reconsider broadband regulations

The FCC's decision could have important implications for schools, many of which favor net-neutrality rules.
The FCC's decision could have important implications for schools, many of which favor net-neutrality rules.

Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed internet connections, wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in Congress and the courts for years. The dispute has important implications for schools and colleges, many of which are hoping for clear rules that prevent service providers from discriminating against certain types of internet traffic.

Over the objections of the agency’s two Republican commissioners, the Federal Communications Commission voted June 17 to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. These include a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to “common carrier” obligations to treat all traffic equally.

Genachowski’s proposal is a response to a federal appeals court ruling this past spring that cast doubt on the agency’s authority over broadband under its existing regulatory framework.…Read More

FCC plan could revive ‘net neutrality’

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to reclassify broadband as a 'telecommunications' service, but without as much regulation.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to reclassify broadband as a 'telecommunications' service, but without as much regulation.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission thinks he has come up with a way to salvage his ambitious national broadband plans and his hope for “net neutrality,” a principle favored by many school technology advocates, without running into legal obstacles that have threatened to derail him.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said May 6 that his agency has crafted a compromise in how it regulates high-speed internet access: It will apply only narrow rules to broadband companies. The FCC chairman, a Democrat, said this delicate dance will ensure the agency has adequate authority to govern broadband providers without being too “heavy-handed.”

But his plan likely will hit legal challenges from the big phone and cable companies, and it already faces significant opposition from Republicans at the FCC and in Congress.…Read More

Could net-neutrality ruling hinder online education?

Genachowski's net neutrality and national broadband plans are in danger after the April 6 court ruling.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's net-neutrality and national broadband plans are in danger after an April 6 court ruling.

A federal court threw the future of internet regulations and U.S. broadband expansion plans into doubt April 6 with a far-reaching decision that went against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The ruling poses a major hurdle for federal policy that school and college administrators hoped would ensure the growth of online education and make high-speed internet affordable for even the smallest school systems and campuses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all internet traffic flowing over their networks. That was a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose such “net neutrality” obligations on broadband providers.

The ruling marks a serious setback for the FCC, which is trying to adopt official net-neutrality regulations. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, argues that such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over internet access to favor some online content and services over others.…Read More

FCC’s plans a potential boon for community colleges

Community colleges with broadband access could serve not only students, but community members too.
Community colleges with broadband access could serve both students and community members.

Community college decision makers were encouraged by the Federal Communication Commission’s inclusion in its National Broadband Plan of robust high-speed internet networks on two-year campuses, which soon could be a central location for locals who don’t have broadband internet at home.

The FCC’s detailed strategy, released March 16, describes community colleges as “anchor institutions” that could support ultra high-speed networks and make modern web connections available to towns and cities that still rely on low-bandwidth options that don’t support online video and a host of other common technologies.

The FCC asked Congress for enough funding to bring high-speed internet to all public community colleges and maintain the networks. The National Broadband Plan seeks to bring broadband internet to 100 million U.S. homes by 2020. Fourteen million Americans don’t have broadband access, even if they want a high-speed option, according to federal estimates.…Read More

FCC plan could bring high-speed web to campuses, communities

Genachowski lauded the FCC's plan to expand high-speed web connections across the US.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski unveiled the plan to expand broadband connections across the U.S.

College faculty whose campuses are surrounded by neighborhoods that rely on antiquated dial-up internet connections are hoping the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan will bring faster connections that won’t send students running to their campus’s high-speed network every time they need to complete an assignment online.

The plan, unveiled March 16 after a year of intense deliberation among the FCC and various stakeholders, seeks to bring broadband internet to 100 million U.S. homes by 2020. Fourteen million Americans don’t have broadband access, even if they want a high-speed option, according to federal estimates.

Ultra high-speed connections—at least 1 gigabit per second, or 100 times faster than a typical broadband network—also would be made available at “anchor institutions” such as hospitals, libraries, and colleges, according to the FCC’s plan.…Read More

FCC to propose revamping Universal Service Fund

Federal regulators trying to bring high-speed internet connections to all Americans will propose tapping the government program that now subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas, reports the Associated Press. The Federal Communications Commission will include a proposal to revamp the Universal Service Fund (USF) as part of a national broadband plan due to Congress on March 17. Although the proposal itself has been expected for months, the agency’s March 5 announcement offered the first solid details. The FCC said it envisions transforming the USF over the next decade to pay for high-speed internet access instead of the traditional voice services that it currently finances. The proposal would create a Connect America fund inside the Universal Service program to subsidize broadband, and a Mobility Fund to expand the reach of so-called 3G, or third-generation, wireless networks. “It’s time to migrate this 20th-century program,” said Blair Levin, the FCC official overseeing the broadband plan, which was mandated by last year’s stimulus bill. The FCC’s announcement focused only on the traditional high-cost, low-income portion of the USF, which also pays for the e-Rate, a $2.25 billion-a-year program that provides telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries. The FCC’s plan will lay out several options to pay for the proposals it outlined March 5, including one that would require no additional money from Congress and one that would accelerate the construction of broadband networks if Congress approves a one-time injection of $9 billion. Either way, Levin said, the proposals would not increase the annual size of the USF, but instead would take money from subsidies now used for voice services…

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Wireless mic frequency change could affect colleges

Faculty members might have to use new wireless microphones after a recent FCC ruling.
Instructors might have to use new wireless microphones in lecture halls after a recent FCC ruling.

Colleges and universities that use wireless microphones operating on the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency band have until June 12 to change the radio frequency or buy new equipment, according to a Jan. 15 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC’s decision is part of a larger government effort to clear the 700 MHz band for use by cell phones, digital TV transmissions, and emergency communications. About 25 percent of the country’s wireless microphones will have to be modified or replaced, according to federal projections.

The ruling affects schools, colleges, sports stadiums, churches, theater groups, musicians, and others who rely on wireless microphones to amplify sound. Some colleges using wireless mics to help their instructors or performers be heard more clearly could end up spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace the banned equipment.…Read More