Video Conferencing with Disabilities, House Bill Promoting U.S. Electronics, Wi-Fi Lags in Homes

May 11, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday its first order for the country’s telephone networks to stop accepting phone traffic from voice services company One Eye.

In February, the commission gave providers the permission to cut traffic to and from the company, which brings in foreign calls, for allegedly allowing robocall traffic on its network. Then last month, the agency gave the company 14 days to respond with evidence that it was not in violation of the rules after the commission found it did not address robocall traffic on its network.

On Thursday, the commission finally came down on the company, for the first time mandating that voice service providers block and cease accepting traffic from the company within 30 days of the order.

“This company—what’s left of it—will now have a place in robocall history,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release. “We can and will continue to shut off providers that help scammers. Because these junk calls are not just annoying, they are illegal, and facilitating them deserves serious consequences.”

The commission said in a press release the company was found to have most recently facilitated a call in which the callers were impersonating a major financial institution.

In March, the commission voted to require providers that receive and deliver phone traffic to implement call authentication standards mandated under the STIR/SHAKEN robocall regime. Previously, the rules only applied to the originator of those calls.

The FCC has said its actions have contributed to a 99 percent drop in auto warranty and an 88 percent decline in student loan scam robocalls.

Native data company wants tribal set-aside in 12 GHz spectrum band

Tribal Ready, a Native-owned data company that identifies the broadband needs of Indian Country, wrote to the FCC Wednesday recommending that parts of the spectrum in the 12.2 to 12.7 GHz band be set-aside specifically for tribal use.

The data company, which was formed earlier this year, pointed to the fact that the commission had made available exclusively for tribal use parts of the 2.5 GHz spectrum.

“The 12 GHz band can and should also be an option to help Native Americans close the digital divide,” the letter, signed by president and CEO Joe Valandra, said.

The company is urging the spectrum’s use for fixed-wireless broadband access – cellular airwaves that provide home internet. It said it can be prohibitively expensive to try to build using fiber.

“It is equally important that the ultimate rules are set on a national basis,” Valandra said in the letter. “This will ensure that FWB equipment vendors can anticipate that a national ecosystem will ultimately develop, and in turn, ensure that FWB providers on tribal lands can have access to that national ecosystem for gear and equipment at affordable prices.

“A patchwork specifying different rules for different markets is likely to end up in failure where no vendor perceives the opportunity to develop a national customer base, and FWB in the 12 GHz never gets off the ground,” he added.

He added that the FCC should conduct “nation to nation consultations” with tribal nations about this topic.

The commission will vote next week on a proposal to reject the opening of the 12.2 to 12.7 GHz band for mobile use, whose satellite incumbents have complained of interference concerns. Instead, the commission is looking to open frequencies higher up in the band for mobile use.

TPI recommends funding cap, reverse auctions for Universal Service Fund

The Technology Policy Institute is recommending the FCC adopt measures to ensure the money from the Universal Service Fund is used effectively.

In a blog post on Wednesday, the think tank said “ample research” shows that the USF – which contains four high-cost programs for basic telecommunications services – is “inefficient, ineffective, and funded by a regressive tax mechanism.”

The post recommends the FCC conduct “ongoing, independent, evaluation” of the programs underneath the USF, which include High-Cost Support, Low Income Support (Lifeline), Rural Health Care, and School and Libraries (ERate). This could include designing “experiments to evaluate USF outcomes and recommend changes based on the results of those experiments.”

In addition, it is recommending the FCC impose a budget cap on the program, which it said would “help create incentives for the government to favor spending money efficiently and, in turn, increase incentives for recipients to improve efficiency.” The commission previously considered and rejected the idea under a previous commission in 2019.

It is also recommending that the commission allocate the money through a reverse auction process, which involves bidders pitching projects that requires the least amount of USF money to build. It said this would “help ensure that subsidies are awarded to the providers that can offer the most cost-effective solutions.”

The think tank is also recommending the FCC rein in “ballooning administrative expenses” and to ensure money from the USF is not used to subsidized builds which already used money from other federal programs.

The USF is currently going through a bit of a sustainability crisis because it gets its money from the declining revenues of telephone service providers and is often passed down as a line item on the consumer’s phone bill.

As such, experts have called on the FCC to open the fund to collect broadband revenues, contributions from Big Tech, or to collect the money from the general tax pool. The FCC has requested that Congress give the commission the authority to broaden the revenue base of the program.

In March, a bill introduced in Congress would require the commission to study and make rules on expanding the fund money sources.