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NCTA

March 26, 2015


Public Policy

Correcting the FCC's Puzzling Comments on Pole Attachments

March 26, 2015

The adoption of the Open Internet Order has triggered much discussion about one of our favorite topics – pole attachments. As this is one of the most arcane topics within the FCC’s jurisdiction, it is not surprising that the public discourse is not always entirely accurate. We want to set the record straight.

Cable has advocated for low pole attachments rates for decades because it is essential to speed and lower the cost of broadband deployments, particularly in less dense, rural areas. We don’t own utility poles ourselves. Instead, we have long supported and depend upon the Communications Act provision that ensures our fair access to poles owned by the local utility or telephone company.

That’s why we are particularly puzzled by comments by Chairman Wheeler that we are blocking access to poles by our competitors. Twice in recent hearings, the Chairman has suggested that cable operators have denied competitors access to poles and that the net neutrality order fixes this problem.

But the facts are otherwise. For starters, cable operators are not denying access to poles. As noted above, with rare exception, cable operators do not even own poles. Rather, like other competitors, they attach their facilities to poles owned by electric utilities and telephone companies. We are unaware of any case where a cable operator has denied pole access to another company and it is unfortunate that the Chairman continues to suggest otherwise.

It’s all the more unfortunate because there is a real problem that has been created by the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service. The sum and substance of the problem is that the FCC’s action now allows pole owners to demand higher pole rental fees from cable broadband providers. As the FCC acknowledged in the Open Internet Order, reclassification creates the potential for increases in the pole attachment rates paid by cable operators (by our estimates as much as $200 million annually), which would have a negative effect on deployment and increase consumer bills.

Unfortunately, while the FCC acknowledged this problem and noted that this result was not its “intent,” it failed to take the necessary action to fix it. Specifically, NCTA and COMPTEL filed a still-pending petition in 2011 that would mitigate the effect of the agency’s reclassification. Granting this petition would ensure that all parties that attach to utility poles, not just cable operators, pay the lowest rate possible.

We hope the recent mischaracterizations will not distract the Commission from moving forward on this now four-year-old petition so as to protect consumers from rising costs that will be directly attributable to the Commission’s recent action.

Steve Morris

March 25, 2015


Public Policy

Will the FCC Play Games with the National Broadband Map?

March 25, 2015

This week’s release of the final version of the National Broadband Map is a milestone. Beginning with funding from the 2009 stimulus bill, NTIA – a part of the Commerce Department – has supervised the collection of state broadband data and published the results twice a year. NTIA deserves credit for successfully managing this first-of-its-kind project, which generally has proven to be a reliable source of data for companies, government agencies and the public.

NTIA is now turning over this important data collection effort to the FCC. We hope that the FCC will be able to pick up the mantle but we have some concerns. NTIA has significant expertise in data collection and reporting and its broadband reports have been issued in a timely manner using a consistent set of metrics to allow comparisons across time. Additionally, NTIA has not hesitated to acknowledge broadband success stories, while also identifying areas where there is room for improvement.

Conversely, the FCC has been fairly erratic in carrying out its existing broadband reporting responsibilities. For example, it issued its 8th Broadband Progress Report in 2012 using a 4/1 Mbps as the standard definition of broadband. It then failed to issue a 9th report (ignoring the Congressional requirement for the report to be issued annually), and the 10th report was issued in 2015 using a completely different 25/3 Mbps broadband speed standard. Inconsistent and spotty reporting using an ever-shifting set of metrics is hardly conducive to sound analysis.  Moreover, under Section 706, the FCC has an interest in highlighting problems rather than successes because the statute gives the FCC authority to take immediate action if it reaches a negative finding in its annual report.

There is no better illustration of the differences between NTIA and the FCC than in the treatment of wireless broadband services. In its most recent release, NTIA trumpeted the fact that “the United States has met the President’s goal of ensuring 98 percent of the country has access to wireless broadband at a speed of at least 6 megabits per second (Mbps) down/1.5 Mbps up.” It also found that “[t]he latest data shows that 99 percent of the country has access to advertised broadband speeds at 10 megabits per second (Mbps) through either wired or wireless service.”

Somehow the FCC did not get word that there was good news with respect to wireless deployment. The 10th Broadband Progress Report issued last month does not even consider wireless services in determining whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. While the Commission acknowledged that mobile wireless services have gone “from a luxury to a convenience to an absolutely essential part of Americans’ daily lives,” it nevertheless found that these services don’t have the speed or reliability to deliver high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video and therefore are not relevant to the section 706 analysis. Just three weeks later, in the Open Internet Order, the Commission did acknowledge the great success of wireless broadband, but it viewed this only as evidence that substantially more regulation was warranted, not that the marketplace is providing consumers with choices for broadband.

The FCC’s Open Internet Order and the President’s announcement this week of a multi-agency Broadband Opportunities Council mark a new level of government involvement in the operation of the broadband marketplace. With increased government oversight and participation comes an increased responsibility for government to be a resource for factual and impartial data. We can only hope that the FCC will step up its game to meet this challenge.


Broadband & Internet

Behind The Numbers: Growth in the Internet of Things

@juliannetwin

March 20, 2015

The Internet isn’t merely developing, it’s exploding, and the numbers prove it. Take a look at our graphic below — it shows the advancing surge of connected devices using the Internet.

And today, there are more connected devices than there are human beings on the planet. This expansion isn’t just from cell phones, tablets and computers – it’s thanks to toothbrushes, stovetops and millions of other devices that now have IP addresses. Estimates show that there will be over 50 billion connected devices by 2020!

Fast, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and increasing home broadband speeds will drive the Internet of Things and the ever-expanding web.

Internet-of-Things

For more stats and facts about broadband Internet, visit our new page: Broadband By The Numbers.

Loretta Polk

March 19, 2015


Industry News

Cybersecurity Achieves a New Milestone

March 19, 2015

Two weeks ago we highlighted the cable industry’s continuing commitment to cybersecurity. This ongoing work reached a new milestone yesterday with the adoption of the communications sector’s ground-breaking report on Cybersecurity Risk Management and Best Practices by the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC). With the participation of over 100 subject matter experts from the cable, wireline, wireless, satellite and broadcasting segments, the Working Group 4 report culminated a year-long collaborative, multi-stakeholder effort to build on the Cybersecurity Framework developed by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).

Last year FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler challenged industry to create a “new regulatory paradigm” of business-driven cybersecurity risk management that eschews a top-down, prescriptive regulatory approach. The working group’s charge was to develop “voluntary mechanisms” to give the FCC and the public assurance that communications providers are taking necessary steps to manage cybersecurity risks, tailored to their unique needs and characteristics and based on meaningful indicators of success. The FCC also looked to the working group to demonstrate how communications providers can reduce cyber risks through application of the Framework, as well as develop guidance on how to use and adapt the Framework to their enterprise. This was accomplished through, among other things, the development of detailed operational and technical resources and guidance to implement the NIST Framework by communications companies, the identification of known attacks and vectors across the Internet ecosystem, and a process flow to update measurements of success.

With regard to cable, the guidance focuses on the core network where an attack would have the greatest national or regional impact on service availability and identifies the highest priority best practices and anticipated outcomes for the cable industry.

Going forward, companies represented on the CSRIC working group agreed to provide information on the cybersecurity of critical communications network infrastructure in an annual report under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the sector-specific agency for the communications sector. The sector also committed to develop a series of webinars and other reference materials to advance use of the Framework based on the guidance in the report. Finally, interested companies will participate in confidential company-specific meetings with the FCC and DHS regarding their risk management practices, as well as share information regarding their efforts to address cyber threats and vulnerabilities – all aimed at providing the government with increased visibility into what’s happening on the cyber threat landscape.

Admiral David Simpson, FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief, described the report’s foundational work as a “win-win-win” for industry, the FCC and state and local public safety partners.

Cable engineers, security and policy folks devoted countless hours to this project. We thank the cable companies that participated, including Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, and Time-Warner Cable. In particular, we commend the efforts of the cable representatives on the CSRIC leadership team: CSRIC Council Chair John Schanz, Comcast; CSRIC Council member, William Check, NCTA; WG4 Co-Chair Brian Allen, Time Warner Cable; WG4 Cable Segment Lead, Matt Tooley, NCTA; WG4 Measurement Sub-Group Co-Lead Chris Rosenraad, Time Warner Cable; WG4 Cyber Threats Sub-Group Co-Leads Russell Eubanks, Cox and Joe Viens, Time Warner Cable; and WG4 Mid/Small Entities Sub-Group Co-Lead Susan Joseph, CableLabs.

We urge every company, large and small, to review the report, available here, and share it with your network operations, security, legal and risk management personnel. Cybersecurity should be a key component of every company’s risk management.

Our cybersecurity work is not done. The FCC will continue to have an oversight role on implementation of the best practices and will soon issue a public notice seeking comment on the report’s recommendations. And the next CSRIC, CSRIC V, launches today with network security still front and center. So stay tuned.

John Solit

@johnsolit

March 17, 2015


Cable Programming

Veep Star Louis-Dreyfus at SXSW: "Cable is the Wild West"

@johnsolit

March 17, 2015

“We try to do things that seem far fetched for Washington,” Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus said yesterday while on a SXSW panel discussing the show’s 4th season (debuting on April 12th on HBO), “but then three months later, it happens.” Louis-Dreyfus’ portrayal of the preposterous upwardly failing (spoiler alert) President Selena Gomez has put another…

Steve Mace

March 13, 2015


Technology & Devices

Comcast X1 Talking Guide Highlighted at Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference

March 13, 2015

Last week I attended the 30th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. It’s the premier annual event in the United States that wholly focuses on improving the lives of people who have sensory, cognitive and/or physical disabilities, through the application of technology solutions and techniques. The solutions are sometimes in the form of…


INTX: The Internet & Television Expo

T-Minus Two Months 'Til INTX

@juliannetwin

March 12, 2015

We’re less than two months away from the start of the inaugural INTX 2015, May 5 – 7 in Chicago. With hotels filling up, registrations rolling in, and our first announcement of session speakers, we thought it was a great time to round up several announcements and deadlines to keep in mind. Speakers Joining INTX…