Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman, kicked off the Commission’s April meeting. First order of business was moving towards creating the Connect America Fund, the process of initiating a “once-in-a-generation transformation of the Universal Service Fund, in order to connect all Americans to broadband, including Americans who live and work in rural areas,” according to a recent blog post by Chairman Genachowski.
The new fund would increase broadband access in underserved areas without increasing current outlays of the Universal Service Fund. Carol Mattey from the Wireline Competition Bureau advocated for replacing the “legacy high cost” USF with “efficient, targeted funding of networks that can provide data and voice service” through new technologies like VoIP. The commission voted unanimously in favor of this item.
The second item is adopting an automatic data roaming requirement. From Chairman Genachowski’s blog, “we revise our voice roaming rules to improve the ability of American consumers to receive voice service whenever and wherever they travel, while also encouraging carriers of all sizes to invest, innovate, and deploy new networks. We also seek comment on a framework for achieving the same goals with respect to mobile broadband services — perhaps the most exciting and dynamic sector of the communications landscape.” The FCC voted unanimously to adopt the item.
The next two items of business were designed, according to Chairman Genachowski, “to lay out a new foundation for fulfilling Congress’s mandate to ensure a competitive marketplace for video navigation devices” by designing a standard interface for video programming and fixing the current problems with CableCARD. The new standard has four goals:
- To increase private-sector investment and innovation in video
- To improve consumer choices for entertainment and information
- To allow unrestricted innovation in delivery platforms for multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD)
- To encourage broadband use and adoption (televisions are the most widely present screens in the home)
The commission agreed unanimously over the need to address these issues, whose past problems were “disappointing” in Commissioner Robert M. McDowell’s words.
The next item for discussion was the survivability of America’s broadband infrastructure “to protect against terrorist attacks, natural disasters, pandemics, or other major public emergencies,” according to Chairman Genachowski. He added, “This item and the next item are last today, but they’re certainly not least…This is very important work that you are engaged in, that our commission is engaged in.” The FCC praised proposed measures to improve the stability and survivability of America’s communications networks in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Finally, the FCC considered creating a voluntary cybersecurity certification program to protect critical communications infrastructure in the event of a cyber attack. Presenters at the meeting stated that 87% of information security breaches could have been prevented through cyber certification measures. Again, the commission voted unanimously in favor of creating the certification. “The importance of these two items speaks for itself,” closed Chairman Genachowski. “Our broadband communications networks are becoming more essential in the lives of every American.”
While Chairman Genachowski noted that the FCC’s ambitious agenda, and the workload it creates, requires a “disciplined management process,” he maintained that “FCC staff have all exemplified the kind of strength and leadership we need to accomplish this vital work together for the country. We stand ready to support their work, and the country appreciates their efforts.”