In August and early September, the Commission expanded its data gathering efforts as part of its development of the National Broadband Plan, due to Congress in February. The record is ballooning with several different comment cycles on additional broadband issues as well as responses to the staff workshops. Field hearings on the National Broadband Plan were scheduled for September 21, 2009, in Austin, Texas; October 1, 2009, in the Washington, D.C. area; and October 6, 2009 in Charleston, South Carolina. Additional broadband deployment data is being sought through the Commission’s sixth notice of inquiry under Section 706 of the Telecom Act. The Commission’s September 29, 2009 Open Meeting also was scheduled to feature presentations on the status of the Commission’s processes for development of the National Broadband Plan.
“Tailored” Comments Sought on Specific Broadband Issues
While the National Broadband Plan Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) comments in June and July sought public input on a wide variety of broadband issues, the Commission has more recently changed its approach and sought comment on targeted issues through individual public notices. Input on these targeted issues supplements the record received in response to the National Broadband Plan NOI and the discussions at the National Broadband Plan staff workshops that have been held to date.
- Defining “Broadband”: August 20 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-1842, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) sought comment on how to define “broadband” in the context of development of the National Broadband Plan. Commenters were asked to weigh in on, among other things: “(1) the general form, characteristics, and performance indicators that should be included in a definition of broadband; (2) the thresholds that should be assigned to these performance indicators today; and (3) how the definition should be reevaluated over time.” Comments were due August 31 and replies were due September 8.
- Telework: September 4 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-2018, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) sought comment on how broadband enables employees to work outside the office. The Notice cites successful telework programs offered by the Government Accountability Office and Patent and Trademark Office. Input was sought on a wide variety of questions, including how broadband increases the effectiveness of telework currently, what applications are most often used by teleworking employees, how telework can bring jobs to economically depressed areas, and what percentage of private, public, and non-profit entities have telework programs. Comments were due September 22.
- Smart Grid Technology: September 4 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-2017, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) sought comment on using broadband infrastructure to support deployment and implementation of Smart Grid technology. Commenters are asked to weigh in on, among other things, which communications networks and technologies are suitable for various Smart Grid applications, specific network requirements for each application in the grid, the types of network technologies that are most commonly used in Smart Grid applications, the extent to which electric supply facilities have access to communications networks capable of supporting Smart Grid, and the extent to which licensed spectrum is used or could be used for Smart Grid applications. All comments should refer to GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, and 09-137 and should be titled “Comments—NBP Public Notice #2.” Comments are due October 2.
- Broadband Accessibility for People with Disabilities: September 18 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-2080, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) seeks comment and feedback on a list of tentative panel topics and questions for a second workshop on this topic area, “Broadband Accessibility for People with Disabilities: Barriers, Opportunities, and Policy Recommendations,” scheduled for October 20. (The first workshop on “Disabilities Opportunities” was held on August 20, 2009.) All comments should refer to GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, and 09-137 and should be titled “Comments—NBP Public Notice # 4.” Comments are due October 6.
- Broadband Deployment and Adoption on Tribal Lands: September 23 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-2093, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) seeks comment on identifying and remedying barriers to broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands. Citing a current lack of data, the Public Notice specifically asks for quantitative data, studies or analyses regarding the current extent of broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands. Input is also sought on broadband adoption, mapping efforts, digital literacy/education, and affordability specifically in the context of Tribal lands and residents. All comments should refer to GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, and 09-137 and should be titled “Comments – NBP Public Notice # 5.” Comments are due November 9 and reply comments are due December 9.
- Spectrum for Broadband: September 23 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-2100, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) seeks comment on the sufficiency of current spectrum allocations, including but not limited to the “prime” spectrum bands below 3.7 GHz, for America’s current and future wireless broadband needs. The Commission asks for comment on, among other things, the ability of current spectrum allocations to support next-generation build-outs and the anticipated surge in demand and throughput requirements; what spectrum bands are best positioned to support mobile wireless broadband; what spectrum bands are best positioned to support fixed wireless broadband; the key issues in moving spectrum allocations toward their highest and best use in the public interest; and the ability of current spectrum allocations to support both the fixed and mobile wireless backhaul market. Comments should refer to GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, and 09-137 and should be titled “Comments (or Reply Comments)—NBP Public Notice # 6.” Comments are due October 23 and reply comments are due November 13.
- Contribution of Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Government to Broadband: September 25 FCC Public Notice (DA 09-2122, GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, 09-137) seeks comment on how “governments at all levels promote broadband deployment and adoption, and how digital technologies and broadband deployment can improve civic engagement, government at all levels, and the lives and welfare of residents and businesses.” The Notice asks questions about, among other things, E-government programs and government policies that support broadband adoption and deployment. All comments should refer to GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, and 09-137 and be titled “Comments – NBP Public Notice # 7.” Comments are due November 6.
FCC Seeks Responses to National Broadband Plan Staff Workshops
On September 1, the Commission released a Public Notice soliciting responses to the staff workshops on National Broadband Plan issues taking place in August, September, and October. (See FCC Announces National Broadband Plan Implementation Schedule, July 2009 CLB). Any parties interested in further responding to “the facts and reasoning asserted during these workshops” were permitted to file comments according to the following schedule:
- Responses to workshops held from August 6 to August 20 due by September 15.
- Responses to workshops held from August 25 to September 15 due by October 2.
- Responses to workshops held from September 16 to October 20 due by October 30.
All filings responding to staff workshops should refer to GN Docket No. 09-51, and should be titled “Workshop Response” or “Workshop Response—[title of workshop].”
Section 706 Notice of Inquiry Released
On August 7, 2009, the FCC released its sixth notice of inquiry under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act asking whether advanced telecommunications capabilities, including in particular broadband service, are being deployed to all Americans in “a reasonable and timely fashion.” See Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as Amended by the Broadband Data Improvement Act, Notice of Inquiry, 24 FCC Rcd 10505 (2009). This notice coincides with the FCC’s implementation of the National Broadband Plan. Like the National Broadband Plan, the Section 706 Report must be delivered to Congress in February 2010. The FCC stated that it will measure “the nation’s progress in deploying broadband in light of . . . recent Congressional directives,” including the National Broadband Plan and the Rural Broadband Report. Comments were due September 4 and reply comments are due October 2.