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Policy

Quick Hits: Washington

2/20/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

FCC: Cable Ops Must Report VoIP Outages

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission’s
vote last week to require cable operators to report voiceover-
Internet protocol outages was a split decision for the
cable industry.

The National Cable & Telecommunications
Association had argued against the
government mandate, saying that the cost
of identifying and reporting outages would
outweigh any benefi ts and that industrygovernment
collaboration was a better
approach.

The NCTA was even more definitive about extending outage
requirements beyond the “fraction” of traffic that VoIP
represents to broadband Internet service more broadly.

The FCC did not take that step, but characterized it as
a deferral rather than a punt. “The FCC deferred action
on a number of questions, including the possibility of
setting thresholds for reporting outages of broadband
Internet service, and measurements for outages of both
interconnected VoIP and broadband Internet services
based on performance degradation, as opposed to complete
service outage,” the commission said in a statement
following the vote.

Cable operators had argued that the FCC does not have
the authority to impose any reporting requirements on Internet
service, a position seconded by FCC commissioner
Robert McDowell. He suggested that the FCC’s decision not
to extend reporting to Internet service, as had initially been
proposed, allowed him to support the “narrower” rulemaking
order.

The upshot is that cable operators must now report complete
IP voice outages to the commission, which means
more paperwork and person-hours.

The FCC said extending the outage reporting was driven
by the need for reliable 911 service over VoIP, given the
growing number of households with IP phone service.
Chairman Julius Genachowski put that figure at 31%.

FCC Turns Out Light on LightSquared

WASHINGTON — It looks like
cable operators won’t have
LightSquared as either a
potential partner or competitor
in the wireless space.

The Federal Communications
Commission last week
moved to revoke Light-
Squared’s waiver to use its
satellite spectrum for a terrestrial
wireless broadband
network, concluding the
issues regarding its interference
with Global Positioning
System satellites were not
resolvable.

The FCC was looking to promote price and service competition
to incumbent wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon
Wireless, but had conditioned the waiver on resolving
those GPS interference issues.

LightSquared had modifi ed its proposal to move further
away from the adjacent GPS band and reduce power,
and had worked with receiver manufacturers to find a fix.
Opposing the company were a host of government agencies
and GPS manufacturers who said the service would
interfere with navigation, weather forecasting and defense
applications.

LightSquared has continued to strike deals for the proposed
service, and a multibillion dollar deal with Sprint Nextel
to build out the network.

Philip Falcone, CEO of LightSquared owner Harbinger
Capital, was not striking the flag on Harbinger’s multibilliondollar
investment. Even after the FCC moved to reverse the
waiver and put an indefinite hold on its planned wholesale
wireless broadband network, Falcone said there were solutions
to GPS-related issues that would allow the service to
go forward, “if rational public policy prevails.”

FCC Wants to Extend Cable’s Viewability Mandates

WASHINGTON — In a notice of proposed rulemaking last
week, the Federal Communications Commission suggested
it needed to extend its cable analog-carriage mandate for
another three years, and more definitively proposed extending
its waiver of the HD carriage mandate for smaller cable
operators for three more years as well.

In the rulemaking proposal, the FCC asked if it should
extend the mandate that cable operators deliver all TV
stations’ digital signals in analog format to analog customers
or, alternatively, make sure all its customers have the
equipment to view a digital signal.

It may be in the form of a question, but the FCC signaled
in the proposal that it was pretty sure of the answer. “The
available market evidence seems to indicate that the viewability
requirements remain important to consumers.”

To help make its case, the FCC cited National Cable &
Telecommunications Association data showing that as of
the third quarter of 2011, more than 12 million households
still had analog cable only, and that the switch from analog
to digital cable had slowed since the DTV transition.

Commenters have until 25 days after the FCC proposal
was published in the Federal Register (Feb. 14), or until
about four weeks from now. Reply comments are due 10
days after that.

Spectrum Bill Is Cable-Friendly

WASHINGTON — Cable operators have a rooting interest in
spectrum incentive auction legislation that passed in
Congress last week.

The proposed $1.75 billion transition fund for the broadcasters
not taking a buyout, who will be moved to make
room for larger swaths of spectrum, will also be used to
compensate cable operators for expenses related to adjusting
their retransmission per those moves. In addition, the
bill allows for freeing up more unlicensed wireless spectrum,
which cable operators are increasingly using to deliver broadband
to its customers on the move via Wi-Fi hot spots.

 

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