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FCC looks to slap down China Mobile’s attempt to join US telecom system

Posted by on Apr 17, 2019 in ajit pai, China Mobile, FCC, Government, Mobile | 0 comments

The FCC has proposed to deny an application from China Mobile, a state-owned telecom, to provide interconnect and mobile services here in the U.S., citing security concerns. It’s another setback to the country’s attempts to take part in key portions of American telecommunications.

China Mobile was essentially asking to put call and data interconnection infrastructure here in the U.S.; It would have come into play when U.S. providers needed to connect to Chinese ones. Right now the infrastructure is generally in China, an FCC spokesperson explained on a press call.

In a draft order that will be made public tomorrow and voted on in May, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai moves to deny the application, which has been pending since 2011. Such applications by foreign-owned entities to build and maintain critical infrastructure like this in the U.S. have to pass through the Executive, which only last year issued word that it advised against the deal.

In the last few months, the teams at the FCC have reviewed the record and came to the conclusion that, as Chairman Ajit Pai put it:

It is clear that China Mobile’s application to provide telecommunications services in our country raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks. Therefore, I do not believe that approving it would be in the public interest.

National security issues are of course inevitable whenever a foreign-owned company wants to be involved with major infrastructure work in the U.S., and often this can be taken care of with a mitigation agreement. This would be something like an official understanding between the relevant parties that, for instance, law enforcement in the U.S. would have access to data handled by the, say, German-owned equipment, and German authorities would alert U.S. about stuff it finds, that sort of thing.

But that presupposes a level of basic trust that’s absent in the case of a company owned (indirectly but fully) by the Chinese government, the FCC representative explained. It’s a similar objection to that leveled at Huawei, which given its close ties to the Chinese government, the feds have indicated they won’t be contracting with the company for infrastructure work going forward.

The denial of China Mobile’s application on these grounds is apparently without precedent, Pai wrote in a separate note: “Notably, this is the first time the Executive Branch has ever recommended that the FCC deny an application due to national security concerns.”

It’s likely to further strain relations between our two countries, though the news likely comes as no surprise to China Mobile, which probably gave up hope some time around the third or fourth year its application was stuck in a bureaucratic black hole.

The draft order will be published tomorrow, and will contain the evidence and reasoning behind the proposal. It will be voted on at the FCC open meeting on May 9.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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FCC ‘looking into’ reported error throwing broadband deployment numbers off by millions

Posted by on Mar 7, 2019 in ajit pai, bias probiders, broadband, broadband providers, FCC, Government, isps, Policy | 0 comments

It’s the FCC’s official duty to promote connectivity throughout the U.S., and as part of that it issues a yearly report on improvements to broadband deployment. The latest report, however, seems to contain an error large enough to throw its numbers completely off what Chairman Ajit Pai has already claimed. His office says that they are “looking into the matter.”

The information comes from advocacy organization Free Press, already a thorn in this administration’s side for having pointed out the highly questionable nature of economic claims used to justify the Commission’s new, weaker net neutrality rules.

In a comment (PDF) filed in the upcoming 2018 Broadband Deployment Report’s docket, the organization points out a single huge outlier that vastly, and incorrectly, inflates the numbers of new broadband connections in the country.

These official FCC documents are based on “Form 477” paperwork self-reporting broadband availability, submitted by internet providers abiding more or less by the honor system — which critics already point out is completely a inadequate one on which to base policy.

In the last batch of 477s was one from a company called BarrierFree, an ISP based in the Northeast that was submitting its data for the first time ever. Unfortunately there is a slight discrepancy between the numbers on its form and the numbers in reality.

As Free Press summarizes (very slightly modified for clarity; emphasis theirs):

[BarrierFree] claimed deployment of fiber-to-the-home (“FTTH”) and fixed wireless services (each at downstream/upstream speeds of 940 Mbps/880 Mbps) to Census blocks containing nearly 62 million persons. This claimed level of deployment would make BarrierFree the fourth largest U.S. ISP in terms of population coverage.

We further examined the underlying Form 477 data and discovered that BarrierFree appears to have simply submitted as its coverage area a list of every single Census block in each of eight states in which it claimed service: CT, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and VA.

Further investigation strongly suggests BarrierFree grossly misreported its deployment. BarrierFree claims to offer speed tiers topping out at 940 Mbps/880 Mbps in all of its blocks, using both fiber-to-the-home and fixed wireless services. This speed combination is unique to Verizon’s FiOS FTTH service, and Verizon is the only other 477 filer to claim such a speed tier. But according to BarrierFree’s own website, it does not market fiber-to-the-home service at any speed. Furthermore, the maximum advertised speed for its residential fixed wireless service is 25 Mbps symmetrical.

In other words the company claimed to have gigabit speeds going to 62 million people when really, it has 25 megabit speeds at best going to a few thousand. These enormous discrepancies seem to have heavily shifted national averages in the report.

In a statement to Ars Technica, which has followed the broadband report drama closely (including some good analysis last month), BarrierFree COO Jim Gerbig admitted that “There is indeed an error in the Form 477 filings for BarrierFree, and it doesn’t reflect our current level of broadband deployment. A portion of the submission was parsed incorrectly in the upload process.” He claims the government shutdown prevented correction of this issue.

Unfortunately, Chairman Pai, understandably excited to share good news on broadband, already bruited some statistics from the draft report that, if this massively erroneous form were excluded, would be totally incorrect — and incorrect in an unflattering way to the current administration.

Without BarrierFree’s phantom customers, nearly two million more people than reported lack access to fixed broadband – 21.3 versus 19.4 million in Pai’s press release. This is still well below the 26 million from the previous report, but it’s still a major correction. Of 5.6 million newly served rural broadband customers Pai highlights, 2 million were supposedly on BarrierFree.

And a huge reported increase to people on a sub-gigabit but high speed tier (250/50 Mbps) would have been largely attributable to these non-existent connections — tens of millions of them.

While there is surely good news to share from this report, it seems that the good news the Chairman chose to present may in fact not be nearly as good as he claimed.

Activists and government officials alike have questioned the accuracy of previous reports and warned that the incoming one was likely as untrustworthy as those that came before. But this massive single outlier seems like a new and much more avoidable form of inaccuracy.

It seems that in collating and analyzing the forms submitted by ISPs, it would ring a few alarm bells that an ISP with no presence in 2016 would suddenly be serving more than 60 million people with speeds only offered by decades-old competitors. The error is BarrierFree’s to begin with, of course, although I am suspicious of the “parsing” issue blamed by the COO. But surely spotting an error of that magnitude is the FCC’s responsibility.

When contacted for comment, a representative for Chairman Pai’s office said “we are looking into the matter.”

Others were more verbose.

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks was more verbose:

“Free Press’s allegations are troubling,” he said in a statement. “The FCC’s maps are frequently criticized for being inaccurate and overstating broadband coverage. The maps and deployment data are becoming a repeat offender.”

“Without getting to the bottom of this, the FCC should not proceed with its current draft broadband report. It is the FCC’s job to have accurate data and to make available maps based on it. Without performing that basic function, we are woefully unprepared to make a number of critical policy decisions that will impact the future of our communications infrastructure.”

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has spoken out on the broadband report issue recently and been an outspoken critic of the FCC’s policies of late, also called for closer scrutiny:

“The FCC’s draft report concludes that broadband deployment is reasonable and timely across the country. This is hard to believe when millions of Americans have no high-speed service at home. Now there are allegations that the FCC’s numbers in this report may be based on faulty data,” she said in a statement. “This is not good. It absolutely deserves a closer look.”

While the publication of this report was hitherto expected daily, this issue seems likely to push it out by a few weeks at least — and, though it may be too much to hope — could cause the agency to question the basis on which it is built in the first place.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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FCC Chairman Pai celebrates Congress failing to bring back net neutrality

Posted by on Jan 2, 2019 in ajit pai, FCC, Government, net neutrality | 0 comments

As one Congress ends and another begins, many are looking forward to a rebalancing of power — especially in the House of Representatives, which Democrats handily retook in November. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is more pleased with what the House failed to do — namely, roll back his repeal of net neutrality rules.

To be fair, he does have reason to celebrate; no one likes to see their work undone. But a statement issued today tells a very selective message about congressional opposition to his master plan.

“I’m pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation,” Pai said. The “heavy-handed” remark is the usual boilerplate in reference to 2015’s rules, which used what the current FCC calls “depression-era” regulations to exert control over internet providers. That aspersion doesn’t really make sense, as I’ve noted before.

And the “strong bipartisan majority” bears a bit of explanation as well. Indeed, the Democrats fell about 30 short of the votes they needed to put the Congressional Review Act into effect and undo the FCC’s order. But that was only after the Senate, by a similar “strong bipartisan majority,” as Pai would no doubt put it, voted for the rollback. No mention of that in his statement.

In fact the CRA was a long shot from the beginning, but as Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) told me shortly after the repeal, “it’s very important to try, and it’s important to get everybody in Congress on the record. We want every member of Congress to have to go on the record and say whether or not they agree with what the commission just did.”

Although there was no actual change to the rule, the forced votes of the CRA did succeed in exposing the stances of Senators and Representatives who had hitherto avoided the issue.

Pai followed this questionable bit of crowing with a litany of vague reasons the new rules should be kept. The internet, he points out, “has remained free and open. Broadband speeds are up… Internet access is also expanding, and the digital divide is closing.”

The former claim is, as always, being tested by internet providers, who continue to inject ads, block or throttle services, and otherwise interfere until customers and watchdogs call them out.

But the latter claim in particular would be disputed by many, especially since the FCC’s own numbers tracking broadband deployment in the U.S. have been widely mocked as inaccurate and sourced uncritically from an industry with a vested interest in overstating its own accomplishments.

Furthermore, it’s entirely unclear whether Pai’s new rules have had any positive influence at all. Broadband investment has in fact not been affected, despite a $2 billion tax break given to cable companies and a number of other sweetheart deals. The most likely explanation for any positive effects is investment planned or made years ago, perhaps as far back as the Obama administration and the previous rules.

On top of that, the new rules are under such close scrutiny and face several legal challenges that the industry would be foolish to let them affect their policies in anything but short-term matters. As happened with the 2015 rules, these could be gone in a year or two, or — with the Senate bullish on real net neutrality rules and a flipped House — replaced with actual legislation.

Source: The Tech Crunch

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FCC’s Ajit Pai: ‘When it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem’

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in ajit pai, FCC, Government, net neutrality, Policy, TC, Twitter | 17 comments

 FCC Chairman and net neutrality eliminator-in-chief Ajit Pai has thrown Twitter and other online services under the bus in order to show that it’s not just broadband providers that can exert control over internet content. “When it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem,” he explained. “The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to… Read More
Source: The Tech Crunch

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