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Lessons from the Derecho: When Industry Self-Regulation Is Not Enough

The FCC released a fairly thorough report on the widespread 9-1-1 failure that followed the June 2012 “derecho” windstorm. For those who don’t remember, the derecho differs from most weather events by coming up almost without warning. According to the report, carriers had approximately two hours of warning from the time the derecho started in the Ohio Valley to when it hit the D.C. Metro region.

As a consequence of the damage done by the derecho, Northern Virginia experienced a massive failure of its 9-1-1 network, leaving over 1 million people with working phones (at least in some places) but no access to 9-1-1.  West Virginia experienced systemic problems as well, as a did a scattering of locations in other states impacted by the derecho. Verizon maintains the network in Northern Virginia, while West Virginia is managed by Frontier.

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Government-Ordered Wireless Shutdowns: Possibly Unconstitutional, Likely Illegal, Never a Great Idea

As Kara noted last week, the FCC is asking you to comment on when it’s appropriate for government agencies to cut off cellular services in the interests of public safety. For a variety of reasons, my initial answer to that is “rarely, if ever.” Aside from definite knowledge of a cell phone-triggered bomb, or a freak occurrence where the 800-900MHz range somehow interfered with a pacemaker, it just doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea. There’s a host of reasons why, and a lot of them were argued in the wake of BART’s October shutdown of cell service in anticipation of a protest. But this isn’t about BART; it’s about preventing future unnecessary shutdowns.

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FCC Says Goodbye to Waivers and Hello to a New Rule for Digital Cable Technology

For many years, consumers were able to save some money on their cable bills by simply subscribing to a basic tier of programming.  For additional programming, subscribers had to pay for a set-top box provided by the cable company.  This worked fine when cable companies transmitted the programming in an analog format.  But times, and technology, are changing.  Now even the basic tier, like the more expensive ones, is going digital, and that means consumers will have to pay for a box even if they didn’t have one before.  In response to these events, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a new rule.  Public Knowledge applauds the FCC for proposing the rule in response to digital cable technology and protecting subscribers from being hit too hard as a result of the digital transition. 

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AT&T Is Right: Comcast Does Not Deserve An “Access Charge Bail Out” As Part of USF Reform

It says something about the messed up world of telecom today that the “Connect America Fund” the FCC will vote on tomorrow has become the “what the heck are we going to do about IP-based interconnection” proceeding. In particular, the rather high-profile spat between AT&T and Comcast (and other cable companies) over access charges illustrates exactly the kind of cosmic cluster#@$! we predicted would happen if the FCC failed to classify broadband as a Title II telecom service.

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Why I’m Amused Rather Than Outraged Over New “Industry Negotiations” — And What The Democrats Need

I occassionally suspect my colleagues in the Public Interest community lack a sense of humor — although perhaps it is simply that I am in a more relaxed frame of mind after my annual vacation from the 21st Century. I am neither surprised nor outraged at the recent news that members of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) are picking up where the FCC “secret meetings” left off and trying to come up with a net neutrality consensus framework. To me, it seems rather sad and funny. My only surprise is that even in Washington, the notion of an industry trade association working with its members is anything unusual or significant. I mean, that’s what industry trade associations do after all.

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