Verizon Lifts Caps for First Responders As Dems Urge FTC Probe

Verizon Communications, Inc., today announced that, as of yesterday, public safety mobile broadband customers in Hawaii and on the West Coast are no longer subject to its policy of reducing data transmission speeds for the remainder of the billing period for subscribers on “unlimited” data plans if their usage exceeds pre-set levels.  It also said it plans to roll out an offering for public safety customers with “no caps on mobile usage.”

The announcement came in the wake of a statement about the effects of the Verizon policy by the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District  in a court filing related to the FCC’s elimination of a rule against “throttling,” as deliberate data speed reductions by Internet service providers (ISPs) are known.  News of that incident prompted a California state legislature hearing today to look into the issue (see separate story) and a letter to the Federal Trade Commission from members of California’s congressional delegation urging an investigation of Verizon’s business practices.

In an addendum to a brief filed earlier this week by government petitioners seeking to overturn the FCC’s December 2017 restoring Internet freedom (RIF) order, Anthony Bowden, the fire chief for the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, had said that the department experienced throttling by Verizon that “had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services” during deployment to battle the Mendocino Complex Fire (TR Daily, Aug. 21). He added, “Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but, rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan.”

Verizon said earlier this week that its practice is to “remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations” by emergency responders, and that its failure to do in this case was “a customer support mistake” that it was reviewing (TR Daily, Aug. 21). Continue reading

FCC Staff Hurricane Report Details Actions to Bolter Response

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a report today that details a number of planned or recommended steps to improve emergency response and recovery efforts in the wake of last year’s historic Atlantic hurricane season, including promoting the value of the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) and requesting more DIRS data from providers, encouraging backhaul providers to participate in the Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework and seeking more granular data, improving the ability to verify the availability of commercial wireless services, bolstering engagement with other critical infrastructure sectors, suggesting that industry entities partner with localities on training for emergencies, and recommending the implementation of various best practices.

“The storms of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season put considerable, and in some cases unprecedented, stress on numerous communications infrastructures — wireless, cable, wireline, and broadcasting. Consideration and implementation of the lessons learned from the 2017 season can help ensure that the communications ecosystem continues to harden and become ever more resilient,” the 36-page report said. “Although last year was an anomaly as far as the severity and number of named storms, all members of the communications community should take what steps they can, now, to lessen a storm’s impact. PSHSB looks forward to sharing lessons learned with its partners within the Commission, with its federal partners, with state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments, and with communication service provider[s]. … Even though following all recommendations cannot preclude an adverse communications event, diligent and early adoption will lessen the impact of that event.”

“The adverse effect of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season on communications increased in magnitude as the season went on,” the report stressed. “While the damage caused by the August 2017 landing of Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf Coast region, especially Houston, was quickly remedied (within a week, ninety-eight percent of cell towers were back to operational), recovery times for communications became more challenging as the intensity of destruction increased. The early September 2017 arrival of Hurricane Irma, first in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico, and then parts of Florida, followed in short order by Hurricane Maria, again in Puerto Rico and the USVI just two weeks after Irma, largely destroyed the communications infrastructures of both territories. Finally, the October 2017 arrival of Hurricane Nate caused damage primarily through flooding in the north Gulf Coast region (Mississippi to Florida).” Continue reading

Bloggers: Fire Department Throttling Not Net Neutrality Issue

The incident of data throttling by Verizon Communications, Inc., cited by the Santa Clara (Calif.) Fire Department in an addendum to a brief filed by government petitioners seeking to overturn the FCC’s December 2017 restoring Internet freedom (RIF) order “has nothing to do with net neutrality,” according to Roslyn Layton, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Similarly, Free State Foundation Senior Fellow Seth Cooper said in a blog posting today that the county “is trying to make hay over the matter by wrongly trying to tie it to ‘net neutrality.’”

In the addendum, Anthony Bowden, the fire chief for the Santa Clara County Central Fire Department, said that the department experienced throttling by Verizon that “had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services” during deployment to battle the Mendocino Complex Fire (TR Daily, Aug. 21).  He added, “Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but, rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan.”

As reported previously (TR Daily, Aug. 21), Verizon said in a statement, ““This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court. … This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost. Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle. Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake. We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward.” Continue reading

Localities Object to Being Treated as Barriers to Deployment

Local governments are pushing back in FCC filings against the idea that they create obstacles to the deployment of broadband and small cell infrastructure and that their decisions and agreements with providers should be overridden by the federal agency.

In an ex parte filing in WT docket 17-79 (wireless broadband deployment) and GN docket 17-83 (Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee), the city of San Jose, Calif., reported on the success of “collaborative efforts” with AT&T, Inc., Verizon Communications, Inc., and Mobilitie LLC for the installation of small cells on approximately 4,000 city-owned light poles (TR Daily, June 15).

“Of course, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, but the approach of joint collaboration to agree upon mutual interest in accelerating broadband is a model that can [be] replicated nationwide.  San José has shown that investment in capacity of local government and collaboration is much more effective than legislation and litigation,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who resigned from the BDAC early this year citing the “overwhelming” influence of industry on the BDAC that was leading to a “predetermined” outcome (TR Daily, Jan. 25), said in a letter to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been tasked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with being the point person in the agency’s wireless infrastructure streamlining efforts. Continue reading

DoD Spending Bill Clears Senate, Funds Cyber Research

A Defense Department appropriations bill that would provide $356 million in additional funding for DoD cyber research cleared the Senate today. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2019 (HR 6157), which the Senate bundled with spending bills for the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, was approved by a vote of 85-7.

The bill includes $117 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million for Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements.  Like the House version of the bill that was approved in June, the bill would bar DoD from doing business with Chinese firms suspected of cyber espionage (TR Daily, June 28). Continue reading

ARRL Reports: NIST FY 2019 Budget Would Eliminate WWV and WWVH

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) FY 2019 budget request includes shutting down “NIST radio stations in Colorado and Hawaii” — in other words, WWV and WWVH. Radio amateurs, HF listeners, and others around the world routinely make use of the time and frequency standard signals, which also include propagation information. NIST said eliminating funding currently “supporting fundamental measurement dissemination” would include putting WWV and WWVH off the air for a saving of $6.3 million. The NIST FY 2019 budget request for efforts related to Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science and Measurement Dissemination is $127 million, which, the agency said, is a net decrease of $49 million from FY 2018 levels. The Administration’s overall NIST budget request is more than $629 million.

“The proposed reductions will allow NIST to consolidate and focus on narrower core [fundamental] measurement programs while meeting budget levels,” the agency said in its FY 2019 budget summary. “NIST will focus on basic research while reducing funding for efforts applying some of its breakthroughs into new measurement applications.

Read complete article here: http://www.arrl.org/news/nist-fy-2019-budget-would-eliminate-wwv-and-wwvh

 

 

 

Colorado FirstNet Filing Upsets FirstNet, AT&T

A filing last month by the Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body (CPSBGB) that asked FCC to clarify guidelines and requirements concerning interoperability and roaming between the network being built by AT&T, Inc., for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and wireless carriers (TR Daily, July 9) upset FirstNet and AT&T officials, according to e-mails obtained by “MissionCritical Communications” through a Colorado Open Records Act request. An e-mail from Ed Parkinson, FirstNet’s director-government affairs, to a state official said that Colorado was “very unprofessional and years late” and suggested that the state was “[c]learly trying to do the work of a vendor.” Chris Sambar, AT&T’ senior vice president-FirstNet, said in an e-mail to state officials that the filing with the FCC “is an incredibly disappointing move on the part of CO after your governor chose to opt in.”

Another e-mail from Mr. Sambar to the same officials suggested that Verizon Communications, Inc.’s support for the Colorado request “seemingly” indicated collusion between a state official and Verizon. The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology has asked to withdraw the request filed with the FCC (TR Daily, July 16).

Courtesy TRDaily