At its May 20 open meeting today, the Commission continued its efforts to implement the recommendations of the Broadband Plan by unanimously adopting three more broadband-related proceedings to accompany the handful of proceedings adopted in April. As expected, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to initiate reforms to the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism (E-Rate) program to make broadband more accessible in schools and libraries and to cut red tape.
In addition to the anticipated items to streamline the E-Rate application process and index the e-rate cap to inflation, the FCC has decided to propose new rules to expand funding to wireless broadband connectivity for portable devices for students, as well as expanding funding for internal connections (possibly by eliminating the complex "2-in-5 year" rule). These items were originally slated for consideration in 1Q 2010.
This proceeding follows the Commission's earlier adoption of its USF High-Cost NOI and NPRM in April. The Commission also adopted an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to ensure nondiscriminatory, just and reasonable access to utility poles by broadband providers, an issue that Commissioner Clyburn referred to as the "nuts and bolts" of broadband access. The Order resolves certain utility pole access issues, while the FNPRM asks for additional comments on pole attachment rates, FCC enforcement, and access timeframes. (For further information, please contact or Jim Tomlinson.)
Also adopted today was a Report and Order (News Release only, the actual R&O has not yet been released) enabling robust mobile broadband use of 25 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz wireless communications service (WCS) band. (The Commission also adopted a not-yet-released Second Report and Order implementing rules for terrestrial repeaters to provide greater certainty for both satellite radio and WCS licensees.) (For more information, please contact Brendan Holland.) (The other two proceedings considered at the open meeting were the Local Number Portability Report and Order and the 14th edition of the Mobile Wireless Competition Report.)
UPDATE: The FCC has now released the Report and Order on WCS wireless broadband and the Second Report and Order on terrestrial repeaters.