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March 14 Agenda Items

SCS Would Be on Select Bands on Secondary Basis Under FCC Proposal

The FCC's supplemental coverage from space framework draft order would see the service operate in select spectrum bands and on a secondary rather than a co-primary basis. The agency on Thursday released agenda items for commissioners' March 14 open meeting. A vote on the framework is expected that day. Also on the agenda are orders for "all-in" pricing disclosures by multichannel video distributors and launch of a voluntary cybersecurity labeling program, initially focused on wireless consumer IoT “products." In addition, Commissioners will vote on a report raising the FCC's broadband speed benchmark to 100/20 Mbps and an NPRM proposing creation of an emergency alert system code for missing and endangered adults.

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SCS service would be allowed specifically in the 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, Broadband PCS and AWS-H-block spectrum bands, under the SCS draft order. The FCC said having the service operate on a secondary basis means existing primary services get automatic protection from harmful SCS interference. Just because SCS is allowed in those bands doesn't mean the commission will automatically authorize service in one of those bands, the agency said. Instead, it said it will conduct "a rigorous analysis" before approval. The SCS NPRM proposed also allowing SCS service in the Wireless Communications Service band. The draft order said the risk of harmful interference to legacy operations in the WCS band "outweighs the benefits of inclusion." It rejected arguments for allowing SCS service in all flexible-use spectrum. The commission said allowing a much wider set of spectrum bands would require it "to undertake complicated, time-consuming interference analyses on a band-by-band basis that could delay our support for a rapid roll-out of SCS." The order adds the 700 MHz bands licensed to FirstNet to those eligible for SCS service. "Improving public safety is an overarching goal of this proceeding, and permitting SCS operations on the 700 MHz public safety spectrum licensed to FirstNet on a nationwide basis is likely to further this goal," the agency said.

Cyber Mark

Consumers rely heavily on Internet-connected products to help them manage many aspects of day-to-day life, including home safety, health, recreation, and personal convenience,” said the cyber mark draft: “With this convenience, however, comes risk.” The draft said the types of products covered initially would include smart speakers, doorbells, shopping devices and apps that control them.

Many rules in the draft would adopt proposals in an August NPRM, approved 4-0 by commissioners (see 2308100032:). There has been “substantial support for a voluntary approach,” the draft acknowledges. The program would focus initially on consumer IoT products, “rather than enterprise or industrial IoT products,” it said. Also not covered would be Food and Drug Administration regulated medical devices, which are already “subject to statutory and regulatory cybersecurity requirements under other federal laws more specifically focused on such devices.” Companies on the FCC’s “covered” list of gear-makers are deemed security concerns.

The item acknowledges the program is built, as industry has requested, on work by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, though the FCC would oversee development of standards. The draft proposes to adopt the NIST definition of an IoT product and rejects industry arguments that the focus should be on devices rather than products: “The record shows existing IoT device standards can be leveraged to support assessing IoT products as well.”

The draft rejects arguments by CTA and others in favor of self-attestation of products. “To ensure the Cyber Trust Mark retains the highest level of integrity and consumer trust, we agree with commenters who caution against allowing testing by entities that are not accredited and recognized,” it said: “In light of the nascent nature of the IoT Labeling Program, lessons learned in the ENERGY STAR context, and the need to ensure that the Cyber Trust Mark garners sufficient trust by consumers to be viewed as providing accurate information and manufacturer participation, we find that allowing a path to ‘self-attestation’ is not appropriate at this time.”

With FCC oversight, the program would be supported by “Cybersecurity Label Administrators,” or CLAs, to be authorized by the commission with a lead administrator designated by the Public Safety Bureau, under the draft. “We believe that authorizing one or more CLAs to handle the routine administration of the program will help to ensure a timely and consistent rollout,” the draft said. It details responsibilities of the CLAs and lead administrator. Certification would be a two-step process, with product testing by an accredited and lead administrator-recognized lab and product label certification by a CLA, the draft said.

100/20 Mbps

The broadband speed benchmark hike from 25/3 Mbps is part of the draft annual report on the state of broadband deployment as required by Section 706 of the Telecom Act. If adopted, the item also would set a long-term fixed broadband benchmark speed goal of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps. "In this report, we have endeavored to fully explain our reasoning behind the decision to raise the fixed speed benchmark," the draft item said: "We intend to continue to examine evidence and the record similarly in the future, including the use of new and improved data sources to the extent such data becomes available."

"We find that more work remains to ensure that all Americans have access to advanced telecommunications capability," the draft said. The draft report relied on the commission's broadband data collection for the first time and found that 7% of Americans lack access to fixed broadband, excluding satellite, as of December 2022. The draft also concluded that almost 28% of Americans in rural areas and more than 23% on tribal lands lacked such access.

All-in Pricing

Under the all-in pricing draft order, cable and satellite TV multichannel programming distributors would have to display prominently the aggregate cost of video programming in ads and bills. The item would let them accompany that aggregate with an itemized explanation of the elements going into it. Cable interests argued that fees can vary widely from region to region, making all-in pricing calculations a technical challenge (see 2402160029). The FCC in the draft order said it doesn't require a single price in national or regional ads, but cable and satellite TV providers can instead advertise a range of all-in prices that will apply within the area covered by the promotion. Charges not directly related to video programming, such as taxes and equipment fees, would be excluded from the all-in rule.

New Emergency Alert

The Missing and Endangered Persons (MEP) code would be used for emergency alerts about missing people older than 17 who have “special needs and circumstances” or who are endangered, abducted or kidnapped. In 2022, close to 187,000 adults who fell outside the criteria for Amber Alerts -- which are used for children -- or Silver Alerts -- used for senior citizens -- went missing, said the FCC’s fact sheet on the item. The new code would “facilitate the more efficient and widespread dissemination of alerts and coordinated responses to incidents involving all missing and endangered persons – including Indigenous persons – across multiple jurisdictions,” the draft NPRM said.

There are existing efforts to create special alerts for missing adults but those alerts -- known as Ashanti Alerts after a murdered 19-year-old woman -- are “transmitted through a patchwork of notification systems with laws that vary based on jurisdiction; this can cause significant delay in the dissemination of these alerts,” said the draft. “Establishing the MEP event code for missing and endangered person alerts should create uniformity in the alert process to help locate missing individuals.” Several groups working on missing adult issues, including the National Congress of American Indians, requested the new code, the draft item said.

The draft NPRM seeks comment on whether the MEP code aids development of a nationwide Ashanti Alert network and on how long the new code would take to implement. It also seeks comment on creating the MEP code, how the code would interact with wireless emergency alerts (which don’t use such codes), and whether the FCC should consider “privacy or other civil liberties concerns” in creating the code.