The Federal Communications Commission is now gathering information on the state of competition in the communications industry, asking specifically about the effects of AT&T’s and Verizon’s entry into the video business.
Separately, the FCC is looking for candidates for a Technological Advisory Council (TAC). Members would provide advice to the FCC. They would serve two-year terms and would meet three to five times a year.
Among the potential topics that the TAC may consider, the Commission says, are spectrum policy, broadband technology and deployment, communications technology that enhances and supports public safety, Internet security and communications technology required to support emerging systems, such as the smart grid and tele-health applications.
The Commission will accept nominations for the Council through May 8.
The FCC adopted a separate supplemental notice of inquiry(NOI) for its Fourteenth Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming. It also asks questions and requests information about significant developments in services and service availability since June 30, 2007.
Among these are:
- The impact that the current economic environment has on broadcasters’ and multichannel video programming distributors’ (MVPDs) ability to invest in new programming and services.
- The impact of the broadcast digital television transition on services offered by broadcasters and their ability to compete with MVPDs.
- The impact of shifts in advertising shares from traditional cable and broadcast television to the Internet.
- The competitive effect of the increased penetration of Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse video services, and the response of incumbent cable operators to this competition.
- The significance of voice and data service offerings on competition among MVPDs, and the bundling of these offerings as double, triple and even quadruple plays.
- The degree that cable systems are migrating programming from analog to digital tiers.
- The impact of the increased availability of video over the Internet on competition, as well as broadband deployment.
At the same time, the FCC officially commenced the development of a national broadband policy, a charge the Commission is being given in the stimulus bill.
The FCC has issued an NOI, which seeks comment on:
- The most effective and efficient ways to ensure broadband access for all Americans.
- Strategies for achieving affordability and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and services.
- Evaluation of the status of broadband deployment, including the progress of related grant programs.
- How to use broadband to advance consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.
Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said: “I hope all stakeholders – and that means whoever wishes to be heard in this critical public policy discussion – will respond to the NOI. Commenters need not – indeed cannot – respond to all the many inquiries we raise, nor should they feel compelled to. Single out those areas where you feel you can make a contribution and share your insights and suggestions with us. If there’s a question or a dimension of the problem that the NOI misses, we want to hear about that and have your ideas there, too. When I say we strive to be inclusive, I mean really inclusive.”
The Commission must deliver the final plan to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010.
Separately, the FCC has adopted rules that will encourage the use of the 4.9 GHz band for public safety applications.
M/A-Com has been one of the lead advocates for the rule changes, arguing that public safety communications traffic in the 700 MHz band represents a serious hazard of bandwidth strain and congestion. That issue would be avoided entirely by making 4.9 GHz spectrum more hospitable to use by first responders.
The FCC agreed the rule changes will help “to stimulate the economy. The new rules will also better enable first responders to more easily share time-sensitive data and streaming video footage in emergencies or life-threatening incidents.”