FCC News and Notes for June 2023

In a special edition this week we look at the latest developments at the FCC, including the expected next commissioner, the latest broadband maps release and the upcoming Stir/Shaken requirements.

By: Andy Regitsky

Biden Nominates Anna Gomez for FCC Commissioner

Remarkably we have not had a fifth FCC commissioner since Joe Biden became president. He took nine months to choose his first nominee and she was fatally flawed. Gigi Sohn could not receive enough support from the Democratic majority due to her extremely partisan background. She ultimately withdrew her nomination in March after it languished for more than one year. Finally, on May 22, 2023, Biden selected Anna Gomez has his new nominee. She is expected to be confirmed by the Senate later this year, probably in the Fall.

Anna Gomez is a telecommunications attorney who is currently the senior advisor for the State Department’s International Information and Communications Policy in the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. She has prior experience at the FCC, where she served for over 12 years in multiple roles, including Deputy Chief of the International Bureau and Senior Legal Advisor to the FCC Chairman. Gomez previously served as deputy administrator of the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) from 2009 to 2013. She has also worked in the private sector, including as VP of government affairs at Sprint Nextel.

When Gomez becomes a commissioner, the FCC is expected to immediately begin proceedings to once again make net neutrality the law and classify broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service. While this proceeding will undoubtedly begin, it is far from certain it will be concluded before the 2024 election, so between that and the certainty of court appeals, its future is uncertain.

With a Democratic majority, the Commission is also expected to further tackle “digital discrimination” of access to broadband which is already under review in Docket 22-69.

The Commission may also try again to stem the shrinking contribution base for the Universal Service Fund (USF). While the industry’s preferred solution seems to be requiring edge (content) providers to contribute, it is debatable whether the agency could mandate this itself or may need Congress to get involved. Naturally, any new requirements the Commission initiates on its own will be greeted with court appeals potentially stalling any USF solution for years.

Latest Broadband Maps Released

The FCC is under extreme pressure to produce accurate broadband maps because the NTIA is awarding $42.5 billion in funding to states under the Broadband Equity and Deployment (BEAD) program created by Congress last year. Broadband providers produced the first required location-based maps last November, but while they were an improvement over the old census block maps, they still had a long way to go to be accurate.

According to the Commission, those maps were only a starting point. They had not yet been subjected to challenges from consumers, states, localities, Tribes and other stakeholders. Those challenges were made over the last few months and led to a new map release on May 30, 2023.

The new maps reveal that more than 8.3 million U.S. homes and businesses still lack access to high-speed broadband as the challenges revealed at least four million new locations lacking broadband service. The agency claims that maps should continue to improve in the future, since the Commission has a duty under the law to develop these maps in an iterative fashion. Thus, there will be a major map update released twice each year.

June STIR/SHAKEN Deadline

The FCC reminds gateway providers that by June 30, 2023, they must use STIR/SHAKEN caller ID technology to authenticate unauthenticated Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) traffic carrying a U.S. North American Numbering Plan (NANP) number in the caller ID field to stop illegal robocalls.

Facilities-based small voice service providers and gateway providers must update their certifications and associated filings in the Robocall Mitigation Database within 10 business days of completion of implementing STIR/SHAKEN.

Providers that fail to implement the STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework by June 30, 2023, or to update their certifications and associated filings in the Robocall Mitigation Database, may be subject to appropriate to enforcement action by the Commission.