Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> Independent Organizations -> FCC

ItemIndependent Organizations
The Promise: "...the Federal Communications Commission should provide an accurate map of broadband availability using a true definition of broadband instead of the current 200 kbs standard and an assessment of obstacles to fuller broadband penetration."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for Small Business, dated 09/11/08.
Status:The FCC released the National Broadband Plan on 03/16/10.

Some provisions of the plan follow:
- make broadband available to all U.S. residents;
- connect 100M U.S. households to "affordable" 100 Mbps broadband service by 2020;
- connect anchor institutions such as hospitals, schools and government buildings in every U.S. community to 1 Gbps broadband service in the next decade;
- restructure the FCC's Universal Service Fund and redirect $15.5B from traditional telephone subsidies to broadband deployment over the next decade.

The FCC was called upon to produce a plan. This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...true broadband to every community in America..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for Science and Innovation dated 09/25/08
Status:The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law 02/17/09, has $7.2 billion earmarked for improving the U.S. broadband infrastructure, particularly in rural/remote areas, under management of the FCC. Of this amount, $4.7B went to the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration for broadband deployment, adoption and data collection.

The FY2010 budget submitted by President Obama included an additional $1.3B under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) budget plan to increase broadband capacity in rural areas.

Further, the President's FY2011 budget proposal includes "$418M in USDA loans and grants to move rural communities into the modern information economy." The FY2011 budget proposal also includes $24M to initiate what may become known as the "Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Administration."

There is a significant issue that may hinder promise fulfillment in the near future. A planned nationwide broadband wireless network may interfere with spectrum reserved for satellite communications services reserved for Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Such interference could impact commercial, private and military aviation, 911 responders (police, ambulance, fire), and consumer navigation devices.

A 06/30/11 report from the U.S. GPS Industry Council to the FCC revealed that a start-up firm called "Lightsquared" has been developing a wireless-by-satellite network that could potentially knock out 500M GPS receivers used by first responders, commercial and military aviation, and others. "Lightsquared" maintained that the use of filters on its devices and on the potentially affected GPS receivers could allow its services and GPS technologies to operate on the same band of satellite spectrum. This potential anomaly was resolved in 02/12 by the FCC disallowing the fielding of Lightsquared's solution.

As of 11/01/11, Congress was considering legislation to authorize the FCC to conduct incentive auctions for about 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcast TV to be allocated to wireless uses. Instead, the FCC made 95 MHz of government-controlled wireless spectrum available for commercial use on 03/26/12.

According to a Congressional Research Service report dated 12/28/16, (FCC there remain two ongoing federal funding vehicles to fund broadband infrastructure: the broadband and telecommunications programs at the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Universal Service Fund (USF) programs under the Federal Communications Commission).

As of end-CY2016, only about half of rural residents enjoy a download speed faster than 25MB per second. 34M Americans do not, 23.4M of them residing in rural areas. To mitigate this situation would, by some accounts, cost about $80B more than the amounts appropriated as of end-CY2016.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will reform the Telephone Universal Service Program, direct the FCC to better manage the nation's airwaves, and encourage public-private partnership to get more low-income communities connected."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Supporting Urban Prosperity" dated 09/11/08.
Status:The Universal Service Reform Act of 2010 (H.R. 5828) was introduced on 07/22/10 by Congressman Frederick Boucher (D-VA) and Lee Terry (R-NE). It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that date and no further action was taken on this bill.

This bill was intended to improve and modernize the USF by reining in the size of the fund and promoting broadband deployment, going beyond the "telephone" aspect of this promise.

This proposed bill expired at the end of CY2010 with the 111th Congress.

On 10/27/11, the FCC approved a 6-year program to transfer funds from the USF to a new $4.5B per year "Connect America Fund" for broadband Internet expansion. This move will end the USF by CY2018.

As a consequence of the above, the Telephone Universal Service Program has been reformed to the extent that it could be totally replaced by CY2018.

Promise fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will support the transition of existing public broadcasting entities and help renew their founding vision in the digital world."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:For FY2010, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was set at $420M under regular appropriations, plus $36M for digital conversion and $25M for radio interconnection. These amounts were supplementated by $25M under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 for "fiscal stabilization grants to public radio and television stations, which have experienced a downturn in revenues due to the recession."

The CPB had sought a 50% increase in funding to $59.5M for digital conversion in FY2011, but Congress appropriated $36M for the CPB's transition to digital broadcasting.

CPB's baseline funding was increased from $420M to $430M as enacted in FY2009, and for FY2012, appropriations of $445M were enacted in FY2010.

All aspects considered, the Obama Administration has fulfilled the campaign promise to "support the transition" of public broadcasting from analog to digital media.
The Promise: "...strongly supports the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet....will protect the Internet's traditional openness to innovation and creativity and ensure that it remains a platform for free speech and innovation that will benefit consumers and our democracy."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet content, sites, platforms, applications, devices, services and networks are to be treated equally. Some FCC oversight of the Internet is arguably warranted to ensure that Internet providers do not exercise favoritism or block access to Internet sites that offer competing products or services.

In 04/10 under the Obama Administration, the FCC received a court decision that the FCC has no regulatory authority over Internet service providers. Google and Verizon responded by offering a commitment to net neutrality if accompanied by limited enforcement authority for the FCC where violations were detected. To many, this formulation of "neutrality" left many loopholes.

On 12/21/10, the FCC passed net neutrality rules that appeared to provide equal access to the Internet. In reality, the new rules gave the U.S. Government a say in how the Internet would be operated and managed, and how broadband services and networks would be respectively priced and financed.

The new rules do not apply to wireless access the same way they apply to broadband access. Under these new rules, Internet providers would technically be able to slow down wireless access to sites on a selective basis. Further, mobile network providers would have the legal right to stop access to Internet content or applications -- again on a selective basis.

While President Obama's support of the principles of net neutrality were not in question, unless the FCC revised its 12/21/10 rules and issued new, more comprehensive rules to include wireless applicability, the promise to protect the Internet's "traditional openess" was not being fulfilled. Because of this, the House deleted funding for FCC enforcement of net neutrality from the draft FY2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill in mid-CY2011.

On 11/10/11, the Senate voted 52-46 to reject the House bid to repeal the FCC's net-neutrality rules that would prevent Internet service providers from speeding up or slowing down website access. Meanwhile, the service provider Verizon filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the FCC's net neutrality rules violated the right to free speech. The Verizon case was assigned to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that ruled against the FCC when it tried to enforce the principle of net neutrality against Comcast in CY2010. The court initially had until 09/12 to respond to Verizon's charges. That didn't happen. Verizon was joined by prepaid wireless provider "MetroPCS" in attempts to overturn the FCC regulation.

In its opinion that the FCC had overstepped its authority with regard to the Internet, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the FCC's net neutrality rule on 01/14/14. After this ruling, the FCC introduced a proposal that would allow companies providing Internet access to charge content providers such as Google extra for faster, more reliable service. This proposal has generated protests as it comes up for an FCC vote and lengthy public comment period in 05/14. This isn't over.

In view of the Obama Administration's relative silence on the net neutrality issue, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will encourage industry not to show inappropriate adult-oriented commercial advertising during children's programming."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:In 1974, the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) established the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). As a self-regulatory program to promote responsible children's advertising, CARU monitors and reviews advertising directed to children, initiates and receives complaints about advertising practices, and determines whether such practices violate children's programs standards.

In addition to CARU's efforts, the Children's Television Act of 1990 is enforced by the FCC to serve children's information and educational needs. Under this Act, the FCC can also impose fines on broadcast companies that violate the limits on the use of advertising during children's programming.

In 07/09, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recommended to the Senate Commerce Committee that parents be empowered with the tools to determine appropriate TV content for their children in lieu of more government regulation of TV content.

On 05/28/10, the FCC fined seven TV stations a total of $250K for violating children's programming rules. These rules limit commercial advertising time during children's shows to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekdays and 12 minutes per hour on weekends. But adult-oriented advertising is not specifically addressed in the Act cited above.

While efforts are made to curb adult-oriented advertising during core children viewing hours, children also watch feature presentations such as the Super Bowl during which beer commercials and other topics restricted to adult follow-up are routine.

In 06/12, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell estimated that the FCC had a backlog of approximately 1.5M indecency complaints on file tied to 9,700 broadcasts. This indicates that on-air indecency in general is taking place at just about the same rate as did in CY2009 when President Obama assumed the presidency and the number of complaints on file stood at 1.6M.

President Obama is not known to have exercised any specific initiative to encourage the TV industry to limit its adult-oriented advertising to those hours when children are least likely to be watching.

More than three years into President Obama's first term in office, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will encourage improvements to the existing voluntary rating system, exploiting new technologies like tagging and filtering, so that parents can better understand what content their children will see, and have the tools to respond."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:More than three years into President Obama's first term in office at the end of CY2011, there is no record anywhere that he has aggressively pursued improvements to the TV industry's voluntary rating system.

Nonetheless, the FCC announced in 02/11 that it was looking at an improved "V-Chip" to replace the V-Chip mandated to be installed on all TV sets with screens over 13 inches manufactured since CY2000. To current date, the FCC guidelines for applying ratings have no legal force and do not apply to news and sports broadcasts. There has been little-to-no encouragement from President Obama to pursue improved tagging/filtering technology.

As of early-CY2013, there have been no improvements to the TV rating system since it went into effect on 01/01/97.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work to give parents the tools to prevent reception of programming that they find offensive on television and on digital media."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:The primary tool to prevent reception of offensive TV programming is the "V-Chip," which blocks programs on the basis of their ratings category (Y, Y-7, FY-FV, G, PG, 14, and MA). The V-Chip was mandated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to be built into all television sets manufactured starting in CY2000. The V-Chip guidelines have no legal force and do not apply to news, sports programming and regular commercial break advertising.

The basic tools for restricting the reception of offensive programming on TV existed long before President Obama arrived on the national scene. Those tools could be improved, but the basic "V-Chip" has existed on all TVs with a screen larger than 13 inches since CY2000. The best tool to shield families from viewing offensive TV content remains, in the opinion of many, parental monitoring and control.

Tools to prevent similar reception via the Internet also exist. See Promise Number IO-47 for a listing. Again there's no substitute for parental monitoring and control of what their children are permitted to view.

This promise sounded good during President Obama's campaign but the tools already existed at that time. Consequently, this promise has not been fulfilled because it didn't need to be fulfilled by President Obama.
The Promise: "...will encourage the creation of Public Media 2.0., the next generation of public media that will create the Sesame Street of the Digital Age and other video and interactive programming that educates and informs."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:For reference purposes, "Public Media 1.0" consisted of 20th Century public broadcasting, cable access, nonprofit satellite set-asides, and focused national and international journalism. These media occasionally hosted political debates, aired major Congressional hearings, reported news, and broadcast cultural events. "Public Media 1.0" was also limited in generating public conversations by the "one-to-many" structure of mass media.

"Public Media 2.0" is intended to become media both for and by the public. The plan is for "Public Media 2.0" to be multiplatform, participatory, and digital. It will be held together by a combination of four features: (1) a trusted national network to coordinate communication and media practices, (2) funding for content creation, curation and archiving, (3) partnerships among outlets, makers, and allies, and (4) the standards and measurements that providers of public media uphold.

Much as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting relies heavily on federal funding for its Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR)($430M in federal funding for FY2011 and a projected $446M for FY2012) for its survival, "Public Media 2.0" will require increased funding from taxpayers as well as the corporate world and partnering foundations.

While several successful experiments with the evolution of "Public Media 2.0" have been conducted ($36M was projected for digital conversion, $25M was projected for the Public Radio Interconnection System (PRSS) and $27.3M was projected for its "Ready to Learn (RTL) programs in FY2010), progression from the "Public Media 2.0" concept to its acceptance by the general public is not yet assured.

None of President Obama's four budget proposals addressed "Public Media 2.0" as one of his priorities, nor is he known to have come out publicly to "encourage" its creation since assuming the Office of the Presidency.

For all practical purposes, "Public Media 2.0" remains at the conceptual stage as of early-CY2013.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will promote greater coverage of local issues and better responsiveness by broadcasters to the communities they serve."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:Localism is an old FCC regulatory requirement that radio and TV stations must meet to receive and maintain their broadcast licenses. On 01/14/10, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell stated that "all of us should be asking why the Commission needs to devote scarce time and resources to reviving any old localism rules at all...Broadcasters must adapt to meet the needs and desires of their communities if they want to stay alive."

The perceived intent of this promise was interpreted by many as a new effort for the FCC to enforce the 1949 Fairness Doctrine. On 08/08/11, FCC Commissioner McDowell acknowledged that the FCC could find a 'back door' way to impose localism rules without congressional concurrence and in doing so, would find a way to implement the principles of the Fairness Doctrine.

Despite Commissioner McDowell's comments above, this "localism" promise has not been fulfilled by the Obama Administration as of early-CY2013.
The Promise: "...will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation" dated 11/13/07.
Status:On 05/25/10, the FCC launched its quadrennial review of broadcast media ownership, as mandated by Congress, to determine whether rules preventing any broadcast company from controlling too many media properties in the same market still serve the public interest.

Five rules are the focus of the FCC's latest studies: (1) local TV ownership, (2) local radio ownership, (3) newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership, (4) radio/TV cross-ownership, and (5) dual network rule. It's important to note that these rules were initiated and probably more relevant/effective in the days when there were only three TV networks and local newspapers were plentiful. Some of these rules have since been loosened/deregulated by the FCC.

On 07/21/10, the FCC filed a brief with the 3rd U.S. Appeals Court defending its CY2007 decision to weaken the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership (NBCO) rule, a rule that was designed to protect local communities from media monopolies and increase diversity in the broadcast media marketplace. Congress didn't agree.

As of early-CY2013, the FCC has not taken the actions necessary to permit fulfillment of President Obama's campaign promise. The promise to encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...supports efforts to provide greater technical assistance to local and state first responders and dramatically increase funding for reliable, interoperable communications systems...supports a more rapid turnover of broadcast spectrum to first responders."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Supporting Urban Prosperity," dated 09/11/08.
Status:According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled: "Funding Emergency Communications: Technology and Policy Considerations" dated 01/05/12, the U.S. "has yet to find a solution that assures seamless communications among first responders and emergency personnel..."

Part of the solution to acquire a more reliable, interoperable communications system would be the pursuit of the "Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) system. To expedite the transition to NG9-1-1, President Obama signed into law the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012" (H.R. 3630) on 02/22/12. This law defines NG9-1-1 as an Internet Protocol-based system that "supports data or video communications needs for coordinated incident response and management" and "provides broadband service to public safety answering points or other first responder entities."

To make this all happen, President Obama's FY2013 budget proposal seeks over $10B derived from the sale and reallocation of spectrum. Specifically, the President's request proposes to reallocate D Block spectrum valued at over $3.1B, and provides $7B to
support the deployment of this network, including up to $300M to fund R&D and support for standards and technologies to ensure the network capabilities meet the mission requirements of public safety.

This "support" promise has been fulfilled.