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News recap: FCC to examine subsidized broadband Internet

In telecom news, the FCC is looking into subsidizing broadband Internet and wants telcos to help stop robocalls.

In this week's news, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a proposal to look into subsidizing broadband Internet for poor Americans. The FCC also clarified that phone companies can legally offer customers services to prevent robocalls, but providers haven't signed on.

The Commission also voted to give interconnected VoIP providers direct access to phone numbers from numbering authorities.

FCC examining subsidized broadband

Last week, the FCC approved a proposal to look into subsidizing broadband Internet for poor Americans. The plan was proposed in May by Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and would significantly alter the $1.7 billion Lifeline phone subsidy program that was introduced in 1985.

The vote was along party lines, with the two Republican commissioners voting against it, citing past incidences of fraud as well as potential future fraud through a program expansion, The New York Times reported.

Part of Wheeler's plan, which was approved last week, is designed to address concerns about fraud. The commission adopted stricter measures, including new record-keeping requirements that will take effect this summer.  Service providers will be charged with verifying a person's income, which would assure each eligible household could claim only the allotted $9.25 per month under the existing Lifeline program.

The commission will begin to discuss how broadband subsidies could be incorporated into the program and whether existing funds would help pay for broadband access. That vote is not expected for several months, according to the Times.

FCC urges providers to offer robocall blocking services

 The FCC voted 3-2 along party lines last week to allow phone companies to provide customers with a service to block robocalls and spam text messages as part of an effort to address robocalls, NBC News reported. Phone companies have given no indication whether they plan to offer the service, and they cannot be forced to do so. Although the technology to block these calls exists, landline providers have rejected the idea of implementing it on their networks, citing federal law and FCC regulations requiring them to deliver every call, NBC said.

The FCC said it is legal for phone companies to block unwanted calls and texts, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler asked phone companies to give it a chance.

Phone company critics said providers could do more than offer call-blocking for specific numbers. The United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) said no single technological solution addresses the problem, but its members will continue to deploy tools for their customers to address unwanted calls.

FCC approves VoIP direct access to phone numbers

The FCC voted last week to give all interconnected Voice over IP (VoIP) providers, including cable operators, direct access to phone numbers from numbering authorities.  Currently only traditional land line and wireless companies had direct access to phone number assignments from authorized companies.

The FCC completed a successful trial that gave VoIP providers direct access to the numbers and found no problems, Broadcasting and Cable said. 

In order to have direct access to numbers, interconnected VoIP providers have to comply with numbering rules and regulations, which include notifying state commissions 30 days before requesting numbers, complying with facilities' readiness rules, and  911 and Universal Service Fund requirements, the article said.

Next Steps

FCC set to update broadband definition

How to design a robust VoIP infrastructure

Saving money with VoIP

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