In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges that many Americans will face in the coming months, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced the Keep Americans Connected Initiative. In order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, he specifically asked broadband and telephone service providers, and trade associations, to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.
High-speed Internet access, or broadband, is critical to economic opportunity, job creation, education, and civic engagement. But there are too many parts of this country where broadband is unavailable. Chairman Ajit Pai's top priority is to close the digital divide between those who have access to cutting-edge communications services and those who do not. He believes that every American who wants to participate in the digital economy should be able to do so.
The United States is moving swiftly to lead the world in the next generation of wireless connectivity—or 5G. These new networks and technologies will enable faster speeds and low-latency wireless broadband services, cultivating the Internet of Things and innovations not yet imagined. Under Chairman Pai, the FCC is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to Facilitate America's Superiority in 5G Technology (the 5G FAST Plan). The Chairman's strategy includes three key components: (1) pushing more spectrum into the marketplace; (2) updating infrastructure policy; and (3) modernizing outdated regulations.
The FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took effect on June 11, provides a framework for protecting an open Internet while paving the way for better, faster and cheaper Internet access for consumers. It replaces unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations that were developed way back in 1934 with strong consumer protections, increased transparency, and common-sense rules that will promote investment and broadband deployment.
The FCC is working to, as Chairman Pai says, "stop the scourge of illegal robocalls." He has made combatting unlawful robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing his top consumer protection priority. By proposing and implementing impactful policy initiatives and pursuing strong enforcement actions, the FCC has been taking a bold stand to protect and empower consumers.
The incentive auction was the world's first two-sided spectrum auction. In it, broadcasters bid in a reverse auction to voluntarily relinquish their spectrum usage rights in exchange for a portion of the proceeds from a forward auction of new, flexible-use licenses suitable for providing mobile broadband services. Bidding concluded in 2017, repurposing 84 MHz of low band spectrum for mobile use and raising $19.8 billion in gross revenues.
The FCC is ensuring Americans who watch free over-the-air television are prepared to rescan their televisions in markets across the country. Some local TV stations in cities across the U.S. will be changing their over-the-air broadcast frequencies between now and July 2020 as part of the post-Incentive Auction transition. Consumers should watch for announcements from their local TV stations and understand how to rescan their TVs.
Connected care services can lead to better health outcomes and significant cost savings for patients and health care providers alike. However, many low-income consumers, particularly those living in rural areas, lack access to affordable broadband and might not be able to realize these benefits. This is why the FCC is working hard to connect communities and support technologies that help connect Americans to critical health services.
Taking on the communications challenges faced by Americans with disabilities has been and will remain at the forefront of the FCC's agenda. This includes the telecommunications needs of the millions Americans who are Deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled and deaf-blind. The FCC's latest effort is called Accessible Communications for Everyone (ACE), an initiative to break down telephone access barriers for these populations using innovative technologies of the 21st century.