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The Week Ahead: Senator weighs wireline vs. wireless broadband


Enjoying a bit of a fall break, the Senate is on recess this week and is set to return on Oct. 16. But that is not stopping Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., from holding a field hearing in her home state on Oct. 13 dedicated to expanding broadband infrastructure in New Hampshire.

Broadband is a top issue for the freshman Democratic senator, as she recently expressed concerns about how the Federal Communications Commission will define broadband coverage under Republican Chairman Ajit Pai. Speaking on Sept. 28 a few days before Pai's reconfirmation vote, Hassan said the FCC chairman "is putting rural broadband advancements at stake." She pointed to a recent notice of inquiry from the commission that asks whether the FCC should consider mobile broadband as an adequate replacement for fixed broadband.

"We must address the challenges that rural communities face in getting access to broadband. But by focusing instead on mobile broadband, the chairman would have us leave rural America without a reliable connection," Hassan said.

The inquiry in question does ask whether the FCC should find out if "some form of advanced telecommunications capability, be it fixed or mobile, is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion." But it also asks whether the commission should instead evaluate deployment based on "the presence of both fixed and mobile services" given that "mobile and fixed broadband have different technical characteristics and limitations, and broadband providers choose to market their fixed and mobile products in different ways."

It remains unclear how the FCC will proceed on the inquiry, but Hassan is not the only one to have expressed concern about it. In August, Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she was "extremely skeptical" of considering an area served if it receives fixed or mobile broadband service.

"Mobile and fixed broadband are complements, not substitutes," Clyburn said.

Notably, at Hassan's field hearing, she will be listening to testimony from fixed and mobile service providers. Among the witnesses set to testify are FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc. State President Mike Reed, United States Cellular Corp. Vice President of Federal Affairs and Public Policy Grant Spellmeyer, University of New Hampshire Director of Broadband Services Brian Shepperd and Tom Strickland, president and co-owner of Sequoya Technologies, a family-run managed service provider of IT services.

House of Representatives:

The House Subcommittees on Oversight and on Research and Technology are set to hold a joint hearing on Oct. 11 to examine the Government Accountability Office's report on physical security concerns at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Known as NIST, the institute is a measurement standards laboratory and a nonregulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The GAO said in a February 2017 report that it had consistently identified shortcomings in the federal government's approach to ensuring the security of federal information systems and cyber critical infrastructure. It also criticized the government's approach to protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information. As part of its recommendations to address the issue, the GAO said the government needed to develop metrics to assess the adoption of NIST's framework for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity, and then also measure the effectiveness of cyber risk mitigation activities.

But while NIST is meant to be part of the solution, the physical vulnerabilities of the institute mean that it has faced its own share of security problems. The hearing will focus on prior NIST campus security breaches and vulnerabilities as they relate to the structure and organization of the physical security program at NIST.

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Congressional hearings:
Oct. 11 The House Subcommittees on Oversight and on Research and Technology will hold a joint hearing titled "NIST's Physical Security Vulnerabilities: A GAO Undercover Review" at 10 a.m. ET.
Oct. 11 The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a markup session at 2 p.m. ET to look at a bill that would reauthorize the FCC and its appropriations. The bill also includes a number of reforms aimed at enhancing transparency.
Oct. 12 The House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. ET titled "Assessing First Responder Communications." The hearing will provide an update from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications and the First Responder Network Authority.
Oct. 13 Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., will convene a field hearing titled "Expanding Broadband Infrastructure in the Granite State" at 10 a.m. ET.
Industry events
Oct. 9-13 WISPA, an association of wireless internet service providers, is hosting WISPAPALOOZA 2017 and Fiber Bootcamp 2017. The event will cover technical training for running a network, business strategies, sales and marketing and other topics.
Oct. 10 The Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Advertising Federation will host its annual conference, bringing together leaders in advertising, marketing, digital, technology, public affairs, social media, event marketing and traditional media.
Oct. 10 The Federal Communications Bar Association, or FCBA, will host a brown bag lunch during which the chief of the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force will provide an update on the repacking process. The FCC must reorganize broadcasters into remaining TV bands following the 600 MHz spectrum incentive auction earlier this year.
Oct. 10-11 Forum Global will host the Internet of Things Global Summit in Washington, D.C. Key session topics will include security and risk, critical infrastructure and key policy considerations for building connected, self-driving cars. Executives from Microsoft Corp., AT&T Inc. and various government agencies are among those speaking at the event.
Oct. 10-11 The Wireless Infrastructure Association will host HetNetExpo 2017 offering updates on distributed antenna systems and other small-cell technologies.
Oct. 10-12 The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers will host its 2017 Broadcast Symposium.
Oct. 11 The inaugural DC5G Summit will take place in Washington, D.C. The summit invites executives, experts, advocates, policy makers and adopters to learn about the potential of the future 5G-connected ecosystem.
Oct. 11 The FCBA Internet of Things and Telehealth Committees will co-sponsor a seminar entitled "Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things: Policy Challenges Across Sectors and in Telehealth."
Oct. 11-12 The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters will host their annual fall conference, presenting panels focused on growing broadcast stations owned by African Americans and other minorities.
Oct. 12 The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will host an event titled "Opt-In Requirements: The Hidden Red Tape of Privacy Laws" focused on the advantages and disadvantages of "opt-in" and "opt-out" privacy policies.
Oct. 12 The New England Chapter of the FCBA, in association with the Boston University College of Communication, will host FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who will discuss matters of current interest to telecommunications regulators.
Oct. 12-13 Forum Global will host its annual Americas Spectrum Management Conference.

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