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that welcomes your input on the key policy issues of the day.

Our focus is the relationship between spectrum policy
and technical innnovation.

Our sympathies with the French people at this moment of tragedy and sadness

Best FCC Parody

FCC Okays Nudity On TV If It’s Alyson Hannigan

When I worked at FCC there were some times when you wondered whether the actions FCC actually took were a parody or not. Indeed, there is a legend that when Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase explained his classic 1959 spectrum economics paper at an FCC hearing that one of the sitting commissioners said, “Surely Prof. Coase you must be joking!”

Monday is the final episode of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) and in honor of that we presenting here an FCC parody video from The Onion, apparently dating from March 2008, that your blogger considers the best FCC video parody. (Long time readers may recall that this parody has been posted from time to time in the left column of this blog.) The parody focuses on whether nudity by HIMYM’s Alyson Hannigan would be acceptable on over-the-air TV.

We believe it is a near perfect parody, starting as a reasonable discussion and slowly getting more absurd. But then again there have been times when FCC was not that different …

Government Parties Seek Collaboration with Industry on Research and Development (R&D) to Advance Better Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

If you got bored reading the Federal Register and surfed over to FedBizOpps.gov for excitement, you might have noticed on March 12 an announcement with the above title. It starts,

“The Department of Defense (DOD), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), is releasing this special notice to inform interested parties about an interest to establish a Section 845 Other Transaction (OTA) agreement with an eligible entity or group of entities to develop and mature technologies to enable advanced approaches to electromagnetic spectrum use.”

The announcement goes on to say

The envisioned collaboration between the Government and Industry focuses on four major activities:
- maturing technologies that assist in improved electromagnetic spectrum awareness, sharing, and use
- experimentation to better inform the optimal allocation of those technologies for both public and private objectives
- demonstration of new technologies to increase trust among spectrum stakeholders
- policy development to ensure technologies don't outpace the appropriate guidance for their best use

It is anticipated that industry members may propose forming a consortium that would seek to work with the Government, through an OTA agreement in this area. DOD, NTIA, and NSF recognize that both Government and industry can benefit from an OTA agreement with a consortium, in order to achieve more rapid contracting, acceleration of discovery, unparalleled ability to tailor research, policy consideration concurrent with technological advances, a more focused and synergistic research agenda, and relief from excessive bureaucratic requirements.

It goes on to talk about Industry/academia having an opportunity for dialog with the Government sponsors. A reception will be held March 31, 2014, 1800 hrs - 2000 hrs, in the Atrium of the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230. Interested private entities should contact Mr. Vanu Bose, at vanu@vanu.com.

A key question is how this fits with DoD’s recently released “Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy (EMS)” . That document appears to focus on DoD access to the idle spectrum of other parties, but never states whether DoD is open to use of its spectrum in places and at times when it is unused. NTIA’s Larry Strickling has said, “sharing is the new normal”. Does that apply here?

As we have pointed out previously, DoD has been particularly shy about even measuring the occupancy of 225-400 MHz in major urban areas although measurements by private parties consistently show the occupancy is low in such areas. Is DoD now open to discuss such s possibility?

Private sector participation might be greater if NTIA and DoD could clarify this issue.

ECFS & "Serial Filers"/Process Abusers

Those of us who file comments at FCC from time to time are annoyed a little by the delay in comments filing for review. The confirmation you get when you file comments says:

This confirmation verifies that ECFS has received and accepted your filing. However, your filing will be rejected by ECFS if it contains macros, passwords, redlining, read-only formatting, a virus, or automated links to other documents.Filings are generally processed and made available for online viewing within one business day of receipt.

While this process may check for viruses and macros, it apparently does not check for process abusers.

Take the case of one “Mr. P” who has filed 6,757 comments at FCC since 2006! He has filed 157 comments, generally “STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD “ in Docket 09-157 alone! In the case of this docket it appears that all the comments filed have no relation to the NOI in question. Their presence in the docket file only complicates access for legitimate comment filers and practitioners.

A 2013 filing of 13 documents on one day by Mr. P. - all appear unrelated to the NOI in question

From his Twitter page we understand that he has “an interest in journalism often writes for http://Examiner.com”. Readers outside the DC area may not be familiar with a this website, but the Examiner was a daily free right wing newspaper in Washington from 2005 to mid-2013 that seemed to focus mainly on the evils of Obamacare. It is now a monthly free publication distributed at vending machines downtown that has moderated slightly in its right wing tone. He is also a sometimes blogger although he has not posted anything in almost a year, apparently viewing ECFS now as his publication platform of choice.

In 2012 FCC dismissed several filing of his dealing reassignment by AT&T of a 700 MHz spectrum license “for lack of party-in-interest standing”. However, this does not apply to comments in “informal rule makings”.

In 2012, Multichannel News’ John Eggerton (better known as the Washington bureau chief of Broadcasting & Cable) wrote “FCC Filing: Pangasa’s Sincerest Form of Flattery?”

Serial FCC filer Mr. P., who has flooded the commission with hundreds of comments in numerous dockets was at it again last week, filing a dozen new comments at press time opposing the sale of cable spectrum to Verizon Wireless.The comments included one that struck a little too close to home.”

Eggerton then pointed out that one of the filings was plagiarized without attribution from an article he had written for that publication. Another was lifted from comments by another group without attribution.

When will FCC limit such abusive filings? On March 20, 2014 Mr. P. submitted filings in 15 dockets.

If FCC does not want to limit such filings, perhaps it could modify the ECFS search system to make it easy to exclude results from such serial filings just as it allows on to exclude “brief comments”?

Brief comment exclusion option in ECFS

(Perhaps certain trade associations think your blogger is also an “abusive filer”?
For the record, Marcus Spectrum Solutions LLC has
submitted 50 ECFS filings since 2006.)


Dane Ericksen, a prominent broadcast consultant and former FCC staffer, sent me a message about this post including a 2012 e-mail he had sent to FCC on the same subject that never received a response!

Here it is (ECFS screenshots not included):

From: Dane Ericksen <________@h-e.com>
Date: August 27, 2012 2:13:37 PM PDT
To: Julius Genachowski
Cc: Kris Monteith
Subject: ECFS modification

August 27, 2012

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

I am writing to urge the FCC to take action in response to Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) "spam," which occurs when numerous, repetitive, and often extraneous comments are filed in the ECFS. Perhaps the FCC can modify the ECFS to allow a user to ignore comments by a particular filer when conducting a search for comments. Although the ECFS currently allows one to filter out "brief comments," that filter doesn't work when a submission is filed as a regular, or non-brief, comment.

ECFS spam makes it difficult to pick out the comments that are legitimate. For example, there is one individual, a Mr. P., who has already filed over five thousand (5,000!) ECFS comments in 2012 (see the first attached screen capture PDF file). Mr. Pangasa seems to be targeting a number of rulemakings, including my area of immediate interest, ET Docket 10-142 (MSS Flexibility), which is littered with non-pertinent or vaguely pertinent submissions by Mr. P.; see the attached second screen capture PDF file.

The ability to search the ECFS, while excluding filings by up to, say, three named filers (or even just one), would be most helpful to solving the ECFS spam problem. I hope that the FCC will be able to implement this refinement to the ECFS, which has proven to be an otherwise excellent resource.


Dane E. Ericksen, P.E., CSRTE, 8-VSB, CBNT
Co-Chair, Engineers for the Integrity of Broadcast Auxiliary Services Spectrum (EIBASS)
SBE Certification Committee (1987-present)
Secretary, SBE Chapter 40, San Francisco (2000-present)
c/o Hammett & Edison, Inc.
Consulting Engineers
San Francisco, CA
707/996-5200 voice
707/996-5280 fax

cc: Ms. Kris Monteith, Acting CGB Bureau Chief


On 9/25/14 your blogger got an e-mail from the individual identified above as a “serial abuser”. The following is the bulk of the message:

I found an article mentioning my name when I searched for myself in Google (on the front page) talking about comment spam on FCC website. I admit I have submitted too many comments to the FCC in the past. Sometimes when one is really passionate about something it's hard to forget not to get carried away and I spammed the proceedings. I have always found spam repugnant in email, txt, etc and I agree that it is wrong.

I pledge to stop spamming the ECFS section. I would like in return to ask if you can please remove my name from your article about ECFS Serial Abusers. I am trying to clean up my Google ranking and should not be penalized for past mistakes.

I would either like my name removed or for this page not show up in the first page of results for my name. I am sorry if my actions offended anyone. I agree that the ECFS system can and should be improved. I think the FCC should in fact have a disclaimer on the site about spam issues and advise not to file too many comments at one time. I never found any anti spam policy on the site.

In view of his promise to stop abusive filing, we have changed every mention of his name in the post to “Mr. P.” If he reforms and never abuses again the deletion will remain. But, if his abuse returns we will put his full name back in the post.

We hope his message is sincere and he has learned a lesson.


Brooking's Hamilton Project on Spectrum

On March 24th, Brooking’s Hamilton Project hosted a forum and released a new policy proposal addressing the key challenges of regulating wireless spectrum during a time of rapid change and increasing demand. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Roger Altman opened the forum, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler gave keynote remarks.

Brookings summarized Wheeler as follows:

This week, he came to Brookings for a Hamilton Project forum to discuss several of his ideas for moving America forward. Foremost among the items is the need to free up spectrum for wireless applications. Speaking about the issue, the Chairman praised the emergence of what he called the fourth network revolution for wireless connectivity of computer devices (the successor wave to the printing press, railroad, and telegraph).

He predicted that the upcoming incentive auction and sharing technology would “revolutionize the way we manage our air waves” and promote economic growth and innovation in education, health care, energy, and transportation. At this point, he said the task was to remove unnecessary obstacles that limit advances and ensure the availability of ingredients to modern networks, such as wireless spectrum.

The Hamilton Project released a new proposal by authors Pierre de Vries and Phil Weiser for improving the allocation and adjudication of wireless spectrum by redesigning regulations and simplifying the trade of spectrum resources through the use of market forces. The proposal describes four policy challenges hampering the economic potential of wireless spectrum:
  • Inefficient allocation of spectrum operating rights
  • Underinvestment in high-quality signal transmission and reception technology.
  • Reconciliation of government spectrum uses and private-sector demand.
  • Moving beyond “Command-and-Control” to Licensed and Unlicensed Use of Spectrum.

The proposal concludes:

Economists have long argued for a market-based approach to allocating spectrum, in the spirit of the argument made by Nobel laureate Ronald Coase in his seminal 1959 paper. Coase’s solution to the allocation problem was to create sufficient property rights in spectrum so that they could be sold to private owners who would then be free to buy, sell and lease spectrum rights. Prices would be set by the market, in accordance with the demand and supply for spectrum, and in particular, for more or less valuable frequencies.

The FCC has gradually allocated more spectrum rights for flexible use; since 1993 it has been using auctions toaward most new spectrum licenses. Still, there is much scope for continued improvements in the allocation and administration of spectrum policy.

Your blogger agrees in nearly all of the above. However, he would add that there are serious doubts whether FCC and NTIA, as currently structured, have the resources and “decision making throughput” to make real progress in these areas.

FCC is so paralyzed now with incentive auctions issues that it is questionable if they have time to look at such fundamental questions as proposed here.

Travis LeBlanc - New Chief of FCC's Enforcement Bureau

Travis LeBlanc has arrived at FCC as the new Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau in the past 2 weeks, His name is missing from the online telephone/e-mail directory, but it is shown along with the photo at left on the EB home page. (The “acting” seems to be formality and may be the result of a pending career SES appointment that needs approval from OPM.) We believe he is the first to hold that job who has not been a long term FCC staffer. However, he has been active in enforcement efforts in the California state government and thus probably has more enforcement experience than his predecessors at EB.

On March 4, 2014, Chmn. Wheeler announced his “intent to appoint” Mr. LeBlanc:

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced today his intent to appoint Travis LeBlanc as acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. Mr. LeBlanc previously served as a top deputy and senior advisor to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, overseeing the office’s operations and activities involving complex litigation and policy matters on a broad range of issues such as technology regulation, telecommunications, high-tech crime, cyber-security, privacy, intellectual property and antitrust.

“The credibility of the Commission’s rules depends on its enforcement activities,” said ChairmanWheeler. “Travis LeBlanc brings a wealth of experience with both federal and state law enforcement,most recently in the largest state Attorney General’s office in the country. He is a savvy prosecutor who also knows how to secure agreements with private companies in order to advance the public mission.”During his time in the Office of the California Attorney General, Mr. LeBlanc established and oversaw California’s first high-tech crime and privacy enforcement units. He also secured global agreements witha number of high-tech companies to protect consumer privacy, promote online safety and respectintellectual property rights.

Before joining the California AG, Mr. LeBlanc was an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel at the United States Department of Justice, where he advised the President and Attorney General on significantmatters of constitutional, statutory and regulatory law. Prior to joining OLC, Mr. LeBlanc was anattorney at Keker & Van Nest LLP in San Francisco, and Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington DC,where he represented corporate and individual clients in criminal and civil cases in federal and statecourts.

Mr. LeBlanc holds an A.B. from Princeton University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.P.A. from theJohn F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of Cambridge. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Enforcement Bureau is the FCC’s largest bureau and the primary organizational unit responsible forenforcement of provisions of the Communications Act, the Commission’s rules, Commission orders andterms and conditions of station authorizations.

We welcome Mr. LeBlanc and wish him best as EB tries to sort out its priorities.

[We would like to point out, as we have previously, that the use of the phrase, “FCC Chairman X announced today his intent to appoint Y …” is apparently inappropriate since bureau chiefs are appointed by the Commission pursuit to Section 4(f)(1) of the Communications Act. However, the previous post shows that this type of announcement is not unique here: Chmn. Kinnard and Martin used the same active verbs. However, Chmn. Kinnard also used less active forms of statements as have Chmn. Powell and Hundt. Perhaps the active/passive verbs in the announcement depends on how sensitive the Chairman’s Office staffers are to the other commissioners or whether they are career civil servants themselves.]


In an FCC news release dated September 2, 2014 it was revealed that Mr. LeBlanc was still “Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau” almost 6 months after the announcement discussed above. Why the delay?

Possibly the previously discussed “back office problems”. Career SES appointments require OPM approval and peer review at OPM by SES career civil servants to minimize political players moving into such career positions. Perhaps HR was slow. Perhaps OPM is slow. No real evidence except the apparent delay in making his appointment final.

When I was promoted to SES in 1981 the final approval took a long time due to inattention in the FCC HR operation to getting the right information onto the paperwork to OPM. Perhaps the same is still going on?

Spectrum Policy Implications of Growing Consumer Interest in Jamming

Below is your blogger’s regular column in IEEE Wireless Communications Magazine and appears in the March 2014 issue. We welcome alternative viewpoints and promise to print all received that are appropriate for a workplace blog. Send inputs here.

This is a magazine dedicated to communications, not electronic warfare. However, the issue of jamming is unfortunately intruding on civil communications on a growing basis. It does not take much use of your favorite search engine to discover the Internet marketing of jammers for cellular communications as well as GPS. There are even WiFi jammers and jammers for an anti-car theft system used in 37 countries called LoJack. These products need not meet any out-of-band emission limits (because they are being sold illegally anyway) and thus may well radiate in bands other than their intended targets. Thus, these commercially available jammers pose a real threat to many types of legitimate spectrum users.

The illegal nature of these systems leads to the policy option of controlling their use through marketing regulation. Most, but not all, countries allow their national spectrum regulators to prescribe standards for radio transmitters and forbid the marketing of noncompliant equipment through civil and criminal penalties. Unfortunately, the worldwide market for illicit drugs shows that this supply side regulation is not going to be completely effective. Indeed, the anti-drug marketing efforts in all countries are likely to be better funded than any practical anti-jammer marketing efforts. Furthermore, the rise of Internet-based marketing with offshore production and express shipping to the consumer further complicates supply suppression unless the production countries fully cooperate.

The spectrum community can learn from past efforts in illicit drug suppression that focusing on supply side suppression is unlikely to be successful without some attention to demand side suppression. Suppressing supply for an illicit product will only drive up its price if there is an actual demand for the product and the increased price is likely to attract more suppliers absent draconian penalties.

Perhaps the spectrum user community should be asking why is there a consumer demand for jammers today? It is hard to answer this comprehensively, but here are some thoughts. Cell phone jamming is rarely motivated by direct financial incentive. Hotels may have a financial incentive to jam guests’ cell phone to divert calls to high priced phones in hotel rooms — but this type of jamming is virtually unheard of. More common is jamming in restaurants, theaters, work places, and schools*. Such jamming appears to be more motivated by annoyance issues than direct financial return. In 2005, Motorola, a major producer of cellular equipment at the time, commissioned
a study on the annoyance issue from Donald A. Norman of the Nielsen Norman group, an engineering design consultant. Dr. Norman wrote,

We are in real danger of a consumer backlash against annoying technologies. We already have seen the growth of mobile-phone free zones, of prohibition against phone use, camera use, camera phones, in all sort of public and private places. The mobile phone has been shown to be a dangerous distraction to the driver of an automobile, whether hands-free or not. If we do nothing to overcome these problems, then the benefits these technologies bring may very well be denied us because the social costs are simply too great.

Annoyance with others comes from many sources. Some might consider this a social issue, but there might very well be technological solutions. After all, it is the technology that has provided the affordance — the technical terms that describes the ability to do some action — that is so annoying. Perhaps we could refine the technology so that it better affords politeness to others. (emphasis added)

Dr. Norman also discusses the issue of loud speech by cell phone users that he attributes to lack of sidetone in many cell phones and views as an issue that could be addressed in engineering design. The point here is that interpersonal friction resulting from cell phone use may be a key factor in the demand for cell phone jammers.

In Japan the cell phone industry is more attentive to interpersonal friction problems from cell phone use than in many other countries. Part of the instruction manual from a cell phone marketed in Japan has a section on “Mobile Manners” that recommends:

“Use your handset responsibly. Inappropriate handset use can be both dangerous and bothersome. Take care not to disturb others when using your handset. Adjust handset use according to your surroundings. • Turn off handset power in theaters, museums and other places where silence is the norm.
• Refrain from use in restaurants, lobbies, elevators, etc.
• Observe signs and instructions regarding handset use on trains, etc.
• Refrain from use that interrupts the flow of pedestrian of vehicletraffic.”

Telstra, an Australian carrier, has similar information for its consumers on its
website, but generally cellular carriers do not give guidance to their users on avoiding interpersonal conflict through cell phone use. It is likely that interpersonal friction is a major issue in stimulating the demand for jamming devices and reducing it through technical changes, such as changing technology to reduce user voice volume during calls, or consumer education will reduce consumer demand for jammers. Such demand reduction would then complement supply reduction through better enforcement by national spectrum regulators and is more likely to impact the use of consumer jammers than addressing either supply or demand independently.

If we cannot reduce the use of unauthorized consumer jammers through actions such as those discussed above, their use will seriously impact the telecommunications systems that readers have worked assiduously to develop, distribute, and operate for the benefit of our societies and economies.


*In France jamming of cellphones in prisons, theaters and concert halls is actually explicitly allowed under national law, France, Article L33-3, Code des postes et des communications électroniques, as amended by Loi n°2002- 1138 du 9 septembre 2002 — art. 47 JORF (Sept. 10, 2002)


CEPT/ECC Recommendation 04(01), updated February 2013, says “these discussions have made it clear that there is no legal basis to allow that communications be disrupted by jamming devices operated by the public”. However it goes on to say “CEPT administrations should not allow the placing on the market nor the use of jammers except in the very limited context of authorised use which may be permitted by a national legislation”.

Thus while the above cited French law permits jamming in prisons, theaters and concert halls, this CEPT recommendation is contradictory about permitting jamming by any member of the public in the specific case where it is authorized by national law. It is clear that at present FCC regulations do not permit any jamming by the public or state or local governments. Whether this is a necessary interpretation of 47 USC 333 is an issue FCC has yet to rule on.


Proceedings of the IEEE Issue on Future Radio Spectrum Access


The March 2014 issue of the Proceedings of the IEEE, “the leading journal to provide an in-depth tutorial and review coverage of the technical developments that shape the world” is devoted to Future Radio Spectrum Access.

Here are the titles of the papers published:

  • Practical Issues for Spectrum Management With Cognitive Radios
  • Harmful Interference and Its Role in Spectrum Policy
  • Security and Enforcement in Spectrum Sharing
  • Multiband Spectrum Access: Great Promises for Future Cognitive Radio Networks
  • Putting the Radio in ‘‘Software-Defined Radio’’: Hardware Developments for Adaptable RF Systems
  • RF and Microwave Hardware Challenges for Future Radio Spectrum Access
  • Small-Cell Self-Organizing Wireless Networks
  • Spectrum Without Bounds, Networks Without Borders
  • Millimeter-Wave Cellular Wireless Networks: Potentials and Challenges
  • Challenges and Considerations in Defining Spectrum Efficiency
  • Spectrum Access for the Passive Services: The Past and the Future

The second paper is by your blogger. Here is the description of it from the introduction to the special issue:

Many of the concepts and policies that will dictate shared spectrum use rely on an understanding of what constitutes interference between radio systems. In the international regulations, and most national regulations, the concept of ‘‘harmful interference’’ has been formally defined. However, in an insightful contribution by Marcus, we find that the formal definition is woefully lacking from a technical and enforcement perspective. He further argues that uncertainty surrounding what exactly constitutes harmful interference may suppress the development and adoption of new spectrum-sharing technology.

The text of the whole paper is available from IEEE Xplore.


O Canada: Canada's "FCC" Seeks More Canadian Content in Porn

While this blog is focused on spectrum policy, from time to time we diverge into other communications policy issues. The recent headline in Huff Post Canada “CRTC Hits Porn Channels For Not Enough Canadian Content” just could not be ignored.

CRTC, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is the Canadian counterpart to the parts of FCC that deal with broadcasting content and ownership issues as well as the business side of telecom. Since Canadian federalism differs from US federalism, the control over telecom within provinces is a more complex issue. The Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications sector of Industry Canada is an executive branch agency that deals with the technical aspects of spectrum policy and non-spectrum communications. SITT is structured like EPA, while CRTC is a commission of political appointees that is more like FCC.

In general your blogger prefers this basic structure over the US structure as it keeps the political issues in a political organization away from the technical issues where politicians add little value. The instant problem arrises not from the Canadian structure, rather from long standing Canadian legislation that mandates “Canadian content” in the media industry for nationalistic reasons that might be appropriate considering the relationship of Canada and its southern neighbor and unique aspects of Canada’s culture and history that are not well known in US media.

The Toronto Sun, you may recall Toronto’s mayor has been frequently discussed on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, wrote

“The CRTC says a group of Canadian porn channels needs a few more naughty Newfoundlanders, Manitoba MILFs and promiscuous prairie girls.

In a notice posted online Wednesday, the telecommunications regulator warned that channels owned by Toronto-based Channel Zero -- including porn stations AOV Adult Movie Channel, AOV XXX Action Clips and AOV Maleflixxx -- are not complying with the requirement for 35% Canadian content.”

The staid CBC, the national broadcaster and BBC equivalent, wrote

The federal broadcast regulator wants the naked truth about a couple of porn channels.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says AOV XXX Action Clips and AOV Maleflixxx may not be airing enough Canadian content or closed captioning.

The X-rated specialty channels are supposed to air 35 per cent Canadian programming over the broadcast year and 90 per cent of its content should have captioning.

At least CRTC was treating the apparently straight and gay AOV XXX Action Clips and AOV Maleflixxx equally.

So while your blogger generally admires the Canadian telecom policy system and interacted with IC many times during his FCC career, this incident shows what happens when you start regulating content for political reasons. In the special case of Canada content regulation of national origin might be useful, but it become problematic in a shrinking world.