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Tag Archives: Geoffrey Starks

FCC Commissioner Starks Makes Staff Changes

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks has made a number of changes to his staff, as his office said today.

“Justin Faulb has joined the office as wireline and national security adviser,” the FCC said. “Previously, Faulb served as associate bureau chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau, overseeing implementation of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act and other national security, privacy, numbering and pricing issues. At the FCC, he has also served as legal adviser to the chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau, as the designated federal officer of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, as an attorney adviser and as special counsel in the Office of the FCC Chairman. Prior to the FCC, he worked for a leading trade association and in private practice focusing on communications and energy law. Faulb received his law degree from Catholic University, Columbus School of Law, and his bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Miami University.”

Starks said, “I’m thrilled to have Justin join my team. He is one of the commission’s leading experts on supply chain security. His knowledge and experience on wireline issues will be an invaluable asset as I work toward securing our communications networks, increasing deployment, and achieving digital equity.”

The FCC said that Diane Holland, Starks’s previous advisor for media and consumer protection issues, has moved to the Wireline Competition Bureau to serve as a deputy bureau chief. Austin Bonner will now advise Starks on media and consumer protection issues, the agency said.

“Diane brought to my office a depth of knowledge and experience that will be hard to replace,” said Starks. “True to her reputation, she is a bright, hardworking, and dedicated public servant. Fortunately, Diane is not going far, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.”

According to the FCC, Morgan Bodenarain is joining Starks’ office as legal adviser, where she will focus on issues of digital equity. She most recently worked in the office of Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), where she managed his communications and technology policy portfolio, the agency said. It said that previously, Bodenarain served as a legal telecommunications Fellow in the Congressman’s office and as a law clerk for the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Bodenarain earned a J.D. degree from the George Washington University Law School and a B.A. in political science and policy studies from Elon University.

“I’m excited for Morgan to bring her Capitol Hill experience in telecom and broadband equity policy to the office,” said Starks. “In particular, she has explored how the lack of adequate broadband resources in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many issues that communities of color face in America. I look forward to Morgan’s contributions as we work to connect all Americans.”

Ms. Bodenarain will succeed Special Advisor Alisa Valentin, Ph.D., who is departing the commission for the non-profit sector.

Starks said, “Alisa’s passion and unwavering dedication for justice and equity served not just my office but the commission as a whole in ensuring all voices are heard, especially people of color and other marginalized communities. Alisa is a force, and I look forward to seeing all of the great things she’ll accomplish.”

FCC Commissioner Starks Speaks of Communications Networks’ Critical Role

On March 31, FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks spoke at a meeting of the Subcommittee on Communications & Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce at the U.S. House of Representatives. What follows is the text of his remarks as released by the FCC.


Chairman Doyle, Ranking Member Latta, Chairman Pallone, Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

Geoffrey Starks

We stand at an inflection point in history. First, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally transformed the way we work, learn, and connect to each other. Second, the challenges of our day make clear that network security has never been more important. And finally, the consequences of climate change are becoming alarmingly clear. The FCC has an indispensable role to play on each of these fronts, and it is more evident than ever before that our policies intersect with our nation’s highest priorities. For my part, I am proud to say that we are helping make America more equitable, secure and sustainable.

When I last spoke with this subcommittee, I noted how our longstanding digital divide had morphed into a monstrous COVID-19 divide. And like so many other aspects of the pandemic, the lack of access to and adoption of home broadband has amplified and reinforced existing inequities in our society. In particular, Americans of color remain, by a wide margin, less likely to have a home broadband connection than their counterparts. The Pew Research Center has found that 29 percent of Black adults and 35 percent of Latinx adults do not have a home broadband connection.

We must meet the disconnected where they are. For tens of millions of Americans, the price is just too high. A recent study by Education Superhighway found that 18.1 million households, home to 47 million people, remain offline simply because they cannot afford an internet connection. Millions more have made difficult sacrifices to keep their broadband service. No family should have to choose between keeping the lights on and a broadband connection, but we know that they do.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is changing that. Congress and President Biden have made a $14.2 billion investment in affordability that converted the Emergency Broadband Benefit from a pandemic-focused effort into a long-term part of the FCC’s work. In setting up ACP, the FCC announced many steps to continue increasing participation in the program. I want to highlight one of the places where I will focus my efforts. The chairwoman, along with my colleagues, supported my proposal to seek comment on a pilot program to expand participation by households that benefit from Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA). More than 5 million households benefit from federal rental assistance programs, including public housing and the housing choice voucher program (Section 8). There is a clear synergy between housing and connectivity; if we are helping a family secure housing, we should be able to help them secure an online connection. I’ve met with a number of public housing authorities already to seek their expertise in closing the digital divide, and I’ll never forget when I got to sit down with a single mother of three in Selma, Alabama who told me how free connectivity in her residence at the George Washington Carver Homes transformed her life.  I know it can do the same for others.

As we increase access to broadband networks, we must also ensure that those networks are secure. I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done to remove untrustworthy equipment from our telecom networks. Back in 2019, I called for a concerted effort to identify such equipment and devise a plan to rip and replace it with secure devices—“Find It, Fix It, Fund It.” With Congress’s support, we’ve developed a program to achieve this goal and have received over 180 applications seeking funding for this effort, at a potential cost of $5.6 billion. We should give these applications a close look, and I look forward to working with Congress to ensure there is enough funding to remove and replace all the untrustworthy equipment.

2019 was also the year we began to ban untrustworthy carriers from U.S. networks. In the last three years, we’ve either denied or revoked telecom operating authority for every carrier identified by Team Telecom as a national security risk, including our decision two weeks ago to revoke the authority of two Chinese carriers. These actions have strengthened our national security, but our work is not complete. Even as we have barred Chinese carriers from offering telecom services in the United States, some of them continue to market data center and private line services that allow them access to U.S. communications and the personal information of American citizens.

On that issue, I have called for the commission to work with Congress and the administration to examine how to tackle network security threats like foreign-owned data centers. In cooperation with the relevant executive branch agencies, the commission should commence an inquiry to: (1) identify all U.S.-based data centers owned and/or operated by companies subject to the laws or jurisdiction of adversary states; (2) identify, on a confidential basis, the services provided by these data centers and their customers; (3) ascertain whether the data centers present a risk of interception, tampering, or blocking of U.S. communications and information; and (4) identify any legal authority of the FCC or another regulatory body to protect U.S. communications stored within or that otherwise transit these data centers.

For example, Executive Order 13873 delegates authority to the Department of Commerce over transactions involving information and communications technology that pose a national security risk to the United States. The commission also might have oversight through its licensing authority for undersea cable landing sites, given that these data centers, as well as those overseas, rely on such cables to transmit information between the United States and the rest of the world.

Finally, I must address another issue that will define our shared future — the environment — and the important role I see the telecommunications and technology sector playing. Here are four ways to drive impact. First, we must continue to optimize the efficient use of spectrum — a finite resource — while at the same time enabling devices that draw less power. Spectral efficiency and saving energy are a must-have — doing more while using less. Second, 5G and other advanced networks are also enabling use cases that could dramatically increase sustainability. 5G use cases in just the manufacturing, precision-agriculture and energy sectors could contribute approximately 20 percent towards U.S. emissions reduction targets by 2025. Third, public-private partnerships are already hard at work, and more will be expected. For example, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $500 million in DOT awards to support the ongoing efforts by smart cities to use wireless IoT sensors to reduce traffic congestion and energy usage. Fourth, industry-led initiatives will continue to play a significant role, from their progress towards reducing or eliminating the carbon emissions associated with their operations, increasing the use of renewable energy and minimizing electronic waste. Here’s the point: We have long spoken about the economic benefits of 5G; we must also put time, thought and attention to maximizing 5G’s environmental benefits.

The world is undergoing transformative change, and communications networks have a critical role to play. The FCC must take the actions necessary to achieve a level playing field for all, protect the security of our nation and preserve the health of our planet.

Thank you again for inviting me today, and I look forward to your questions.

Open RAN to Help Defeat Chinese Espionage Via Cell Systems

By Geoffrey Starks

Starks

The United States was once a worldwide leader in telecom network hardware. Companies like Lucent and Motorola led the world in the design and manufacture of telecom equipment, from the radio antennas to the core. Unfortunately, however, American leadership in this market disappeared over time. While many factors were at work, American telecom carriers were eventually left without a reasonable domestic option.

The timing could not have been worse, because the Chinese government’s Made in China 2025 strategy decisively tilted the playing field in favor of its own telecom equipment manufacturers. Chinese government support artificially lowered Huawei and ZTE’s prices, assisted in their research and product development, and undercut international competition. This was not free-market competition, but part of a strategy to turn economic power into geopolitical dominance. Through this unfair advantage, the equipment produced by these companies has become pervasive around the world, and even reaches U.S. networks.

This isn’t just economic gamesmanship. According to our intelligence agencies, in exchange for this subsidization, Chinese corporations have siphoned data, allowed backdoor access to state agencies and enabled functionality for network disruption. As a result, the technological foundation of our communications networks has been weaponized.

Congress and the FCC have recognized the problem of untrustworthy equipment in U.S. networks and are working to ensure its removal and replacement. Open RAN networks may be part of the solution. Almost exactly a year ago today, I published an op ed advocating for the development and use of software-enabled, virtualized 5G infrastructure to replace suspect equipment. Our country has long been a technology leader in software and wireless technology — growing our capability to make secure infrastructure makes sense from both a security and an economic standpoint.

We need to invest in this technology. And we must do some deep and proactive thinking on the best policies to effectuate our goals of promoting secure telecommunications networks that benefit our shared future and get the best value for the American tax-payer where we need to rip and replace insecure, Chinese equipment. So here’s a new idea:

I recommend that we explore that each rip-and-replace carrier rebuilding its network be required to consider solutions offered by an O-RAN provider. That would achieve many of our goals, including encouraging global competition with Huawei, capitalizing on U.S. software advantages, accelerating the development of O-RAN as a product-model and a business-case, and allowing for alternative vendors to enter the market and offer specific network solutions. Although no carrier should be forced to adopt it, it would encourage carriers to consider a technology that might have been overlooked otherwise.

O-RAN holds tremendous promise. Its growth could advance American technological leadership, enhance competition, and reduce our reliance on foreign vendors, all while bringing down replacement costs. It deserves serious consideration.


Geoffrey Starks is an FCC commissioner. Edited for length and style, this article comes from his remarks at the FCC’s Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks on Sept. 14, 2020.

Geoffrey Starks Sworn in as Commissioner at the FCC

Starks

Geoffrey Starks was sworn in as an FCC Commissioner yesterday, expressing his gratitude to the President and the U.S. Senate for picking and approving him.

“In my new role, I shall not only continue to pursue those goals, but also look forward to working with Congress, my fellow Commissioners, and the FCC’s outstanding staff to serve the public interest by encouraging innovation, competition, and security, as well as advancing policies to increase the quality, availability, and affordability of our country’s communications services.  Every community has a stake in the future of communications in this country, and all have the right to be heard.  I will always be listening.”

Most recently, Commissioner Starks served as assistant bureau chief in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, where he focused on consumer protection, network security, and Universal Service Fund programs. Before that, he served as senior counsel in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to his entry into federal public service, Comm. Starks was an attorney at the law firm Williams & Connolly.

Comm. Starks Names Staff

Comm. Starks also appointed of staff members who will serve in his office in acting capacities.

  • Daudeline Meme is Acting Chief of Staff and Acting Legal Advisor for Wireless and International.  Meme previously served as Deputy Chief in the International Bureau’s Telecommunications & Analysis Division.
  • Michael Scurato is acting legal advisor for Media and Consumer Protection. Mr. Scurato joins the Commissioner’s staff from his position as Special Counsel for the Chief of the Enforcement Bureau.
  • Randy Clarke is acting legal advisor for Wireline and Public Safety. Clarke previous was FCC counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
  • Renee Coles is acting confidential assistant.  Coles has served as the staff sssistant to Commissioner Michael Copps.
  • Natalie Martinez is acting staff assistant.  Martinez has served as the confidential assistant to five successive general counsels of the FCC.