Monday, July 27, 2015

FCC Formally Approves AT&T-DirecTV Merger

The FCC has issued a News Release announcing its formal approval of the AT&T-DirecTV merger.  AT&T will acquire DirecTV, resulting in one combined entity. 

The merger will be subject to certain conditions that the combined entity must meet (as previously announced by Chairman Wheeler).  These conditions will generally remain in effect for four years after the merger closes.  Accordingly, the combined entity will be required to: 
  • expand its fiber to the premises (“FTTP”) service to 12.5 million customer locations;
  • offer gigabit service to any E-rate eligible school or library where it deploys FTTP service;
  • refrain from imposing discriminatory usage-based allowances or other discriminatory retail terms and conditions on its broadband Internet service;
  • submit its Internet interconnection agreements to the Commission;
  • make available an affordable, low-price standalone broadband service to low-income consumers in its broadband service area; and 
  • retain an internal company compliance officer and an independent, external compliance officer that will report and monitor its compliance with the merger’s conditions. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

FCC Seeks Comment on Request For Signal Booster Labeling Waiver

The FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on Kathrein Automotive GmbH & Co. KG’s (“Kathrein’s”) request for a waiver of Section 20.21.  Specifically, Kathrein seeks a waiver of the Consumer Signal Booster anti-oscillation and labeling requirements to permit the equipment certification of an in-vehicle, pre-installed Wideband Consumer Signal Booster.

In the event that the Commission does not approve the waiver, Kathrein requests that the Commission find that the Kathrein signal booster has met the requirements of Section 20.21(e) by providing ‘equivalent protections’ to the Network Protection Standard.

The waiver request may be viewed here. 

Comments are due by August 10, 2015. 
Reply Comments are due by August 20, 2015. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Monday, July 20, 2015

FCC Releases Tentative Agenda for August Open Meeting

The below Tentative Agenda for the August 6th Open Meeting has been released.  The Meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am. 

Emerging Wireline Networks and Services – The Commission will consider a Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will advance longstanding competition and consumer protection policies on a technologically-neutral basis, and further the technology transitions underway in our Nation’s fixed communications networks that offer the prospect of innovative and improved services to consumers and businesses alike. 

Ensuring Continuity of 911 Communications – The Commission will consider a Report and Order that would protect consumers through the transitions from legacy copper networks to modern networks by adopting rules to ensure that consumers have options, and sufficient information about those options, to maintain 911 communications at home during power outages. 

Mobile Spectrum Holdings – The Commission will consider an Order on Reconsideration addressing petitions for reconsideration of certain aspects of the Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Order. 

Incentive Auction Procedures – The Commission will consider the Procedures Public Notice, which adopts a balanced set of auction procedures that will ensure an effective, efficient, and timely auction. The Public Notice establishes and provides information on final procedures for setting the initial spectrum clearing target, qualifying to bid, and bidding in the reverse and forward auctions. 

Unlicensed Operations in TV Bands and 600 MHz Band – The Commission will consider a Report and Order that adopts technical and operational rules for unlicensed services, including wireless microphone operations, in the broadcast television bands and in the post-incentive auction 600 MHz band. The rules are intended to maximize unlicensed access to spectrum while ensuring that licensed services are protected from harmful interference. 

Wireless Microphones – The Commission will consider a Report and Order that adopts a plan to accommodate the long-term needs of wireless microphone users by providing new opportunities for their use in the broadcast television bands and in several other frequency bands.

The meeting may be streamed at fcc.gov/live.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

FCC Announces $17.5 Million Settlement with T-Mobile

The FCC has released a Public Notice announcing its $17.5 million settlement with T-Mobile.  The Consent Decree and Order are related to two 911 outages that occurred on August 8, 2014.  According to the Commission, the “sunny day” outages, caused by a computer glitch, lasted for approximately three hours and prevented almost all of their 50 million customers from reaching 911 from their mobile devices.  In addition to the $17.5 million fine, T-Mobile must implement a compliance plan to adopt proactive risk management principles designed to reduce the likelihood and impact of future outages.  Additionally, T-Mobile must file compliance reports with the Bureau until the termination of the Consent Decree.

This marks the largest 911 outage settlement to-date and is the agency’s fourth major enforcement action in this area.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Upcoming Deadlines for Form 499-Q and Form 502

Form 499-Q Due August 3, 2015
All telecommunications carriers that provide interstate telecommunications services are required to file an FCC Form 499-Q Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet with the Commission on or before August 3, 2015 (the original filing date of August 1 falls on a weekend, therefore the filing date is pushed to the next weekday).  Carriers must provide revenue information for April 1 through June 30 and projections for October 1 through December 31 of the coming year.  Additionally, to the extent that interconnected VoIP and CMRS providers rely on a traffic study to report interstate revenues for the August filing of the Form 499-Q, the traffic study relied upon must be included with this filing.

The Form and filing instructions may be found via USAC's website.

NRUF Form 502 Due August 3, 2015
The Numbering Resource Utilization/Forecast Report (NRUF) Form 502 is also due to be filed by August 3, 2015 (the original deadline of August 1 falls on a weekend, therefore the filing date is pushed to the next weekday).  The North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) is required to collect, store and maintain number resource utilization and forecast data.  Accordingly, the FCC directs that NANPA number assignees holding geographic and/or certain non-geographic telephone numbers must report on their holdings twice each year (February 1 and August 1) using Form 502.  As with prior filing periods, the Form 502 may be filed online at http://www.nanpa.com/nruf/index.html, where instructions for completing the Form also may be found.

If you have any questions regarding compliance with these filings, or would like assistance in filing either of these forms, please contacts us as soon as possible.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Discusses IP-Transition

Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler posted a blog discussing his proposed changes to the copper retirement rules in order to facilitate the IP-Transition.  The Chairman announced that he would be circulating his proposals via two items (Report and Order and Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) to the other Commissioners.  The proposed rules will likely be voted on at the Open Commission Meeting on August 6, 2015 (the agenda for this meeting has not yet been released).

According to a fact sheet released on the Chairman’s proposals, the rules aim to make clarifications about the IP-Transition while also providing protections for consumers. 

Report and Order 
The first item aims to protect emergency calling while promoting consumer choice, by proposing rules that:
  • Require the providers of “modern substitutes ” for traditional copper-based landlines to ensure that a technical solution for 8 hours of standby backup power is available for consumers to purchase (at their choice), either directly or from a third-party retailer, at the point of sale;
  • Require, within three years, that providers offer an option for 24 hours of standby backup power; and
  • Require providers to inform current and new customers about the service limitations during electric outages and the steps the provider takes to address those risks through backup power. 
 
Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
The second item aims to inform and protect consumers as networks change.
Protect consumers as copper networks are replaced by next generation networks by:
  • Requiring that consumers be notified of plans to retire copper networks (approximately six months of notice for non-residential customers and three months of notice for residential customers);
  • Defining “retirement” in a way that prevents retirement of networks by neglect;
  • Requiring notice to interconnecting carriers for retirement of all parts of the copper network that are critical to providing their customers with service; and
  • Retaining carrier flexibility to retire the networks without prior Commission approval, as long as the service is not discontinued, reduced, or impaired.
Preserve competitive choices by:
  • Requiring that replacement services be offered to competitive providers at rates, terms, and conditions reasonably comparable to the legacy services; and
  • Clarifying that a carrier that has only carrier customers that is planning to discontinue service must follow the statutory process for discontinuance if the action would negatively impact retail users served by carrier customers.
Evaluate whether new service will meet consumer needs by:
  • Clarifying, and seeking comment on the standards to be used for evaluating and comparing replacement and legacy services; and
  • Codifying Section 214 of the Act (which requires that carriers receive FCC approval before they discontinue, reduce or impair a service) based on the comments received.

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Monday, July 6, 2015

FCC Releases Public Notice Providing Open Internet Advisory Opinion Information

Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice providing further information on Open Internet advisory opinions and the process for requesting one.  The Open Internet Order established a new process that allows companies to request advice from the FCC about the legality of new practices that companies may be considering.  This process aims to “promote legal certainty” so that companies can base their business practices on guidance.  In the Public Notice, the FCC discusses:
  • the extent to which parties may rely on advisory opinions;
  • the confidentiality of advisory opinions; 
  • the process for requesting and waiting for advisory opinions; and 
  • other general details about the content to include in a request.
Please contact us if you have any questions. 

FCC Enters Consent Decree with TracFone Wireless

Last week, the FCC released a Notice announcing that the Enforcement Bureau has reached a settlement with TracFone Wireless, Inc. to transition its phones to be unlockable.  The FCC has also released the Order and Consent Decree.  The agreement follows an investigation into whether TracFone violated Sections 54.202(a)(3) and 54.422(b)(3) of the Commission’s rules by certifying its compliance with industry consumer protection and service quality standards even though it had failed to comply with the handset unlocking provisions of the CTIA Code.  The Bureau found that almost all handsets currently offered by TracFone to its customers, whether through its Lifeline program or to its general customer base, are not capable of being unlocked as defined by the CTIA Code.

The decision could benefit as many as 8 million TracFone customers.

Under the agreement, TracFone must:
  • provide a $400,000 per month offset to the Lifeline Program until TracFone provides unlocked handsets to Lifeline customers;
  • establish and implement, by May 1, 2016, a program to provide eligible Lifeline customers who request handset unlocking a comparable unlocked handset;
  • establish and implement, by September 1, 2015, a program to provide eligible non-Lifeline customers who request handset unlocking a refund or upgrade credit for the Trade-in Value of their handset;
  • exclusively provide Lifeline handsets capable of being unlocked by May 1, 2016 and exclusively launch new non-Lifeline handsets capable of being unlocked by December 31, 2016;
  • continue to operate under this Consent Decree and offer the benefits to consumers described herein until 18 months after it ceases all sales of locked handsets; and 
  • provide clear, concise and readily available notifications to its customers about its handset unlocking policy.
Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Friday, July 3, 2015

FCC Releases Lifeline Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

In the June Open Meeting, the FCC adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Order on Reconsideration, Second Report and Order, and Memorandum Opinion and Order continuing the modernization of the Lifeline and Link Up Programs (FCC 15-71).  There are many proposals in the Second FNPRM that may impact Lifeline providers’ program obligations, and the Order on Recon and Second Report and Order adopts new rules concerning Lifeline providers’ document retention period and revisions to “snapshot date”  for the calculation and submission of subscriber information.  A brief overview of the item is provided below:

The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Second FNPRM”) seeks to modernize the Lifeline program by building a new framework and establishing safeguards against waste, fraud, and abuse.  The Commission proposes and seeks comment on proposals surrounding several aspects of the Lifeline program including, establishing minimum service standards; third-party eligibility determinations; Tribal standards for the program; increasing competition and modernizing the Lifeline program; and administrative proponents of the program.  Most notably, the Second FNPRM proposes significant changes that could impact Lifeline providers if adopted, such as: 
  • adopting enforceable minimum voice and broadband service standards;
  • shifting the responsibility of conducting eligibility determination from Lifeline providers to a trusted third-party;
  • streamlining eligibility procedures through coordination with other Federal benefit programs;
  • increasing competition and service provider participation in the Lifeline Program;
  • revising ways that providers’ Lifeline support is calculated;
  • requiring service providers to have a 24 hour customer service number that will allow subscribers to de-enroll;
  • increasing service provider participation and support for Wireless Emergency Alerts; and
  • minimizing the disruption to Lifeline subscribers during transfer of control of ETCs by adopting various notice requirements.
Comments on the Second FNPRM will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and Reply Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Order on Reconsideration adopts rules that require ETCs to retain documentation demonstrating subscriber eligibility for the Lifeline program as well as documentation used in NLAD processes.  This documentation must be retained by ETCs for as long as the subscriber receives Lifeline service from the ETC, but no less than three years.  The Order becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Second Report and Order adopts rules to improve the administrative aspects of the program.  In addition to increasing accountability, efficiency and transparency, the Order adopts a snapshot date for the calculation and submission of subscriber information.  The Second Report and Order will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, unless otherwise noted in the attached overview.  ETCs must transition to the new Snapshot Date within 180 days of the effective date of the Second Report and Order.

The Memorandum Opinion and Order addresses an Application for Review regarding the confidential treatment of information provided in two FCC Form 555 filings submitted to the Commission by Nexus Communications.  The effective date of the Memorandum Opinion and Order is July 6.

In addition to the adoption of the above item, Commissioner Clyburn proposed, during remarks at the New American Foundation, that the Lifeline program be renamed “iBridge Now!” in order to reflect the changes being made to the program’s framework.

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.