Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FCC Releases Hearing Aid Compatibility ("HAC") Report

The Commission adopted a Fourth Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modernize the FCC’s Hearing Aid Compatibility ("HAC") rules.  In the Report and Order, the Commission adopts an expanded scope of HAC requirements (outlined below) to ensure that emerging voice technologies are subject to the HAC requirements, without regard to outdated scope restrictions or regulatory service classifications. Additionally, the NPRM seeks to develop a record on an innovative and groundbreaking proposal, advanced collaboratively by industry and consumer groups, to replace the current fractional regime with the staged adoption of a system under which all covered wireless handsets will be hearing aid compatible.

Report & Order:
The Fourth Report and Order makes “common sense updates” to ensure that the HAC rules cover emerging modes of voice communications access, specifically, handsets that are used with any terrestrial mobile service that enables two-way real-time voice communications among members of the public or a substantial portion of the public, including through the use of pre-installed software applications, including:
  • Both, current and emerging, Interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP services provided through pre-installed software applications regardless of whether the calling functionality provides interconnection to the public switched telephone network;
  • Voice communications service over Wi-Fi that does not utilize an in-network switching facility that enables reuse of frequencies and seamless hand-off

Notably, the rules do not, at this time, extend beyond terrestrial services providing for voice communications among the public or a substantial portion of the public, and accordingly do not cover services not generally available to the public, including public safety and private enterprise networks, or non-terrestrial networks like MSS.  Additionally, HAC requirements will not apply to voice applications added by consumers after their purchase of the device.

Compliance with these obligations will be required, however, only to the extent the handsets operate in frequency bands covered by Commission-approved standards for hearing aid compatibility.  The existing deployment benchmarks for newly covered air interfaces – in Section 20.19 of the Commission’s rules –  will apply to newly covered handsets and air interfaces as of January 1, 2018 (for manufacturers and Tier I carriers), with an additional period until April 1, 2018 for handsets offered by non-Tier I service providers.

The NPRM proposes to adopt, and seeks comment on, “a landmark consensus approach developed cooperatively by consumer advocates and industry trade associations” that will require that 100% of all new wireless handset models are hearing aid compatible over time.  This landmark consensus approach adopts the general approach outlined in the Joint Consensus Proposal filed by CCA, TIA, CTIA, as well as the Hearing Loss Association of America, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the National Association of the Deaf.

Joint Consensus Proposal, Generally:  The Proposal provides that within two years of the effective date of the adoption of the new benchmark rules, 66% of wireless handset models offered to consumers should be compliant with the FCC’s M rating (acoustic coupling radio frequency interference) and T rating (inductive coupling) requirements.  Within five years of the effective date, 85% of wireless handset models offered to consumers should be compliant with the M and T ratings.  The Proposal provides that  “the Commission should commit to pursue that 100% of wireless handsets offered to consumers should be compliant with [the M and T rating requirements] within eight years” subject to a Commission determination within seven years of the effective date that reaching this 100% goal is “achievable”.

The Commission seeks comment on the following:
  • The merits of the Joint Consensus Proposal, both with respect to its overall effectiveness in fulfilling Congress’s intent to ensure access to telephones for people with hearing loss and more specifically with respect the its various components.  The NPRM also seeks comment on potential alternatives to the Joint Consensus Proposal.
  • The time-frames that the proposal describes (outlined above).
    • The proposal provides additional compliance periods for Tier I and Non-Tier I carriers of six months and eighteen months, respectively.
    • With respect to the Proposal’s approach of 100% compatibility within 8 years, whether a longer or shorter transition period be more appropriate and, if so, why?
    • Whether any exceptions be preserved or adopted in the event the Commission adopts a 100% compatibility requirement, and how such exceptions are consistent with and warranted under Section 710’s requirements
  • Proposed exceptions to the new benchmarks:
    • Proposal recommends that the existing de minimis exception to the benchmarks should continue to apply for manufacturers and carriers that offer three or fewer handset models in an air interface and that the rule should further provide that manufacturers and carriers that offer four or five digital wireless handset models in an air interface should ensure that at least two of those handsets models are compliant.
  • Proposed process for determining achievability, specifically the Joint Proposal provides for the Commission to create a stakeholder task force in year four, with the goal of issue a report to the Commission within two years from that time on the achievability.
    • Specifically, the Commission seeks comment on how it should determine achievability, including the appropriate substantive definition, standard, or framework to govern the Commission’s determination.
  • The appropriate treatment of legacy handset models.
  • Treatment of reporting, disclosure, labeling, benchmark requirements
    • If the Commission decides to ultimately transition to a 100% compatibility regime, it proposes to ease or eliminate the reporting, disclosure, labeling, benchmark and other requirements imposed under the current rules.  The NPRM seeks comment on the extent to which these requirements are unnecessary or unwarranted and on the costs and benefits of easing such requirements as they relate to consumers, manufacturers, and service providers.  With respect to the benchmark requirements, the Commission also asks whether benchmarks will remain necessary after a transition to 100% compliance.

Comments due January 14, 2016
Reply Comments due January 29, 2016

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Grants First "Enhanced Review of Greater Concern"

The Commission released a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting the assignment of two Lower 700 MHz B Block licenses to an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T.  As a result of the approved transaction, AT&T will increase its low-band spectrum holdings from 43 megahertz to 55 megahertz in CA 12 – Kings, thus triggering “enhanced factor review”.  Additionally, AT&T will increase its low-band spectrum holdings from 49 megahertz to 61 megahertz in CA 5– San Luis Obispo, thus triggering “enhanced review” of “greater concern” because AT&T was already over the below-1-GHz screen (45 megahertz) when it entered into this transaction.  This is the first FCC decision to review a transaction that would result in an entity that already holds approximately one-third or more of below-1-GHz spectrum in a market acquiring additional below-1-GHz spectrum in that market.

Background on “Enhanced Review of “Greater Concern”If the proposed transaction would result in an entity that already holds approximately one-third or more of below-1-GHz spectrum in a market acquiring additional below-1-GHz spectrum in that market, the public interest benefits of the proposed transaction would need to clearly outweigh the potential public interest harms (as compared to the less aggressive “enhanced review” factor where the transaction would only need to “outweigh” the potential public interest harms).

Standard of Review Application:  In this transaction, the Commission considered whether a proposed transaction would enhance, rather than merely preserve, existing competition, and took a more extensive view of potential and future competition and its impact on the relevant markets.  The Commission limited its analysis to the local, not national, market and held that Lower 700 MHz D and E Blocks are relevant in its evaluation of proposed secondary market transactions that implicate increased below-1-GHz spectrum concentration.  Notably, the transaction was contested by numerous parties (specifically CCA, T-Mobile, and Public Knowledge) on the grounds that it would diminish rivals’ ability to compete on price or offer innovative services.

The competitive variables the Commission took into consideration were the following: (The Commission noted this is a non-exhaustive list of variables to be considered)
  • Total number of rival service providers;
  • Number of rival firms that can offer competitive service plans;
  • Coverage by technology of the firms’ respective networks;
  • Rival firms’ market shares;
  • Combined entity’s post-transaction market share and how that share changes as a result of the transaction;
  • Amount of spectrum suitable for the provisions of mobile telephony/broadband services controlled by the combined entity;
  • Spectrum holdings of each of the rival service providers

FCC Conclusion:
  The Commission found that competitive harm is unlikely in the affected markets as a result of the proposed transaction, notwithstanding the increased aggregation of below-1-GHz spectrum by AT&T.  Specifically, the Commission noted:
  • Three other nationwide providers (Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) all hold low-band spectrum in this particular market;
  • The three nationwide providers have access to low-band spectrum that would allow at least a 5x5 megahertz LTE deployment on below-1-GHz spectrum;
  • Each of the nationwide providers have access to spectrum above 1 GHz to combine with their low-band spectrum holdings for LTE deployment
  • Each of the other three nationwide providers have spectrum that would likely allow them to effectively respond to any anti-competitive behavior on the part of AT&T (each provider covers at least 70% of the population of the market.

In addition, the Commission found that the acquisition of additional aggregated spectrum would not likely foreclose expansion into unserved portions of the market because the particular spectrum at issue would not have been a likely means of expansion for rival service providers given the nature of their current spectrum portfolios in the local market.  The Commission also noted that other entities had the opportunity to acquire the Club 42 spectrum on the secondary market.

In balancing the unlikely competitive harms against the likely public interest benefits, those being increased network quality and better consumer experience resulting from the accelerated deployment of a  more robust LTE network in the two affected license areas, the Commission  determined the transaction warranted approval.  The Commission did emphasize that while these benefits weigh in favor of approving the transaction, they may not be sufficient to support the approval of future transactions.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Releases Application Instructions for FCC Form 177

The Commission released a Public Notice outlining the filing and application instructions for Form 177.  Broadcast licensees must file FCC Form 177 to be eligible for participation in the reverse auction by 6:00 p.m. ET on January 12, 2016.

The applicant on the FCC Form 177 application must be the broadcast television licensee of the eligible television station facility or facilities whose spectrum usage rights would be relinquished if it becomes a winning bidder.  In general, the application requires information or responses concerning the following:  (1) Applicant Information, (2) Station Selection, (3) Ownership, (4) Summary, and (5) Certify & Submit.  Specific filing instructions can be found in Attachment 1 to the Public Notice.  Additionally, Attachments 2 and 3 to the Public Notice provide the templates for the certification by prospective channel sharer(s) that a reverse auction applicant-share must provide when submitting a channel sharing agreement in an application. 

Please contact us with any questions. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

FCC Releases Forward Auction Impairment File Formats

The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released a Public Notice announcing the release of specifications for impairment file formats for the forward auction.  As you may recall, qualified bidders in the forward auction (Auction 1002) will have access to detailed impairment information upon receipt of their registration materials.  The Bureau has now released these specifications in order to enable prospective forward auction bidders to begin familiarizing themselves with the auction process.

The specifications released today set forth the file formats in which the information will be made available to qualified bidders.  The specifications include sample data only; they do not reflect the actual impairment information that will be made available for qualified bidders during the auction, and are subject to minor modifications as the auction software is finalized.

The Bureau plans to release specifications for forward auction bidding data file formats shortly.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Releases Wireless Emergency Alerts NPRM

The Commission released a NPRM seeking to strengthen the Commission’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (“WEA”).  The proposed revisions to the Commission’s rules are designed to improve the clarity of WEA messages, to ensure that WEA alerts reach only those individuals to whom WEA alerts are relevant, and to establish a WEA testing program that will improve the effectiveness of the system for public safety officials and the public.  WEA alerts have been used to issue timely and accurate emergency alerts, including severe weather warnings, evacuate and shelter-in place alerts, and America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts. 

The Commission’s proposed generally reforms fall into three categories: (1) improving the effectiveness of WEA message content, (2) improving geo-targeting, and (3) facilitating testing and proficiency.  The Commission seeks comment on the following proposals, as well as on the costs and benefits associated with the proposals outlined below.

Improving Message Content:   The Commission proposes:
  • to expand the maximum character length of WEA messages from 90 (the current limitation) to 360 characters, or another appropriate number of characters necessary to provide the public with sufficiently detailed information about the emergency situations that WEA is designed to address, and to encourage swift and effective public action in response to such emergencies;
  • to create of a new class of WEA alerts  -- “Emergency Government Information” -- in order to provide an additional mechanism for critical communications between alert originators and their communities, and;
  • to remove the Commission’s prohibition on embedded references to allow the provision of phone numbers and URLs in WEA messages.  The Commission also asks whether it is technically feasible to supplement WEA alerts with multimedia (such as high-information maps), and to provide WEA alerts in languages other than English.  

 Improving Geo-Targeting:  The Commission proposes:
  • to require Participating Commercial Mobile Service (CMS) Providers to distribute WEA messages to geographic areas that more accurately match the target area specified by the alert originator,
  • implementing a device-based geo-targeting solutions, or other approaches to improve geo-targeting and;  
  • to require that Participating CMS Providers must transmit any alert message that is specified by a geocode, circle, or polygon to a target area not larger than the specified geocode, circle, or polygon.  If such a requirement is infeasible, the Commission proposes to require the Participating CMS Provider to transmit an Alert Message to an area that closely approximates the target area, but in any case not exceeding the propagation area of a single transmission site.

Facilitating Testing and Proficiency:  The Commission seeks comment on:
  • requirements and procedures to facilitate state and local WEA testing and proficiency training;
    • The Commission also asks about liability protection for State/Local WEA Testing.  Specifically it “believe[s] that liability protection would reasonably extend to Participating CMS Provider engagement in State/Local WEA Testing as proposed” in the NPRM.
  • establishing procedures for logging and reporting requirements for Participating CMS Provider Alert Gateways;  
    • The NPRM proposes to require Participating CMS Provider Alert Gateways to: (1) provide a mechanism to log messages with time stamps and receipt/read verifications; (2) maintain an online log of active/cancelled alert messages for 90 days and archived logs for at least 36 months; and (3) generate monthly system and performance statistics reports.
    • Three alternative test reporting mechanisms proposed by the Commission include: third-party software using Application Programming Interfaces, informal communication among alert originators, and use of the Public Safety Help Center, and;
  • steps the Commission can take to promote participation in WEA by CMS Providers and by wireless customers.  The Commission is seeking comment on different alternatives for displaying and receiving WEA messages, in order to reduce the likelihood that consumers will “opt-out” of the WEA as well as specific factors that would lead consumers to opt out of receiving WEA messages and steps the Commission can take to mitigate consumer opt-outs.

Other: Generally, the Commission seeks comment on:
  • whether it should allow transmission of the WEA Attention Signal as part of government-developed Public Safety Announcements (PSAs); and
  • whether WEA alerts should take priority over all mobile device activity except for certain voice and data sessions.  

Implementation Timeline:  The proposed timeline for specific implementation dates is as follows:



Increasing Maximum WEA Character Length

Within 1 year of the rules’ effective date

Classifying Emergency Government Information

Within 1 year of the rules’ effective date

Embedding Telephone Numbers and URLs

Within 1 year of the rules’ effective date

Multimedia Alerting

Commission seeks comment on a reasonable timeline for Participating CMS Providers to support multimedia in WEA messages

Multilingual Alerting

Commission seeks comment on a reasonable timeline for Participating CMS Providers to support multilingual WEA messages

WEA Geo-targeting

Within 60 days of the rules’ effective date

Adopting State and Local WEA Testing and Proficiency Training

Within 60 days of the rules’ effective date

Requiring Alert Logging Test Reporting

Within 60 days of the adoption of final State/Local WEA Testing and proficiency training rules, or within 60 days of the launch of ETRS, whichever is later

WEA Attention Signals and Public Service Announcements

Within 60 days of the rules’ effective date

Non-commercial Educational and Public Broadcast Television Station Testing

Commission seeks comment on a reasonable timeline for testing of the broadcast-based WEA infrastructure to commence

Comments due: 30 days after publication in the Federal Register
Reply Comments due:  60 days after publication in the Federal Register

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Revises Incentive Auction Short-Form Filing Window

The filing windows for the reverse and short-form auction have been delayed, and accordingly the anti-collusion trigger dates have also been pushed back: 
  • The filing window for the reverse auction will open at 12:00 noon Eastern Time on December 8, 2015, and close at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on January 12, 2016.  On this date, the reverse auction anti-collusion rule will go into effect.
  • The filing window for the forward auction open at 12:00 noon Eastern Time on January 26, 2016 and close at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on February 9, 2016. On this date, the forward auction anti-collusion rule will go into effect.

The Commission released a
Public Notice revising Appendix I of the Auction 1000 Application Procedures Public Notice: the baseline data and opening prices for the reverse auction.  The revisions correct information for a small number of stations, and adjust population data for stations that are affected by the Commissions corrections.  The constraint files will be updated to reflect these corrections and adjustments.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Telecommunications Law Professionals Ranked in 2016 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms"

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers, for the sixth consecutive year, announce the "Best Law Firms" rankings.

Telecommunications Law Professionals has been ranked in the 2016 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" list nationally in one practice area and regionally in two practice areas.

Firms included in the 2016 "Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.
The 2016 Edition of "Best Law Firms” includes rankings in 74 national practice areas and 122 metropolitan-based practice areas. One "Law Firm of the Year" is named in each of the 74 nationally ranked practice areas.

Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism and their integrity.

 Telecommunications Law Professionals received the following rankings in the 2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms":

  • National Tier 1
    • Communications Law
  • Metropolitan Tier 1
    • Washington DC
      • Communications Law
  • Metropolitan Tier 2
    • Washington DC
      • Corporate Law

In addition to the firm rankings, two attorneys at Telecommunications Law Professionals were listed as Lawyers in U.S. News - Best Lawyers "Best Lawyers" rankings. Michael Lazarus and Carl W. Northrop were listed as Best Lawyers for Communications Law within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  In addition, Carl W. Northrop was ranked as a Best Lawyer for Corporate Law within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Seeks Comment on Grandfathered 3650-3700 MHz Band Licenses

The Commission released a Public Notice seeking comment on an appropriate method for determining the protected contours for grandfathered 3650-3700 MHz Band Licenses.  The Commission adopted rules in the 3.5 GHz  Order that protect existing licensees in the 3650-3700 MHz Band from harmful interference from Citizens Broadband Radio Service users for a fixed transition period. During the transition period existing licenses will receive protection for operations that are within their “Grandfathered Wireless Protection Zone.”  Provided that (1) the stations were registered in the Commission’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) on or before April 17, 2015; and (2) as of a year later (April 17, 2016) the stations are constructed, in service, and fully compliant with the relevant operating rules.

he Commission is now seeking comment on the appropriate methodology for determining the Grandfathered Wireless Protection Zone, specifically a two-pronged approach.  The Commission also seeks comment on several other related issues including:  (1) procedures for determining compliance with the Commission’s construction and operation requirements for the Band; and (2) an implementation strategy to ensure that an accurate definition of the Grandfathered Wireless Protection Zone is available to the authorized Spectrum Access Systems (SASs).

Comments due: 30 days after publication in the Federal Register

Reply Comments due: on or before 15 days after the comment due date

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Phone Unlocking Exemption to Copyright Prohibition Adopted

In a Final Rulemaking, the Register of Copyrights has recommended, and the Librarian of Congress has adopted, an expanded phone unlocking exemption to copyright access control prohibitions.  The process known as unlocking involves the circumvention of access controls on wireless devices to allow them to connect to the network of a different mobile wireless carriers.  The unlocking exemption to the prohibition on circumvention of copyright protection systems for access control technologies is used to facilitate noninfringing uses both under section 117 of the Copyright Act and as a matter of fair use.  Every three years, the Copyright Office undertakes a rulemaking process concerning the anti-circumvention provisions of Chapter 12 of Title 17.  The adopted exemption is significantly expanded from prior years.

Under the exemption, computer programs that enable the below listed wireless devices to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is undertaken solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and such connection is authorized by the operator of such network, and the device is a used device.  The exemption defines a used device as one that has previously been lawfully acquired and activated on the wireless telecommunications network of a wireless carrier.

The following types of wireless devices are within the exemption:
  • Wireless telephone handsets (i.e., cellphones);
  • All-purpose tablet computers;
  • Portable mobile connectivity devices, such as mobile hotspots, removable wireless broadband modems, and similar devices; and
  • Wearable devices designed to be worn on the body, such as smartwatches or fitness devices.
Notably, the exemption excludes devices embedded in motor vehicles from the exemption for mobile connectivity devices by including the condition that the devices be “portable”.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Releases November Open Meeting Tentative Agenda

The below Tentative Agenda for the November 19, 2015 Open Meeting has been released.  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

Wireless Emergency Alerts: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would improve the effectiveness of WEA message content and the geographic targeting of WEA messages, and facilitate WEA testing and proficiency training.

Hearing Aid Compatibility: The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would update the scope o the wireless hearing aid compatibility rules and seek comment on additional measures that would ensure greater deployment of hearing aid compatible wireless handsets.

Accessibility of User Interfaces: The Commission will consider a Second Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide consumers with better information about the availability of accessible devices and features and create easier access to video programming and closed captioning on devices.

The meeting may be streamed at

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Releases Haring Aid Compatibility NPRM

The Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the Commission’s hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules for wireline handsets.  The Commission proposes to take the following actions:  (1) incorporate into the rules a revised industry standard developed by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) that appears likely to improve the ability of people with hearing loss to select wireline telephones with sufficient volume control to meet their communication needs and provide greater regulatory certainty for the industry; and (2) apply the Commission’s wireline telephone volume control and other hearing aid compatibility requirements to handsets used with VoIP services.

In addition, the Commission proposes a rule and requests comments on setting a standard for volume control for wireless handsets to ensure more effective acoustic coupling between handsets and hearing aids or cochlear implants.  The Commission also proposed to require manufacturers to exclusively use the 2011 standard developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Committee C63 (ASC C3) to certify future handsets as hearing aid compatible; and eliminate the power-down exception if manufacturers are required to test and rate handsets exclusively under the 2011 standard.  Finally, the Commission seeks comment on a process for enabling industry to use new or revised technical standards for assessing hearing aid compatibility compliance, prior to Commission approval of such standards.

Comments Due: 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register
Reply Comments Due: 90 days after date of publication in the Federal Register

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Seeks Comments On Use of Spectrum Bands Above 24 GHz

The Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking identifying spectrum bands above 24 GHz that appear to be suitable for mobile service, and seeking comment on proposed service rules that would authorize mobile and other operations in those bands.  The development of service rules for mobile use of the millimeter wave (mmW) Bands occurs in the context of the Commission’s efforts to develop a regulatory framework that will help facilitate Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services.

The Commission proposes to require flexible use commercial licensees to protect incumbent Federal operations consistent with Federal allocations in these bands, and expects that detailed sharing studies will be conducted as the Commission considers the development of the service rules for these bands to ensure that the proposed rules adequately protect Federal users. Furthermore, in order to ensure wide access to spectrum, the Commission proposes to use a variety of licensing mechanisms, including geographic area licenses, unlicensed operation under Part 15 of the Commission’s rules, and authorizing indoor operating rights to property owners. The Commission asserts that a flexible approach will encourage innovation in the development of advanced wireless services using the mmW bands.

The Commission seeks comment on the following proposals:
  • 28 GHz and 39 GHz Bands: Propose to authorize mobile operations in the 27.5-28.35 GHz Band (28 GHz Band) and the 38.6-40 GHz Band (39 GHz Band) with county-sized geographic area licenses;
  • 64-71 GHz Band: Propose to authorize operations in the 64-71 GHz Band under Part 15 of the Commission’s rules based on the rules recently adopted for the adjacent 57-64 GHz Band;
  • 37 GHz Band: Propose a hybrid licensing scheme for the 37-38.6 GHz Band (38 GHz Band) that would grant operating rights by rule to property owners, while establishing geographic area licenses based on counties for outdoor use.

Comments are due January 26, 2016 and Reply Comments are due February 23, 2016. 

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Releases Public Notice Regarding USF High-Cost Support

The Commission released a Public Notice reminding all eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) that receive support from the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost mechanisms (whether legacy high-cost program support or Connect America Fund support) of their obligations to use such support only for its intended purposes of maintaining and extending communications service to rural, high-cost areas of the nation.  Expenditure of support for any other purpose is misuse and may subject the recipient to recovery of funding, suspension or funding, enforcement action by the Enforcement Bureau pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934 or the FCC rules, and/or prosecution under the False Claims Act.

Under federal law, high-cost support provided to an ETC must be used “only for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended.”  Pursuant to Commission rule, an annual certification to that effect must be filed, and support shall be provided in the subsequent year only to the extent the required certification has been filed.  While costs relating to corporate operations are eligible to be covered, those expenses must fall within the scope of the statutory requirement.  Additionally, the Commission reminds rate-of-return carriers that section 65.450 of the Commission’s rules prohibits them from including expenses in their revenue requirements unless such expenses are “recognized by the Commission as necessary to the provision” of interstate telecommunications services.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of expenditures that are not necessary to the provision of supported services and therefore may not be recovered through universal service support:
  • Personal travel
  • Entertainment
  • Alcohol
  • Food, including but not limited to meals to celebrate personal events, such as weddings, births, or retirements
  • Political contributions
  • Charitable donations
  • Scholarships
  • Penalties or fines for statutory or regulatory violations
  • Penalties or fees for any late payments on debt, loans or other payments
  • Membership fees and dues in clubs and organizations
  • Sponsorship of conference or community events
  • Gifts to employees; and
  • Personal expenses of employees, board members, family members of employees and board members, contractors, or any other individuals affiliated with the ETC, including but not limited to personal expenses for housing, such as rent or mortgages

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

FCC Establishes Deadline For Incentive Auction Procedures

The Commission released a Public Notice establishing the deadline for petitions for reconsideration of the Auction 1000 Application Procedures Public Notice, which was released on October 15, 2015.  The original Public Notice established the application procedures for the broadcast incentive auction scheduled to begin on March 29, 2015.  The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau published a summary of the Public Notice in the Federal Register on October 29.  Accordingly, the deadline to file petitions for reconsideration is November 30, 2015.

Furthermore, as necessary, the Commission will provide notice of any petitions for reconsideration received and establish a pleading cycle for oppositions and replies.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.