Tuesday, March 29, 2016

FCC Releases March 31 Open Meeting Agenda

The FCC has released the following Agenda for the March Open Meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 10:30 am:

Expanding Access to Video Programming for Blind or Visually Impaired Americans: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on proposals to expand the amount of and access to video described programming, for the benefit of consumers who are blind or visually impaired.

Providing Affordable Broadband for Low-Income Americans: The Commission will consider a Third Report and Order, Further Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration to comprehensively restructure and modernize the Lifeline program to efficiently and effectively connect low-income Americans to broadband, strengthen program oversight and administration, and take additional measures to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.

Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposed framework for ensuring that consumers have the tools they need to make informed choices about how their data is used and when it is shared by their broadband providers.

The FCC will also consider several items as consent agenda.  The meeting may be streamed at www.fcc.gov/live.

Friday, March 25, 2016

FCC Denies Walker Broadcasting's AFR and PFR

The Commission has released a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Walker Broadcasting Company’s Application for Review, and Petition for Reconsideration.  The Application for Review (“AFR”) was filed in response to a letter decision by the Media Bureau denying and dismissing Walker’s Petition for Eligible Entity Status for purposes of participating in the reverse auction, and sought eligibility.  The Petition for Reconsideration (“PFR”) sought reconsideration of the Applications Procedures Public Notice, and a finding that Walker’s station was eligible to participate in the reverse auction until action on the AFR was final.  In the Order, the Commission affirms its previous decision that Walker’s construction permit was automatically forfeited pursuant to Section 319(b) of the Act, when it was allowed to expire on  April 3, 2009, and upholds the Bureau’s dismissal of the license application, thus, denying the AFR.  The Commission also dismisses, and alternatively, denies, the PFR, finding that Walker failed to identify a reason warranting reconsideration.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

FCC Announces Complete & Incomplete Auction 1002 Applications

A Public Notice has been released announcing the status of applications to participate in the forward auction (“Auction 1002”).  Over 100 companies filed applications to participate in the forward auction: 69 are deemed complete and 35 are deemed incomplete.

Designation of an application as complete indicates the applicant has provided the certifications and basic information concerning its qualifications as required by the Rules.  Such applicants do not have sufficient deficiencies to correct, but may make minor changes and must maintain the accuracy of the information in their applications as required by the rules.  Applications that are deemed incomplete must be corrected and resubmitted by April 6, 2016.

Upcoming Deadlines and Notices:  The deadline for submitting upfront payments will be provided in the Upfront Payment Public Notice, which will be released after the initial clearing target and associated band plan scenario have been announced.  In addition, a Qualified Bidders Public Notice will be released at least 15 business days before bidding in the initial stage of the forward auction begins.  Qualified bidders are those applicants with timely-filed and complete applications and timely, sufficient upfront payments.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Annual CVAA Filing Due April 1, 2016

Telecommunications carriers, interconnected VoIP and advanced communications services providers must file their annual CVAA compliance certificate by April 1, 2016 in the “Recordkeeping Compliance Certification and Contact Information Registry” (RCCCI Registry).  

Covered entities must certify that, as of January 1, 2015 and until December 31, 2015, records were kept in accordance with the Commission’s rules.  The certificate must state that the service provider has established operating procedures that are adequate to ensure compliance with the recordkeeping rules and that it is keeping records accordingly.  The certificate must be supported with an affidavit or declaration under penalty of perjury, signed and dated by the authorized officer of the company with personal knowledge of the representations provided in the company's certification, verifying the truth and accuracy of the information therein.  This filing must also include the current contact information for consumers and a current U.S. agent for service contact information.

The FCC recently released a Public Notice reminding service providers (and equipment manufacturers) that are subject to Section 255, 716, or 718 of the Communications Act of their obligation to maintain records of the efforts they take to implement the CVAA accessibility requirements and also their obligation to file their annual CVAA Certifications in the RCCCI Registry.  This Public Notice also contains a “Frequently Asked Questions” section that provides additional useful information.

As you may recall, section 718 requires providers of mobile service to ensure that the functions of the Internet browser that they include or arrange to be included in such telephones are accessible to and useable by individuals who are blind or have a visual impairment, unless doing so is not achievable.  In order to comply with Section 718, service providers that arrange for Internet browsers on their mobile phones must:
  • Consider performance objectives and accessibility issues early in the browser design stage;
  • Identify barriers to browser accessibility and usability as part of their evaluation when considering accessibility performance objectives;
  • Ensure that if the chosen browser supports a specific web standard, approved standards recommendations, or technology that supports accessibility features and capabilities, the browser uses those capabilities, unless doing so is not achievable; and
  • Provide accessible information and documentation to customers.

As a reminder, covered service providers must maintain records of their efforts to implement Section 718.  Such records include:
  • Information on its efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities;
  • Descriptions of the accessibility features of its products and services; and
  • Information about the compatibility of its products and services with peripheral devices or specialized customer premise equipment that is commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access.

If you have any questions about this filing, or reporting obligations in general, please feel free to contact us.

FCC Form 499-A Due April 1st, 2016

FCC Form 499-A and its supporting documentation have an upcoming deadline of April 1, 2016.  The Commission requires all telecommunications carriers and certain other providers of telecommunications services (including Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) service providers) to report each year on the revenues they receive from offering service.  The Commission uses this information to calculate required contributions to the universal service support fund (“USF”), the telecommunications relay services support mechanism (“TRS”), the cost recovery mechanism for numbering administration (“NANPA”), and the cost recovery mechanism for shared costs of long-term number portability (“LNP”).  Carriers must provide annual revenue breakdown information for the 2015 calendar year.

The 2016 version of the form and its instructions can be accessed here.  As a reminder, the Form 499-A must now be filed electronically.  For more information please see the FCC Public Notice and the USAC user guide.

If you have any questions about this filing, or reporting obligations in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.

FCC Chairman Wheeler Proposes Extending Privacy Rules to Broadband

The FCC has released a Fact Sheet outlining a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposal from Chairman Wheeler to apply the privacy requirements of the Communications Act to broadband Internet access service. The proposal has three ultimate goals: increased choice for consumers, more transparency, and more security.

With the exception of (1) customer data necessary to provide broadband services and for marketing the type of broadband service purchased by a customer and (2) customer data obtained for the purposes of marketing other communications-related services or the sharing of that data with their affiliates that provide communications-related services for the purposes of marketing such services, all other uses and sharing of consumer data by ISPs would require express, affirmative “opt-in” consent from the customer under the proposal.

In addition to the general framework described above, Chairman Wheeler proposes that:
  • consumers be given the decision either to opt out or to require that the ISP first obtain customers’ permission before using and sharing the customer’s data;
  • in the event of a breach, providers be required to notify affected customers of breaches of their data no later than 10 days after discovery, the Commission of any breach of customer data no later than 7 days after discovery, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service of breaches affecting more than 5,000 customers no later than 7 days after discovery of the breach;
  • broadband providers be required to take reasonable steps to safeguard customer information from unauthorized use or disclosure and to adopt risk management practices, institute personnel training practices, adopt strong customer authentication requirements, identify a senior manager responsible for data security, and take responsibility for use and protection of customer information when shared with third parties.
The proposed NPRM is expected to be voted on by the full Commission at the March 31 Open Meeting.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Monday, March 14, 2016

FCC Releases Tentative Agenda for the March 31 Open Meeting

The FCC has released the following Tentative Agenda for the March 31 Open Meeting, scheduled to begin at 10:30 am:

Expanding Access to Video Programming for Blind or Visually Impaired Americans: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on proposals to expand the amount of and access to video described programming, for the benefit of consumers who are blind or visually impaired.

Providing Affordable Broadband for Low-Income Americans: The Commission will consider a Third Report and Order, Further Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration to comprehensively restructure and modernize the Lifeline program to efficiently and effectively connect low-income Americans to broadband, strengthen program oversight and administration, and take additional measures to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.

Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposed framework for ensuring that consumers have the tools they need to make informed choices about how their data is used and when it is shared by their broadband providers.

Please contact us if you have any questions. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

FCC Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn Propose Lifeline Reform

Earlier this week, a Fact Sheet was released outlining a Lifeline modernization Order being proposed by Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn to modernize the Lifeline program and provide affordable broadband for all Americans.  The draft Order proposes that low income consumers could apply their monthly $9.25 support to stand-alone broadband services as well as bundled voice and data service packages.  The proposed Order also:
  • Provides support for broadband by requiring providers to include broadband in their supported service, promoting Lifeline-supported mobile devices with Wi-Fi functionality, and requiring a mid-2019 program review and report by the FCC WCB;
  • Ensures that Lifeline subscribers are receiving up-to-date services by setting minimum standards for broadband speed and usage allowance of 150 GB, phasing in minimum standards for mobile broadband service, starting at 500 MB per month of 3G data, requiring unlimited minutes for mobile voice service, and converging mobile voice and data gradually between now and 2019;
  • Frees up the Lifeline marketplace by allowing nationwide entry of a new category of providers, establishing a third-party National Eligibility Verifier, and modernizing the rules and framework; 
  • Closes remaining vulnerabilities to curb waste, fraud and abuse; and 
  • Establishes a budget of $2.25 billion, and adopts rules requiring the FCC WCB to notify and provide analysis to the Commission when spending reaches 90 percent.

The proposed Order is expected to be voted on by the full Commission at the March 31 Open Meeting.  In conjunction with the Proposed Order, Chairman Wheeler also published a blog post on the topic of low-income consumer broadband needs.  In the post, the Chairman announced that the proposal aims to “help close the broadband affordability gap by modernizing the FCC’s Lifeline program.”

Please contact us if you have any questions.