Telecom Law Monitor

Telecom Law Monitor

Litigation, Enforcement & Compliance Issues Update

FCC Faces Propriety of Management of Wi-Fi Systems to Guard Against Radio Frequency Interference

Posted in FCC, Wireless

The FCC has solicited comment on the rights of a Wi-Fi operator to manage its network through the use of FCC-authorized equipment to monitor and mitigate threats to the security and network interference. On November 19th, the Commission issued a Public Notice seeking comment on a joint petition filed by the American Hospitality & Lodging Association (“AHLA”), Marriott International, Inc. and Ryman Hospitality Properties (the “Petitioners”) that addresses the rights of Wi-Fi operators to manage and protect their networks (“AHLA Petition”). This issues raised by the AHLA Petition, which was filed in August 2014, potentially impact a broad range of Wi-Fi premise operators, including local businesses, educational institutions, hospitals, hotels, airports and other enterprises that operate Wi-Fi networks on their premises.

Statements opposing or supporting the AHLA Petition are requested by December 19, 2014.

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Form 477 Filing Interface Reopens; Deadline to File Set for December 11

Posted in Broadband, CLECs, Compliance Filing, FCC, VoIP, Wireless

On November 20, 2014, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing that the FCC Form 477 Local Competition and Broadband Report filing interface, which had been unavailable since October 7 due to ongoing technical difficulties, has been reopened. The new deadline for filing the form is December 11.

As we noted in our previous filing alert, the reporting requirements for the Form 477 were recently revised. This report previously only collected data about the number and types of broadband and voice subscribers served by reporting entities. As of 2014, however, the FCC assumed responsibility for the collection of data on broadband deployment, which collection was previously overseen by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration. As a result, in addition to collecting broadband and voice telephone subscription data, the new Form 477 will collect data on the locations where broadband facilities are deployed and this data will be used to populate and update the National Broadband Map.

Specific changes to the filing requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Filers will submit the required deployment and subscription data on a nationwide, rather than state-by-state basis;
  • Fixed and mobile broadband service data (coverage areas and number of connections) must be provided in terms of advertised upload/download speed, rather than speed tiers;
  • Providers of mobile voice services must report coverage areas by technology and spectrum band; and
  • Providers of fixed voice and interconnected VoIP services must report the number of subscriptions by census tract.

Reporting entities should be mindful that going forward, the deadline for filing Form 477 will be October 1 annually.


Draft E-rate Order Will Be Circulated at December Commission Meeting

Posted in Broadband, E-rate, FCC

After adopting the E-rate Modernization Order in July, Chairman Wheeler announced that the Commission is poised to take the next step in updating the E-rate program for schools and libraries.  At the Commission’s next meeting in December, Chairman Wheeler will circulate a draft order to his fellow Commissioners for their consideration.

July’s E-rate Modernization Order aimed to close the Wi-Fi gap by creating a $1 billion annual target for promoting broadband development and encouraging digital learning in the nation’s schools and libraries.  The Modernization Order also sought to increase the transparency and efficiency of the E-rate program.

Chairman Wheeler’s draft order will be in line with the policy goals of the July Order and perhaps most notably, the draft order will include a proposal to raise the E-rate program cap by $1.5 billion.  If approved, this increase will bring the total E-rate program cap to $3.9 billion, up from $2.4 billion.  According to the Chairman’s Office, more than half of the $1.5 billion increase accounts for inflation since the E-rate program began in 1997, while the remaining amount reflects the Commission’s commitment to building much needed bandwidth.

For more details on the July E-rate Order, check out our Study Guide.  The FCC also has prepared a Fact Sheet and an E-rate Data Update with additional information.

FCC Expands Use of Electronic Filing to Common Carrier and Pole Attachment Complaints

Posted in FCC

On November 12, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the implementation of electronic filing procedures for common carrier complaints and pole attachment complaints under Sections 208 and 224, respectively, of the Communications Act.

Literally years in the making, the change constitutes the FCC’s latest step in expanding electronic docketing and filing as well as electronic notification regarding developments in open proceedings. The new procedures increase the accessibility of documents to members of the public by making Section 208 and Section 224-related filings available for review online through the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System.

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Obama Enters the Net Neutrality Ring with a Call for Title II Reclassification

Posted in Broadband, Net Neutrality

After months of cryptic messages ostensibly in support of new open Internet rules (a policy colloquially known as “net neutrality”), on November 10th, President Obama issued a formal policy statement on the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s” or the “Commission’s”) Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”). In his statement, the President called for the Commission to reclassify broadband Internet access service (including mobile broadband) as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.

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In One Action, FCC Rules Against 24 TCPA Petitioners but Grants Retroactive Waivers of Opt-Out Requirements for Faxes

Posted in FCC, Telemarketing

On October 30, 2014, the FCC released an order that effectively resolves nearly half of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) petitions pending before it. This order addresses 24 petitions seeking clarification of the Commission’s rules requiring individuals and entities that send fax advertisements to include certain information on the fax to allow recipients to “opt-out” of receiving such transmissions in the future. The FCC denied all of the petitions insofar as they requested the FCC to rule that the “opt out” language requirement did not apply to faxes sent with the prior express consent of the recipient, but granted a retroactive waiver to the petitioners and other similarly situated parties because the scope of the opt-out requirement was previously unclear. The order thus will address a key issue in many pending TCPA class action cases. Moreover, by permitting similarly situated parties to seek the same waiver, the FCC essentially sets the stage to remove this issue from all TCPA cases involving fax transmissions. Any party facing a claim based on opt-out notices should take note of this order.

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Federal Communications Commission Announces Membership in Global Privacy Enforcement Network

Posted in CPNI, Cybersecurity, Enforcement, FCC, Privacy

On October 28, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) announced that it had joined the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (“GPEN”), a network of privacy enforcement and regulatory bodies from around the world that engages in collaboration and coordination on cross-border privacy enforcement actions.

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KDW Webinar Release: “Navigating the Potential Hazards of FCC Spectrum Use Enforcement”

Posted in Consumer Devices, Enforcement, Equipment Authorization, FCC, Spectrum

The Federal Communications Commission continues to step up its enforcement actions against communications and technology companies with increasing emphasis on spectrum and licensing matters, including operating outside the rules (or with expired authority), unauthorized transfers of control or assignments, and operation of unlawful signal boosters and jammers.

View webinar recording

View slide deck

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FCC Proposes $10 Million in Fines for Privacy and Data Security Violations

Posted in CPNI, Cybersecurity, Enforcement, FCC, Lifeline, Privacy, Wireless

On October 24, the FCC, over the dissent of its two Republican commissioners, issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) proposing a fine of $10 million to Lifeline eligible telecommunications carriers (“ETCs”) TerraCom, Inc. and YourTel America, Inc. for violations of laws protecting “phone customers’ personal information.” 

This is the agency’s first data security case and the largest privacy action in the Commission’s history.  See News Release.  Friday’s decision follows through on numerous public statements made by FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc indicating that privacy and security is a high enforcement priority for the Commission and that the agency would begin to use a Communications Act provision barring unjust and unreasonable practices as a privacy and security enforcement tool.

According to the NAL, the Enforcement Bureau investigation found that both TerraCom and YourTel “collected names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses and other proprietary information” gathered through the Lifeline eligibility approval process “and stored them on unprotected Internet servers that anyone in the world could access with a search engine and basic manipulation.”  The NAL states that the TerraCom and YourTel violations exposed more than 300,000 customers’ personal information to unauthorized access as well as heightened risk of fraud and identity theft. 

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FCC Reminds Political Campaigns of TCPA Obligations Ahead of Elections

Posted in Enforcement, FCC, Telemarketing, Wireless

With mid-term elections just around the corner, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a stern warning to political campaigns and calling services regarding their obligation to comply with the TCPA and stating that the Commission “will not hesitate to act to protect consumer privacy and their freedom from the nuisance of unwanted calls.”  The Enforcement Advisory reminded potential political callers that they may be liable for forfeiture penalties of up to $16,000 per violation of the rules.

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