Legislative Activity

House Introduces Joint Resolution to Repeal FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

On April 13, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) introduced a Joint Resolution to invalidate the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) open Internet rules adopted on February 26. The resolution states that Congress disapproves of the FCC’s rules and that those rules will have no effect. The bill relies on the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to review “major” rules issued by federal agencies before the rules take effect and allows Congress to disapprove of new rules resulting in the rules having no effect. Included in the CRA is a fast-track procedural mechanism whereby a resolution needs only a simple majority to pass the Senate instead of the usual 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Under this expedited procedure, the resolution could bypass potential Democratic opposition in the Senate. Congress now has 60 days to consider the resolution. After the 60-day window, Congress could still attempt to repeal the rules but the fast-track provisions would not apply.

Data Security Legislation with Implications for FCC Passes House Commerce Committee

On April 16, the House Energy and Commerce Committee (House Commerce Committee) approved H.R.1770, the Data Security and Breach Notification Act. The bill would set national standards for companies in protecting and securing customers’ personal information and would supersede several state laws with similar protections. The bill requires entities that collect and maintain consumers’ personal information to secure that information and provide notice to affected individuals when a breach occurs. In what could be an important shift in the jurisdiction of the FCC, the bill would move enforcement for some types of breaches from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This shift could remove some consumer protection measures already in place under FCC rules, including the requirement to notify consumers of any breaches involving private information. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

 This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, April 21:  The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation will hold a hearing entitled “Advancing Telehealth Through Connectivity.” Among others, Dr. M. Chris Gibbons, the Distinguished Scholar in Residence of the FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force will testify as a witness.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Adopts Rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service that Enable Spectrum Sharing

At its April 17 Open Meeting, the FCC adopted rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service in a Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that authorizes spectrum sharing among commercial and federal operators in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz band. According to a news release, the FCC’s action makes 100 MHz of spectrum newly available for mobile broadband and other commercial uses. The FCC stated that the 150 MHz of total spectrum made available in this band thus far by the agency is a “significant step” toward the 500 MHz spectrum clearing goal announced by the Obama Administration in 2010 (see below). By authorizing “advanced spectrum-sharing technology,” the FCC has enabled and will allow wireless broadband systems to share spectrum with “military radars and other incumbent systems” in this band. According to the FCC’s news release, the arrangement reflects “extensive cooperative work” between the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Department of Defense. Two commercial “tiers” of use are authorized by the FCC’s rules – (1) a “General Authorized Access tier,” which allows any user with a certified device to operate without further FCC approval, and (2) a “Priority Access tier,” for which the FCC will auction “geographically targeted, short-term priority rights” to use a portion of the band. “Coexistence” among the different tier users will be facilitated by commercially operated Spectrum Access Systems.

“Net Neutrality” Rules Published in the Federal Register

On April 13, the FCC’s open Internet rules were published in the Federal Register. Except for various information collection requirements, the rules will take effect June 12. The rules were established in the FCC’s Open Internet Order, in which the agency reclassified broadband Internet access service – the retail service that consumers purchase from internet service providers – as a Title II service subject to common carrier regulation, and established certain bright line rules including prohibitions on blocking or throttling of legal content and Internet traffic and a near-absolute prohibition on paid prioritization of Internet traffic (i.e. no “fast lanes”). Our complete summary of the FCC’s open Internet rules can be found here.

NTIA Releases Progress Report on Ten-Year Spectrum Clearing Plan

On April 14, the NTIA released its Fifth Interim Progress Report (Fifth Report) in response to the Obama Administration’s 2010 Presidential Memorandum (Memorandum) directing the Secretary of Commerce, together with the Office of Management and Budget, the National Economic Council, the Office of Science and Technology policy, the NTIA, and the FCC, to make available 500 MHz of federal and non-federal spectrum for expanded wireless use. The Fifth Report discusses the NTIA’s and the FCC’s progress toward that goal during a year-long period from 2013 to 2014. Accomplishments highlighted in the Fifth Report include: federal agencies developed transition plans and rules for the AWS-3 bands; the FCC adopted new rules to enable spectrum sharing in the 3550-3650 MHz band (see above); the NTIA published studies evaluating the sharing criteria between commercial and federal uses in the 5350-5470 MHz band; and the FCC adopted rules for the first-ever incentive auction, whereby broadcasters will voluntarily relinquish spectrum rights for a share in the auction proceeds. In the next year, the NTIA and FCC intend to develop sharing options to accommodate broadband applications and devices in the 5 GHz band, and the FCC plans to continue efforts toward making spectrum above 24 GHz available for mobile services.

FCC Seeks Comment on Competitive Bidding Rules

On April 17, the FCC issued a Public Notice (PN) seeking comment on ways to ensure that small businesses, rural telephone companies, and businesses owned by members of minority groups and women (collectively, “designated entities”) have an opportunity to participate in the provision of spectrum-based services, while ensuring that there are adequate safeguards to protect against unjust enrichment to ineligible entities. The PN seeks further, more detailed input on changes to the FCC’s bidding rules proposed by commenters in response to the FCC’s October 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, through which the FCC aims to update its bidding rules in advance of the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction.

Oppositions Due April 29 for E-rate Petitions for Reconsideration

According to a publication in the Federal Register, oppositions to four Petitions for Reconsideration (Petitions) of the FCC’s December 19, 2014 E-rate Second Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration are due April 29, and replies to an opposition are due May 11. The Petitions were filed by AdTecT-Mobile USACox Communications, and WTA. More information on the Petitions is available here.