Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Announcements

  • The Tentative Agenda for the FCC Open Meeting on September 26, 2013, contains four items, including a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the UHF Discount under the TV multiple ownership rule, and an NPRM on accelerating deployment of wireless infrastructure. To read the full Tentative Agenda, click here.
  • • The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will host a forum on October 1, 2013, to discuss cybersecurity and children’s online safety. The forum will be held from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Eastern in the FCC Meeting Room. Space is limited; to register, send your name, organization and contact information to cybersecuritynextgen@fcc.gov. To learn more or to register, click here.

The Mobile Market

  • On August 27, 2013, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a Public Notice seeking additional comment and to refresh the record regarding “cramming” on wireline and wireless phone bills. Cramming is how the agency describes the practice of placing unauthorized charges on phone bills. Comments are due 45 days after Federal Register publication of the Public Notice and Reply Comments are due 15 days after that. CG Docket Nos. 11-116 and 09-158; CC Docket No. 98-170. The Public Notice is here.
  • The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will host a public workshop on October 2, 2013, to discuss the use of wireless technology to contact emergency services. Among the topics to be discussed are the quality of 911 location information delivered to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), including concerns raised in an ex parte filing by the California chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (CALNENA) about the percentage of wireless 911 calls in California being delivered without required location information. Details regarding the workshop participants, panels, and times will be announced by the Bureau in a further public notice. The Bureau will accept comments from interested parties in advance of the Workshop until September 25, 2013. The public notice is available here. PS Docket No. 07-114.
  • The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has established a pleading cycle the application of AT&T, Inc. for approval of its purchase of Leap Wireless International which includes the Cricket brand of prepaid consumer wireless services. Petitions to Deny are due September 27, 2013, and Oppositions to the Petitions are due October 7, 2013.  Petitioners may file Replies by October 15, 2013. WT Docket 13-193. The Public Notice is available here.
  • On July 23, 2013, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking input on proposals to allow commercial use of spectrum in the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, 2020-2025 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands. The Commission’s “goal remains to clear and allocate spectrum in these bands for exclusive commercial use to the maximum extent feasible,” and it will explore “novel approaches to spectrum sharing between commercial and Federal operators.” Comments are due September 19, 2013, and Reply Comments are due October 16, 2013. The full NPRM is available here. GN Docket No. 13-85. 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Privacy Regulation

  • The FTC is seeking public comment on a proposed verifiable parental consent method submitted by AssertID, Inc. for approval under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule. Online sites and services directed at children must obtain permission from a child’s parents before collecting personal information from that child and the COPPA Rule provides for a number of methods for getting parental consent. But the COPPA Rule also includes a provision that allows interested parties to submit new verifiable parental consent methods to the FTC for approval. Under this provision, the FTC is seeking public comment about the proposed AssertID verifiable parental consent method, whether the proposed method is already covered by the existing methods included in the rule, and whether it meets the rule’s requirement that it be reasonably calculated to ensure that the person providing the consent is actually the child’s parent. The comment period will last until September 20, 2013. The text of the Federal Register entry is here. The text of AssertID’s proposed verifiable parental consent method is here.
  • The FTC will hold a consumer privacy workshop on November 19, 2013, in Washington, DC to address the consumer privacy and security issues raised by the growing connectivity of consumer devices such as smart phones, cars, appliances, and medical devices, also commonly referred to as “The Internet of Things”. More information regarding the “Internet of Things” workshop and comments is available here. 

New Markets: Smart Grid and E-Health

  • On September 12, 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $5 million of funding for smart grid projects in seven states and $3 million for Native American tribes. The funding includes loan guarantees through the Rural Utilities Service of the USDA-Rural Development program. More information regarding the new funding is available here. 

Developments in Intercarrier Compensation

  • On September 11, 2013, Verizon New England Inc. d/b/a Verizon Massachusetts filed a reply in support of its motion to stay a proceeding at the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (MDTC) to investigate an agreement Verizon executed last year with a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) for IP interconnection. Several other CLECs file a petition with the MDTC to require Verizon to file the agreement as an interconnection agreement (ICA) under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. They argued that Verizon is required to file the agreement with MDTC for review and approval under Section 252(a)(1) and 252(e)(2) of the Act for review as to whether it is reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and in the public interest. On May 16, 2013, the MDTC directed Verizon to submit the IP agreement so that the MDTC could determine whether the IP agreement is an interconnection agreement under the Act. Verizon, however, then moved to hold this proceeding in abeyance so that Verizon and “the other party to agreement at issue in this case” could finalize the agreement, as it was only a preliminary arrangement, according to Verizon. In its reply motion, Verizon argued that it would be premature and a waste of the parties’ resources to litigate whether Verizon’s current arrangement, with many essential terms yet to be memorialized in writing, constitutes an interconnection agreement. Docket No. 13-6.

Compliance Notes 

  • The deadline to pay the FCC Annual Regulatory Fee is September 20, 2013. All FCC licensees, with some very limited exceptions, must pay this fee. Payments must be made by 11:59 pm on that day or be subject to a mandatory 25% late fee.

All Interstate Telecommunications Service Providers (ITSPs) and other FCC licensees must log into the Commission’s Fee Filer System in order to review their invoices. No paper bills will be sent. Effective October 1, 2013, the FCC will no longer accept paper checks for payment of the Annual Regulatory Fee.

The FCC is maintaining its Annual Regulatory Fee rates from 2012 for Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) Providers and ITSPs. CMRS Providers will be assessed $0.08 per user, and ITSPs will be assessed 0.00375 of each assessable dollar.

The FCC’s Fee Filer System can be found here. The Public Notice announcing the filing deadline can be found here. (DA 13-1797)

  • The Universal Service Fund contribution factor for the Third Quarter of 2013 is 15.1%. A copy of the Public Notice announcing the rate can be found here. (DA 13-1361)

Broadband News

  • The second round of Connect America funding will bring broadband to 600,000 homes and small businesses in 44 states and Puerto Rico for the first time. Over $385 Million will go to service providers in this effort. The previous round of funding totaled $415 Million. To read the FCC’s press release on this funding, click here. 

In the Courts

  • On September 10, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a California federal district court’s refusal to dismiss claims against Google under the federal Wiretap Act. Google allegedly intercepted data transmitted in unencrypted form over Wi-Fi networks as part of its Street View project. Google argued that its actions fell within an exemption under the Act that allowed the capture of “electronic communication[s]” that were “readily accessible to the general public.”  But the court held that “Google's technical definition does not conform with the common understanding held contemporaneous with the enacting Congress.” The court offered a modern example of why Google’s construction of the exemption was too expansive in its view: “the sender of [an] email is in no position to ensure that the recipient — be it a doctor, lawyer, accountant, priest or spouse — has taken care to encrypt her own Wi-Fi network.” The appeals court held that Google’s argument went too far: “Google, or anyone else, could park outside of the recipient’s home or office with a packet sniffer while she downloaded the attachment and intercept its contents ... solely by virtue of the fact that the recipient’s Wi-Fi network is not encrypted.” The Ninth Circuit further rejected the notion that the Wi-Fi data was “readily” available, noting that Wi-Fi data is “geographically limited and fail[s] to travel far beyond the walls of the home or office where the access point is located. Google was only able to intercept the plaintiffs’ communications because its Street View vehicles passed by the street outside of each plaintiff’s house.” Absent a writ of certiorari granted by the Supreme Court, the matter will return to the trial court. Joffe v. Google Inc., No. 11-17483 (9th Cir. Sept. 10, 2013). 

Legislative Outlook

  • The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a nomination hearing on September 23, 2013, at 2:30 pm ET to consider Michael O’Rielly as the next Republican FCC Commissioner. The hearing will be held in 253 Russell. For more information, click here