Welcome to the Tech & Telecom Weekly, an e-newsletter keeping you apprised of the latest developments in the telecommunications and high-tech industries.

FCC Policy

The FCC Wireline Competition Bureau and the Office of Economics and Analytics have released their findings from the Supply Chain Security Information Collection, which focused on whether any carriers that receive Universal Service funding were using equipment from Huawei or ZTE Corporation, two Chinese companies that have been deemed a threat to national security. In total, companies reported that it would cost $1.837 Billion to replace the Huawei/ZTE equipment in their networks. The FCC estimates that, at this time, companies qualify for $1.618 Billion in reimbursement under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. For more information, contact Stephanie Joyce.

The FCC, pursuant to Section 301 of RAY BAUM’s Act, is seeking comment on emergency access to Wi-Fi for contacting 911 when mobile services are unavailable. RAY BAUM’s Act requires the FCC conduct a study on the public safety benefits, technical feasibility, and costs of mandating 911 access via WiFi and other alternative technologies. Comments are due October 1, 2020, with reply comments due October 16, 2020. The Public Notice announcing the comment cycle can be found here. For more information, contact Katherine Barker Marshall. (PS Docket No. 20-285; DA 20-1003)

Compliance Alerts

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will hold its monthly Lifeline call on September 9, 2020, from 3:00-4:00pm ET. Those interested in attending can register here. USAC will provide updates about the Lifeline Program and the National Verifier and the National Lifeline Accountability Database, and will discuss upcoming compliance filings.

Providers that file FCC Form 499-Q must submit any revisions to their August 2020 filing by September 17, 2020. More information can be found here.

The FCC, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health of Human Services have executed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Rural Telehealth Initiative, creating a joint effort for sharing information and collaborating on promoting deployment of broadband services and technologies to rural areas.

The FCC is proposing that Barrier Communications Corporation, an Internet Service Provider, be fined in excess of $163,000 for alleged failures to file accurate and complete data (Form 477) regarding their broadband deployment. In fact, Barrier failed to file a Form 477 twenty-seven times and on four occasions provided false data. A copy of the Notice of Apparent Liability can be found here, and a summary can found here.

For more information regarding these or any other compliance issues, please contact Katherine Barker Marshall.

In the Courts

“Amazon is no mere bystander to the vast digital and physical apparatus it designed and controls.” A California state appeals court recently ruled that Amazon can be held strictly liable for defective products sold on its site. The plaintiff in Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC sued the online retail giant after she suffered burns from an exploding laptop battery purchased from a third-party seller through Amazon. The court rejected Amazon’s characterization of its business as a “service” or “forum for others to sell their products.” Focusing on public policy considerations, the court reasoned that Amazon “may be the only member of the distribution chain reasonably available to an injured plaintiff,” and is, like conventional retailers, equipped to manage, insure, and spread the risk of liability. For more information, please contact Susan Metcalfe.

Cybersecurity

Amidst a seemingly endless stream of data breaches and other serious privacy and cybersecurity incidents, cyber insurance is more critical than ever. On September 14, 2020, at 1:00pm ET, Potomac Law Group Partner and Insurance Recovery and Risk Management Practice Leader Roberta Anderson Sutton will present a complimentary webinar, entitled Best Practices for Placing Cutting Edge "Cyber" Insurance: Policyholder, Insurer and Broker Perspectives, with Joshua Mooney, Partner and Chair of White and Williams LLP’s Cyber Law and Data Protection Group, and Tom Ricketts, Cyber Practice Leader for AON New York’s Professional Services Practice. To register for this complimentary webinar, please fill out this form. Registrants will be sent an email with login instructions for the webinar.

Rural Broadband

On September 1, 2020, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing the status of the short-form applications submitted for Auction 904, which will disburse up to $16 Billion in high-cost support for broadband deployment to unserved rural locations. Only 121 (24%) of the 505 applications were classified as complete. Applicants will be notified of deficiencies to be corrected and have until 6:00pm ET on September 23, 2020, to re-file. Auction 904 is scheduled to begin October 29, 2020. See the list of Complete Applications here, and Incomplete Applications here. For more information, please contact Doug Bonner.