Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Announcements

  • On September 12, 2013, the FCC’s Accessibility & Innovation Initiative will host Dr. Yevgen Borodin, a Research Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University, for his presentation called “Improving Accessibility for the General Public.” The event will be from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm Eastern at FCC Headquarters. The public is welcome, RSVP to aiispeaker@fcc.gov. It will also be webcast. To read more, click here.
  • The next two FCC Open Meetings are scheduled for September 26 and October 22, 2013.

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.
  • An individual who knows “that the intended recipient [of a text message] is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving” “has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time,” according to a decision released by a New Jersey appellate court. The “duty” created under this court’s decision could give rise to liability for the individual that knowingly texts someone that is driving in New Jersey if the recipient causes an accident while reading or responding to the text message. Kubert v. Best, et al., No. A-1128-12T4 (N.J. Ct. App. Aug. 27, 2013). The decision is available here.
  • 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

  • The House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies will hold a hearing titled “The Threat to Americans’ Personal Information: A Look into the Security and Reliability of the Health Exchange Data Hub” on September 11, 2013, at 2:00 pm Eastern in 311 Cannon. The witnesses for the hearing have not yet been announced. For more information or to watch the hearing via live video feed, click here

Developments in Intercarrier Compensation

  • On August 21, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit remanded an order of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) titled Developing a Unified Intercarrier Compensation Regime, Declaratory Ruling and Report and Order, 20 FCC Rcd. 4855 (2005) (T-Mobile Order). The order curtailed the ability of local exchange carriers (LECs) to collect intercarrier compensation. It established Rule 20.11(d) which prohibits LECs from using tariffs as a means to collect compensation from commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) providers for the transport and termination of local CMRS calls. The order also included Rule 20.11(e) which gives incumbent LECs the right to compel CMRS providers to negotiate agreements for payment for such calls and to submit a dispute to compulsory arbitration before a state regulatory commission. The Ninth Circuit noted that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 enabled rural LECs “to receive exemptions from the [1996 Act’s] negotiation and arbitration requirement, and they could continue to operate under a tariffed rate regime.” The Ninth Circuit therefore found the T-Mobile Order arbitrary and capricious, because the FCC broadly prohibited all LECs, including rural LECs, from relying on tariffs to receive compensation for local CMRS traffic. Ronan Telephone Co. v. FCC, Case No. 05-71995 (9th Cir.).

Compliance Notes

  • Completed FCC Form 477s, which are summarized annually in the Local Competition and Broadband Report, are due today, September 3, 2013. FCC Form 477 collects data concerning broadband connections to end user locations, wired and wireless local telephone services, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services in individual states and territories.

This filing requirement applies to: facilities-based providers of broadband connections to end user locations; providers of wired or fixed wireless local exchange telephone service; providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (interconnected VoIP) service (including both service retailers and service wholesalers); and facilities-based providers of mobile telephony service. Filers must report data as of June 30, 2013.

Completed forms can be filed electronically here. The FCC has released a webpage to assist filers with completing the form that is available here.

  • 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 August 28, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California approved a modified class settlement of claims that Verizon has been complicit in third-party “cramming” on its wireline bills since 2005. The class alleges that “Verizon, the billing aggregators, and the third-party providers know that the billing and collection system used lacks sufficient checks and safeguards to prevent unauthorized charges from being added to customers’ wireline telephone bills—indeed, to the contrary, they all know that there is a significant likelihood of unauthorized charges, given the system presently used—and they have knowingly exploited those defective systems to implement and carry out their fraudulent scheme.” The settlement offers class members either a full refund if they submit a full proof of claim or a $40 flat payment for a less detailed proof of claim. The FTC had intervened to block an earlier version of the settlement, but did not oppose this version because it does not prevent the agency from pursuing other potential defendants. The court’s approval is not final; a magistrate is reviewing the reasonableness of the proposed $7,500,000 payment to plaintiffs’ counsel. Subject to approval of the attorneys’ fee award or any appeal to the district court judge, the matter is concluded. Moore v. Verizon Commc’ns Inc., No. C 09-1823-SBA (N.D. Cal. Aug. 28, 2013). 

 Legislative Outlook

  • The House and Senate are scheduled to return from summer recess on September 9, 2013.