Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Announcements

  • The revised Tentative Agenda for the next FCC Open Meeting to be held August 9, 2013, at 10:30 am Eastern, lists four items: a Report and Order on technical requirements applicable to unlicensed services in the 57-64 GHz band; a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding inmate calling rates; and a Report and Order to streamline satellite rules; and a report on the progress of the incentive auction slated to be held in 2014. To read the Tentative Agenda, click here.
  • The next two FCC Open Meetings are scheduled for September 26 and October 22, 2013.

The Mobile Market

  • EXTENSION GRANTED: The FCC has granted the motion of the American Correctional Association for an extension in the contraband cellphone proceeding. Reply Comments are now due August 23, 2013. In the NPRM, the FCC states that “[p]risoners’ use of contraband wireless devices to engage in criminal activity is a serious threat to the safety of prison employees, other prisoners, and the general public.” The proposed rules would make it easier for correctional facilities to enter into leases or spectrum management agreements, allowing them to control which wireless devices were able to access the network. In addition, the proposed rules would “require wireless providers to terminate service, if technically feasible, to a contraband wireless device if an authorized correctional facility official notifies the wireless provider of the presence of the contraband wireless device”. The Commission also invites comment on “other technological approaches for addressing the problem of contraband wireless device usage in correctional facilities.” The NPRM is available here. The Order granting the extension is available here. GN Docket No. 13-111; ET Docket No. 08-73; WT Docket No. 10-4.
  • The FCC has announced the pleading cycle on CTIA’s petition for reconsideration or, in the alternative, clarification regarding the new rule requiring wireless carriers to provide bounce-back notices when a consumer sends a text to “911” in an area where the public service answering point does not yet have that technology. Oppositions to the Petition are due August 15, 2013, and Replies are due August 26, 2013. The Public Notice is available here. PS Docket Nos. 11-153 and 10-255.
  • The FCC has launched a proceeding aimed at making additional spectrum available for advanced wireless services as required by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. On July 23, 2013, it 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 has filed a complaint against what it describes as “an international network of scammers” that sent millions of unsolicited text messages to consumers that purported to offer free gift cards and electronics but actually signed them up for illegal robocalls. The complaint names nine defendants, including Acquinity Interactive, LLC and Revenuepath Ltd and officers of those companies, and seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement, and refund of money paid among other forms of relief. More information is available here.
  • Comments on proposed changes to the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) are due August 8, 2013. The FTC seeks to curtail the use of a number of payment methods favored by unscrupulous entities, including (i) “stop[ping] telemarketers from dipping directly into consumer bank accounts by using unsigned checks and ‘payment orders’ that have been ‘remotely created’” and (ii) “bar[ring] telemarketers from getting paid with traditional ‘cash-to-cash’ money transfers, as well as ‘cash reload’ mechanisms.” The news release about the extension is available 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 Department of Energy has published a Summary Report on the results of the Smart Grid Cybersecurity Information Exchange that it held in Washington, DC in December 2012. The Summary Report serves as an analysis of the themes raised by the attendees during the two-day workshop, broken out into two sections- a “Lessons Learned” section and a “Needs and Issues Section”. The report is available here.

Developments in Intercarrier Compensation

  • On July 30, 2013, the Texas Public Utility Commission (TPUC) granted the unopposed motion of GTE Southwest Inc. d/b/a Verizon Southwest to withdraw from the proceeding on rates for residential basic local telecommunications services. This proceeding was initiated by TPUC staff on January 7, 2013, to determine a reasonable rate for incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) that receive support from the Small and Rural Incumbent Local Exchange Company Universal Service Plan. By statute, reductions in the level of support provided to ILECs are required to be implemented by January 1, 2014. Verizon requested to withdraw from the proceeding on the ground that it has not been an active participant in the docket and did not sign on to the settlement agreement entered on July 26, 2013, stating that all eligible ILECs will receive a one-third reduction in support under the Small and Rural Incumbent Local Exchange Company Universal Service Plan by December 31, 2017. Docket No. 41097

Compliance Notes

  • The FCC is seeking comment on revisions to Forms 470 and 471 which are used by applicants seeking support for funding of projects under the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Funding Mechanism, more commonly known as the E-Rate Program. Form 470 is used to open the competitive bidding process, and Form 471 is filed by the E-Rate applicant to identify the services for which it is seeking reimbursement. The proposed changes to the forms include inquiries about broadband connectivity, and the number, type and speed of current broadband connections. Comments are due August 16, 2013, with reply comments due August 30, 2013. (CC Docket No. 02-6, DA 13-1590)

A copy of the Public Notice can be found here.

A copy of the proposed Form 470 can be found here, while the proposed Form 470 instructions can be found here.

A copy of the proposed Form 471 can be found here, and the proposed Form 471 instructions can be found here.

  • The Wireline Competition Bureau is seeking comments on changes to FCC Forms 479, 486, and 500, all of which are used in administration of the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Program, commonly known as the E-Rate Program. FCC Forms 479 and 486 are used by participants in the program to certify compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) when applying for discounts on Internet access, internal connections, and basic maintenance of internal connections. Participants also use FCC Form 486 to notify the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) of when the participant first receives service. FCC Form 500 is used to make adjustment to previously filed forms. Comments are due August 14, 2013, with Reply Comments due August 28, 2013.

The Public Notice can be found here.

The proposed revised Form 479 can be found here, with the proposed revised instructions here.

The proposed revised Form 486 can be found here, with the proposed revised Form 486 Instructions here.

The proposed revised Form 500 can be found here, with the proposed revised Form 500 Instructions here.

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

Broadband News

  • The FCC will auction the H Block, 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz, “by or as early as January 14, 2014.” The Spectrum Act requires that the auction occur by February 23, 2015. Comments on the competitive bidding procedures are due today, August 5, 2013, and Reply Comments are due August 16, 2013. The request for comment is available here.

In the Courts

  • On July 30, 2013, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the Southern District of Texas erred in ruling that the Stored Communications Act violates the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The trial court had held that the “specific and articulable fact” standard for requiring mobile operators to produce mobile phone location data contravenes the constitutional probable cause requirement. Two of the three judges on the Fifth Circuit panel held that the lower court took the wrong perspective. The government wasn’t seeking the suspect’s information. It was seeking the carrier’s: “The question of who is recording an individual’s information initially is key,” the court of appeals held. “Cell site data are business records and should be analyzed under that line of Supreme Court precedent. Because the magistrate judge and district court treated the data as tracking information, they applied the wrong legal standard.” In dissent, Judge Dennis thought the majority jumped prematurely to the constitutional question. He felt the majority should have first analyzed whether consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their historical mobile phone data: “the majority adopted the government’s textually strained, constitutionally loaded construction after a cursory analysis; and boldly proceeds to pronounce upon the constitutional issue.” In re U.S. for Historical Cell Site Data, No. 11-20884 (5th Cir. July 30, 2013).

Legislative Outlook

  • President Obama officially has nominated Michael O’Rielly, former Staff to the Senate Commerce Committee, to be the Republican FCC Commissioner replacing Robert McDowell whose term expires June 30, 2014. The full slate of recent federal nominations is available here.
  • The Senate’s last active day before recess was August 1, 2013. The House is scheduled to go out for summer recess today, August 5, 2013. Both chambers return September 9.