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 Tentative Agenda for the FCC Open Meeting scheduled for 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 Mobile Market

  • Microsoft has announced plans to purchase the Devices & Services business of Nokia for over $7 billion. It plans to license more than 8,500 design patents and rights to use certain brand names on mobile devices. The acquisition is intended to help grow Microsoft’s mobile device market share. More information about the transaction is available here.
  • 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 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

  • On September 3, 2013, the FTC announced that it will update fees for accessing the National Do Not Call Registry effective October 1, 2013. Telemarketers will pay $59, an increase of $1, for access to Registry phone numbers in a single area code, up to a maximum charge of $16,228 for all area codes nationwide, an increase from the previous maximum of $15,962. These fees will apply at least through September 30, 2014. The rate announcement as published in the Federal Register is available here.
  • On September 4, 2013, the FTC announced that it had reached its first-ever settlement in an “action against a marketer of an everyday product with interconnectivity to the Internet and other mobile devices – commonly referred to as the ‘Internet of Things.’” The FTC had charged TRENDNet, a company that markets video cameras that enable consumers to monitor their homes remotely, with what it alleged were lax security practices that exposed the private lives of hundreds of consumers to public viewing on the Internet. As part of the settlement, TRENDnet is (i) prohibited from misrepresenting the security of its cameras, (ii) barred from misrepresenting the extent to which a consumer can control the security of information the cameras or other devices store, capture, access, or transmit, (iii) required to establish a comprehensive information security program, (iv) required to obtain third-party assessments of its security programs every two years for the next 20 years, and (v) required to notify customers about the security issues with the cameras, the availability of the software update to correct them, and provide customers with free technical support for the next two years to assist them in updating or uninstalling the cameras. More information regarding the TRENDnet settlement is available here
  •  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 30, 2013, the Texas Public Utility Commission (TPUC) issued a final order in its proceeding to review rates for residential basic local telecommunications services. This proceeding was initiated by TPUC staff on January 7, 2013, to determine reasonable rates basic local service provided by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) that receive support from the Small and Rural Incumbent Local Exchange Company Universal Service Plan (SRILEC USP) in Texas. By statute, SRILEC USP reductions for ILECs must be implemented by January 1, 2014. In this final order, the TPUC established a proportional methodology for allocating reductions in support from the SRILEC USP based on line density in a manner consistent with state statute. The support reductions will allow each eligible rural ILEC to calculate its “reasonable rates” and allow each ILEC to calculate monthly per-line SRILEC USP support amounts for four years starting January 1, 2014. Docket No. 41097. 

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 FCC has released an interactive map identifying the areas that will receive broadband funding under the the second round of Connect America. See August 26 edition of This Week in Telecom. Up to 600,000 homes and businesses will be passed by the upgraded network. To view the map, click here. To read Acting Chair Clyburn’s statement, click here. 

In the Courts

  1. On September 5, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a Georgia federal district court’s holding that a Georgia city failed to satisfy Section 332 of the Telecommunications Act by merely transcribing city council meetings and hearings in which the city denied T-Mobile’s applications to install wireless facilities. The trial court agreed with T-Mobile that the transcripts failed to satisfy Section 332’s requirement that adjudications be “in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.” The appeals court, however, found that the trial court’s decision elevated form over substance, because “detailed in the 181-page transcript of the city council’s hearings on the applications and in the 65 pages of minutes of the council meeting and those hearings.” The Eleventh Circuit further noted that “T-Mobile cannot contend that the letters, transcript, and minutes are not in writing. Each one is. Nor can it convincingly contend that when considered collectively those documents fail to adequately convey the City’s decisions on the applications and the reasons for those decisions.” The matter was remanded to the trial court to assess whether the city’s decision satisfied the remaining criteria of Section 332. T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Milton, No. 12-10487 (11th Cir. Sept. 5, 2013). 

Legislative Outlook

  • The House Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Innovation Versus Regulation in the Video Marketplace” on September 11, 2013, at 2:00 pm ET in 2123 Rayburn. The hearing notice is available here