FirstNet Opt-Out

Last week, the state of New Hampshire indicated that it will opt-out of the FirstNet plan for the -public safety broadband network. Instead of accepting the plan submitted by FirstNet, New Hampshire’s Governor indicated it would work with Rivada Networks to build the state’s Radio Access Network (RAN). New Hampshire is the first state that has elected to work with Rivada instead of accepting the FirstNet/AT&T plan. Separately, Verizon has decided not to bid on California’s RFP for an alternative plan to FirstNet/AT&T. A statement from Verizon indicated that the Spectrum Lease Management Agreement made it technically and financially challenging for any alternative plan to be viable. Some states had previously criticized FirstNet’s spectrum lease proposals as punitive in nature and designed to discourage states from making an opt-out choice. Please contact Al Catalano (202.434.4207; catalano@khlaw.com) with questions.

FCC Commissioner Discusses CBRS

At a Conference in Washington, D.C. last week, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said he hopes the FCC will expedite action on the 3.5 GHz proceeding and finalize its proposed rules in the first quarter of 2018. Commissioner O’Rielly supports the FCC’s proposed changes, which include extending the license term for Priority Access Licenses (PAL), creating a license renewal expectancy for PALs, authorizing the agency to auction a PAL in an area even if there is only a single bidder, and increasing the geographic area covered by PALs. Commissioner O’Rielly’s comments are consistent with other public statements he has made about this proceeding. However, the proposed changes are not without controversy. FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel issued a dissent, arguing that proposals were “short-sighted,” and “impeding real progress.” Please contact Greg Kunkle (202.434.4178; kunkle@khlaw.com) with questions.

Administration Comments on Infrastructure Investment

Last week, a telecom policy conference featured a panel with Grace Koh, Special Assistant to the President for Technology, Telecom, and Cyber-Security Policy on the White House Economic Council, and Kelsey Guyselman, Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Grace Koh stated that the President’s infrastructure package is expected to be introduced in the next quarter, but that it would likely not include funding for broadband infrastructure. She clarified that broadband infrastructure deployment would instead be promoted through policies that streamline permitting processes. Both Koh and Guyselman said there is the possibility of funding for broadband in an agriculture bill that would be administered through the USDA rather than the FCC. Please contact Doug Jarrett (202.434.4180; jarrett@khlaw.com) with questions.

911 Fee Lawsuit

Last week, a Federal Court in Alabama partially dismissed a complaint filed by the Birmingham Emergency Communications District alleging that a VoIP provider illegally failed to collect and remit mandatory 911 charges. The provider offers both wholesale and retail services and argued that its wholesale services are exempt from the statutory obligation to collect and remit 911 charges under Alabama law. The court agreed. It determined that if it obligated telecommunications wholesalers to collect 911 it could result in a “double fee” for 911 charges imposed by both a retail and wholesale provider. For more information, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4239).