Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Announcements

  • The next two FCC Open Meetings are scheduled for October 22 and November 14, 2013. The Tentative Agenda for the October 22 Open Meeting contains three items, including an order adopting rules for FirstNet use of 700 MHz spectrum, and the order on rural call completion that Acting Chair Clyburn began circulating on or about September 17.

The Mobile Market

  • On September 30, 2013, the FCC released an Order on Reconsideration amending the new text-to-911 rule that had made a consumer’s subscribed wireless carrier responsible for sending bounce-back messages when text-to-911 service is not available, even when the subscriber is roaming on another carrier’s network. CTIA had filed a petition for reconsideration or, in the alternative, for clarification of this new rule. According to the order, a “CMRS provider offering roaming service (host provider) satisfies its bounce-back obligation provided that it does not impede the consumer’s text to the consumer’s home network provider (home provider) or impede any bounce-back message generated by the home provider back to the consumer.” The amended rule will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register. The text of the order is unavailable at this time due to the shutdown. PS Docket Nos. 11-153 and 10-255.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Privacy Regulation

  • On September 27, 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law an amendment to the California Online Privacy Protection Act which will require businesses to disclose how they respond to Do-Not-Track (DNT) signals. The new amendment is the first in the U.S. to officially address the DNT mechanism endorsed by the FTC and debated by industry at the W3C. The amendment requires that privacy policies disclose how the website operator responds to DNT mechanisms utilized by consumers. A website operator can comply with this requirement by providing a clear and conspicuous hyperlink to a description of any program or protocol the operator follows in respecting a consumer’s choice regarding DNT.
  • 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”.

Developments in Intercarrier Compensation

  • On December 5, 2013, the Vermont Public Service Board (VPSB) will hear technical testimony in a recently reopened docket concerning the appropriate level of regulation of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) service in Vermont. The VPSB has been tasked by the Vermont Supreme Court with determining whether VoIP is an “information service” or “telecommunications service” under federal law, after the Vermont Supreme Court overturned the VPSB’s decision that VoIP services fall under the state’s definition of telecommunications services. In a scheduling order, the VPSB stated that interested parties may file factual stipulations and issue lists no later than October 31, 2013. Initial briefs are then due January 13, 2014, and reply briefs are due February 3, 2014. Docket No. 7316.

Compliance Notes

  • The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) remains open, and all USAC filing deadlines remain in effect during the federal government shutdown. More information can be found here.
    Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) that draw on either Lifeline and/or High Cost funds are required to file FCC Form 481 with USAC and the applicable state utility commissions by tomorrow, October 15, 2013. The filing must also be filed with the FCC on the first business day after normal operations resume. FCC Form 481 fulfills the ETCs’ annual reporting requirements. More information can be found here.
  • Form 499-Q is due November 1, 2013, for all filers that are not considered de minimis for Universal Service filing purposes. This filing encompasses historical revenues from the third quarter of 2013 and projected revenues for the first quarter of 2014.
    Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers who rely on traffic studies to report interstate revenues on FCC Form 499-Q must submit these studies by November 1, 2013, to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the Chief, Industry Analysis and Technology Division of the FCC.
  • The Universal Service Fund proposed contribution factor for the Fourth Quarter of 2013 is 15.6%. (DA 13-1880)

Broadband News

  • CenturyLink will bring its 1 Gbps fiber network pilot to Las Vegas, according to a company press release. The first city covered by the pilot was Omaha, NE in May 2013. The Las Vegas build is expected to be operational this fall, and additional pilot cities will be launched in 2014. To read the press release, click here.

In the Courts

  • On October 7, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed a claim against insurer Nationwide for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The dispute began when St. Louis Heart Center filed a putative class action against Harris Medical Center for allegedly violating TCPA via six unsolicited fax advertisements. Nationwide, Harris Medical’s insurer, took up the defense, then filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that it owes no duty to defend or indemnify Harris on the TCPA claim. In response, St. Louis Heart counterclaimed Nationwide under TCPA and sought “a declaration that the insurance policies Nationwide issued to Harris require Nationwide to defend and indemnify Harris for the claims made by St. Louis Heart in the underlying litigation, individually and on behalf of the putative class.” But the E.D. Mo. agreed with Nationwide that until St. Louis Heart secures a judgment against Harris, it has no standing to pursue a direct action against Nationwide. At this time, only Nationwide’s declaratory judgment claim remains in the case, and St. Louis Heart will have to secure a judgment against Harris before it can directly pursue Nationwide. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Harris Med. Assocs., LLC, No. 4:13-CV-7 CAS (E.D. Mo. Oct. 7, 2013).