Key Regulatory Dates

Annual International Circuit Reports Due March 31, 2014

  • Facilities-based carriers that provide international telecommunications services are required to file their Annual International Circuit Reports with the FCC’s International Bureau by March 31, 2014. Carriers are required to report if they had any circuits that may have been activated or idle as of December 31, 2013. The FCC has a manual available to assist carriers with this filing, which can be found here. Please note, the FCC made changes to the reporting requirements in the First Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in IB Docket No. 04-112 that are not reflected in the current Filing Manual. Specifically, carriers are not required to: (1) report circuits from off-shore U.S. points separately; (2) report any circuits between the United States and offshore U.S. points; and file a Circuit Addition Report. More information can be found in the FCC’s Public Notice, found here.

Form 499-As Due April 1, 2014

  • Companies that provide telecommunications and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service are reminded that completed FCC Form 499-As are due April 1, 2014. These forms report annual revenue to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as other fund administrators. This form must be filed by all interstate telecommunications carriers, interconnected VoIP providers, providers of interstate telecommunications that offer service for a fee on a non-common carrier basis (including stand-alone audio bridging companies), and payphone providers that are aggregators. In addition, non-interconnected VoIP providers are now required to file this form for the assessment of fees to support the Telecommunications Relay System (TRS). The FCC recently released updated instructions for completing those filings. Notably, the instructions include updated guidance for the execution of reseller certificates for services provided to resellers that pay into the federal Universal Service Fund. Copies of the Public Notice outlining the changes from the 2013 FCC Form 499-A and 499-Q can be found here, and the new versions of the forms can be found here and here.

The revenues reported on Form 499-A provide the basis for true-up of a company’s Universal Service contributions and for assessing annual fees for the TRS, Local Number Portability (LNP) fund, the North American Numbering Plan Administration fund, and the FCC’s annual fee.

Companies may submit FCC Form 499-A electronically if they have registered with USAC. If a company submits its FCC Form 499-A to USAC in hard copy, it must contain an officer’s original signature.

Accessibility Certificates Also Due April 1, 2014

  • Certificates regarding disabled persons’ access to services are due April 1, 2014. Telecommunications carriers, equipment manufacturers, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, including non-interconnected VoIP providers, wireless carriers, and advanced communications service providers are required to file a certificate with the FCC stating that they maintain records of any and all efforts undertaken to ensure their products and services are accessible to those with disabilities. Specifically, companies must maintain records of:
    • Their efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities;
    • Descriptions of the accessibility features of its products and services; and
    • Information about the compatibility of these products and services with peripheral devices or other equipment typically used to gain access to the company’s services, such as hearing aids. here. More information can be found in the Public Notice found here. (DA 13-114)

The certificate must identify both a contact within the company who is authorized to resolve complaints, as well as an agent to receive any informal complaints that may be received by the FCC regarding the company alleging violations of the Commission’s accessibility rules, or Sections 255, 716, and 718 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act). These sections of the Act requires providers to ensure that their services and equipment are accessible by the disabled, including that any Internet browsers included on mobile telephones are accessible by those who are visually disabled (unless doing so is not achievable), and to maintain the records described above. In addition, the certificate must be supported by a declaration or affidavit signed under the penalty of perjury by an officer of the company who has personal knowledge of the company’s recordkeeping policies and procedures. The FCC has established a filing portal for this certificate, which can be found here. More information can be found in the Public Notice found here. (DA 13-114)

16.6% Is Proposed 2Q2014 USF Contribution Factor

  • The proposed Universal Service contribution factor for the second quarter of 2014 is 16.6%. A copy of the Public Notice announcing the rate can be found here. (DA 14-377)

Key Industry Events

COMPTEL PLUS, March 16–19, 2014

  • For more information on this event, which Arent Fox Partner Michael Hazzard will be attending, click here.

Ross Buntrock Speaks to the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley, March 28, 2014

  • Arent Fox Partner Ross Buntrock will be speaking at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley’s Quarterly Investor and Service Provider Forum Meeting at Meru Networks in Sunnyvale, CA. For more details on the event, click here.

Arent Fox Partner Stephanie Joyce Discussed Inmate Phone Issues on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, March 4, 2014

  • To listen to the interview, click here.

News Roundup

FCC Approves AT&T’s Acquisition of Leap Wireless

  • Despite concerns from consumer groups and requests for more time to evaluate commitments recently offered by AT&T, on March 13 2014 the FCC approved AT&T’s plan to purchase Leap Wireless International, Inc., a pre-paid wireless service provider that did business as Cricket.  Even though the Commission concluded “that the proposed transaction has the potential to cause some competitive and other public interest harms in several local markets, as well as to value-conscious consumers,” it concluded that commitments proposed by AT&T would satisfactorily address the harms. The commitments made by AT&T include promises to divest spectrum in certain markets, build out LTE service in other markets, offer rate plans targeted at budget-conscious customers, and assist Leap’s customers’ transition to newer handsets. AT&T gains about five million customers from the deal. It paid $1.3 billion in cash and assumed about $2.7 billion in outstanding debt. AT&T reportedly finalized the purchase within hours of the FCC’s order. The FCC’s order is available here.

FCC Seeks Comment on TCPA-Related Petition Seeking Clarity on Calling-Party Disclosure Rules

  • On February 28, 2014, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice seeking comment on National Grid USA, Inc.’s petition for expedited declaratory ruling and/or waiver filed on February 18, 2014. National Grid is requesting that the FCC clarify that that a “doing business as” (d/b/a) name registered with the state corporation commission (or comparable regulatory authority) that is stated at the beginning of a prerecorded message satisfies the caller identification requirements for such calls pursuant to section 64.1200(b)(1) of the Commission’s rules. By way of background, section 64.1200(b)(1) requires that all artificial or prerecorded voice telephone messages shall “[a]t the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call. If a business is responsible for initiating the call, the name under which the entity is registered to conduct business with the State Corporation Commission (or comparable regulatory authority) must be stated.” National Grid asserts that the Commission has not ruled specifically on whether a d/b/a name that is also registered with a state corporation commission satisfies this requirement. National Grid argues that a d/b/a name that is registered with the appropriate regulatory authority allows called parties the same ability to search for and identify the caller as they would be able to do with a search for a “legal” or “official business” name. As a result, National Grid contends that a registered d/b/a name satisfies the intent of the rule to ensure that callers are able to identify the calling party. Comments are due March 31, 2014, and reply comments are due April 15, 2014. A copy of National Grid’s petition can be found here.

Fourth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of CLEC’s State-Law Claims Against Verizon Maryland In ICA Dispute

  • On March 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling dismissing Core Communications’ (“Core”) tort claims against Verizon Maryland (“Verizon”) and granting Core only nominal damages on its breach of contract claim against Verizon. The claims stem from a dispute over Core’s interconnection with Verizon. After signing an interconnection agreement (“ICA”), Core proposed a date by which it wanted interconnection to be accomplished. Verizon responded by stating that interconnection would take several more months beyond the requested date because new equipment for Core’s interconnection would not be available for use until then. Verizon admitted that it was technically feasible to use existing equipment for the interconnection, but stated that it would not do so as a matter of internal policy and that the existing equipment was already assigned to a “customer of record.” As such, Core’s interconnection was delayed by several months. Only later did Verizon disclose that Core itself was this “customer of record,” as Core was a retail customer of Verizon. Core filed claims against Verizon for concealment, unfair competition, and breach of the ICA. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the concealment and unfair competition claims, holding that Core lacked evidence showing that Verizon intended to defraud or deceive it. With regard to the breach of contract claim, on which Core had prevailed, the court upheld the grant of only nominal damages. Core’s ICA with Verizon contained an exculpatory clause barring recovery of consequential damages from Verizon. The court held that the exculpatory clause was enforceable and not contrary to federal or state law. In so finding, the court relied on Federal Communications Commission decisions that have approved the use of exculpatory provisions and the fact that the Maryland Public Service Commission had approved the ICA.Core Communications, Inc. v. Verizon Maryland LLC, No. 12-2572, 2014 WL 868618 (4th Cir. March 6, 2014).