A potential solution to the so-called “homework gap” – otherwise known as the limited ability of low-income students in rural or underserved areas to access a broadband connection at home – is the subject of a petition submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) by an innovative public-private partnership and is now open for public comment.
This podcast is the first in what will be a regular series devoted to covering noteworthy developments relating to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This series will cover decisions from the FCC and federal courts, as well as any TCPA-related activity on Capitol Hill. In this podcast, partners Steve Augustino and Alysa Hutnik and associate Jennifer Wainwright start off by discussing two recent FCC orders related to calls made by government contractors or for the purposes of collecting debts owed to the federal government. The panel then reviews a declaratory ruling issued this summer that loosened TCPA restrictions on calls placed by schools and utility companies. The podcast concludes with an overview of TCPA-related things to watch out for over the next few months. To listen to the episode, please click here.
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On September 6, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission released a Public Notice announcing a payment deadline for annual regulatory fees of no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time on September 27, 2016. Although the regulatory fees will not officially become effective until published in the Federal Register, entities that are required to pay fees have discretion to submit payments at any time before the deadline. Most federal licensees and other regulated entities must pay one or more categories of regulatory fees which are designed to offset costs associated with the FCC’s enforcement, public service, international, policy, and rulemaking activities. Fact sheets detailing the types of fees, fee codes, payment methods and options can be found on the FCC’s website.
On Monday, August 29, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that may dramatically alter the boundaries between the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority over phone companies, broadband providers, and other common carriers. The Ninth Circuit dismissed a case that the FTC brought against AT&T over its practices in connection with wireless data services provided to AT&T’s customers with unlimited data plans. The FTC had filed a complaint against AT&T for “throttling” the data usage of customers grandfathered into unlimited data plans. Once customers had used a certain level of data, AT&T would dramatically reduce their data speed, regardless of network congestion. The FTC asserted that AT&T’s imposition of the data speed restrictions was an “unfair act or practice,” and that AT&T’s failure to adequately disclose the policy was a “deceptive act or practice.”
The Ninth Circuit’s decision is the latest in a series of actions attempting to identify the jurisdiction over Internet access services and Internet-based services. As providers and regulators have struggled to identify the proper regulations applicable to such services, the Ninth Circuit’s decision could force significant shifts by both the FTC and FCC for at least a large segment of the industry.
On August 23, 2016, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s tentative findings about the accessibility of communications technologies, which will be included in this year’s biennial report to Congress on the 2010 Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) (Biennial Report). This will be the third such report, following earlier reports in 2012 and 2014. Comments are due September 7, 2016.
July was a busy month for the Enforcement Bureau, bucking the cliché of a quiet summertime in Washington D.C. In this podcast, partner Steve Augustino examines five enforcement actions: an NAL issued against AT&T for E-rate violations, a consent decree with AT&T over cramming practices, an unusual “admonishment” of Momentum Telecom Inc. for failing to pay Universal Service Fund Assessments, a consent decree agreed to by Towerstream Corporation for operating wireless facilities without a license, and two NALs issued against individuals for Caller ID spoofing. Listen to the episode here.
The FCC’s high-profile efforts with regard to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) continue. In addition to two controversial orders released in the last two weeks, the FCC is pushing the telecommunications industry to take action on blocking techniques. Now the FCC has announced that it will host a meeting for what is billed as an industry-led “Robocall Strike Force.” The Strike Force was created after Chairman Wheeler took to the FCC blog to prod the industry to action.
In the past two weeks, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued two important orders that modified and clarified the agency’s rules for enforcement of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Both orders are summarized below.
When the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order in June, it extensively applied Chevron deference in its decision. The controversial case has re-ignited the debate about whether Chevron provides too much deference to federal agencies, even as they are left applying aging statutes to new technologies and situations. In this podcast, communications partner Hank Kelly and associate Jennifer Holtz talk about the Chevron doctrine, its origins, and some key public policy considerations in light of the Open Internet decision. Listen to the episode here.
Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released its first enforcement action predicated on the “Lowest Corresponding Price” requirement of its E-rate rules. The LCP rules require a telecommunications carrier to offer schools and libraries communications services “at rates lower than that charged for similar services to other parties.” The Commission’s Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) proposes to fine Bellsouth (d/b/a AT&T Southeast) slightly more than $100,000 for violations of this requirement. Surprisingly, this is the first FCC proposed fine for a violation of the “Lowest Corresponding Price” requirement, despite it being a requirement under the program since its inception nearly twenty years ago. In this post, we take a look inside the order, with an eye toward what the FCC’s approach means for other E-rate service providers.