Commissioner O’Rielly Again Targets Pirate Broadcasters and Their Supporters to Walk the Enforcement Plank

Commissioner Michael O’Reilly called for stronger enforcement action to combat unauthorized “pirate” radio broadcasters in a statement before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 25, 2017.  The Commissioner’s recommendations came during the Subcommittee’s hearing on draft legislation to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”).  While the reauthorization bill does not focus on pirate enforcement and the issue normally is seen as non-controversial, it is a longstanding priority for the Commissioner.  In his statement, Commissioner O’Rielly not only advocated for increased fines against pirates, but also penalties against third parties that support pirates, such as building owners housing pirate stations or pirate station advertisers.  While it remains unlikely that the recommendations will result in near-term legislative action, Commissioner O’Rielly’s statement sends a clear message that pirate broadcasters and their supporters remain in his enforcement crosshairs.

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July FCC Meeting Recap: Wireless Microphones Order on Recon and Further Notice: A Mixed Bag for Manufacturers and Users

On July 13, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) revisited the regulatory framework applicable to wireless microphones in several important ways.  The Order on Reconsideration addressed petitions for reconsideration pertaining to licensed and unlicensed wireless microphone operations under the 2015 Wireless Microphones Order and TV Bands Part 15 Order.  The 2015 Wireless Microphones Order sought to provide licensed wireless microphones users with access to different spectrum bands such as VHF channels, the 600 MHz duplex gap, and the 1435-1525 MHz aeronautical mobile telemetry (“AMT”) band to address the needs of various types of wireless microphone users, particularly in wake of the broadcast incentive auction.  In the TV Bands Part 15 Order, the Commission established rules on a broad range of issues pertaining to unlicensed operations in the television bands, the 600 MHz guard bands and duplex gap, the 600 MHz service band, and Channel 37.  The results of the Wireless Microphones Order on Reconsideration will be welcomed in some circles by manufacturers and bemoaned in others.  Continue Reading

July 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Adopts Major Changes to Approval Procedures for Many RF Devices, E-Labeling, Importation Regulations, and Other Equipment Authorization Rules

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”), at its July 13, 2017, Open Meeting updated its equipment authorization procedures and rules in a number of ways that will be of great interest to everyone in the supply chain for both licensed and unlicensed radio frequency (“RF”) equipment, including manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers.  The First Report and Order changes the regulatory landscape applicable to the approval, labeling, and other compliance matters for RF equipment in a variety of ways that will take place immediately upon publication of the First Report and Order in the Federal Register except that some will be delayed to the extent they implicate Office of Management and Budget, OMB, review of new or modified information collection requirements.

We examine the First Report and Order and the principal changes in more detail in the referenced advisory.  Continue Reading

July 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Approves Expanded Rules for Radar Services in the 76-81 GHz Band and Plans to Phase Out Other Vehicular Radar Operations

In its July Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) adopted new rules in a Report and Order (“R&O”) to allow a more flexible, streamlined approach for certain radar operations in the 76-81 GHz band. The R&O modifies the applicable rules to increase access for enhanced safety vehicular, fixed, and mobile radar applications to all of the contiguous spectrum in the 76-81 GHz band.

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July 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: Commissioners Adopt Second Robocall NOI to Examine Reassigned Number Database Issues

On July 13, 2017, the three FCC Commissioners voted in favor of a Second Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to gather feedback on using numbering information to create comprehensive list that businesses can use to identify telephone numbers that have been reassigned from a consumer that consented to receiving calls to another consumer.  It also asks whether the Commission should “consider a safe harbor from [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] violations” for robocallers who use the reassigned number resource.  This action is the latest of several TCPA rulemaking actions initiated by Chairman Pai since he assumed leadership of the FCC.  While the action is a NOI – which is a precursor to proposed rules – the action signals the importance the new Chairman has placed on reducing the number of unwanted calls consumers receive.

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July FCC Meeting Recap: Commissioners Open Proceeding to Examine Call Authentication Techniques to Combat Unwanted Calls

At the FCC’s open meeting on July 13, 2017, the Commissioners voted in favor of a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on call authentication frameworks to allow telephone service providers to identify fraudulent calls.  The authentication procedures are intended to allow subscribers and carriers to know that callers are who they say they are.  Initial comments in response to the NOI are due on August 14, 2017 and replies are due on September 13, 2017.

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July 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Plans to Strengthen and Expand “Slamming” and “Cramming” Rules

At its July 2017 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) designed to strengthen and expand consumer protections against “slamming” and “cramming.” Slamming is the unauthorized change of a consumer’s preferred service provider, while cramming is the placement of unauthorized charges on a consumer’s telephone bill.  As we reported in our Open Meeting preview, slamming and cramming represent a major source of consumer frustration and a common focus of recent FCC enforcement actions. The NPRM is the agency’s first attempt in five years to strengthen the rules around slamming and cramming – and is the first attempt to specifically define cramming in its rules.  Moreover, the agency asks whether these rules should apply to wireless carriers (especially prepaid wireless) and to VoIP providers, potentially expanding the reach of the rules significantly.  Wireless carriers and interconnected VoIP providers should therefore pay close attention to the potential compliance obligations and marketing restrictions proposed in the NPRM.

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July 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Expands Video Described Programming Requirement

In advance of its July Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) unanimously adopted a Report and Order (Order) that revises the rules requiring certain video programming providers to make video described programming available for access by Americans who are blind or visually impaired. The new rules expand the Commission’s existing requirements by increasing the required amount of video described programming while affording providers more flexibility about the type of programming that can be used to meet the requirement.

Video descriptions make video programming accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by aurally describing a program’s key visual elements during pauses in the program’s dialogue. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) authorizes the Commission to require video programming providers to provide video descriptions for programming that is “transmitted for display on television in digital format.” In 2012, the Commission adopted video description obligations for video programming distributors defined as “any television broadcast station licensed by the Commission and any multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD), and any other distributor of video programming for residential reception that delivers such programming directly to the home and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission.”

Under the current rules, commercial broadcast television stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC that are located in the top 60 television markets, as identified by the Nielsen Company, are required to offer 50 hours per calendar quarter of video descriptions during prime time or on children’s programming. MVPD systems must provide this same type and amount of described programming for each of the top five national non-broadcast networks that they carry. The non-broadcast networks currently subject to the rules are USA, TNT, TBS, History, and Disney. Prime time is defined as the period from 8-11 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 7-11 p.m. on Sunday.

The CVAA also provides for continuing Commission authority to reassess whether additional regulations are needed after at least two years since its last rules if it finds that the need and benefits outweigh any technical and economic costs. In the Order, the Commission found that the benefits of new rules outweigh the costs, which it described as “minimal and represent[ing] a very small percentage of total programming expenses and network revenues.” The new rules increase the required amount of video described programming that programming distributors must offer on each stream or channel where they carry the included networks from 50 to 87.5 hours per quarter beginning in January 2018.

In addition, the Order affords distributors more flexibility in meeting the description requirements regarding when the additional hours of described programming may be aired. Programming distributors can now include video descriptions for any programming that occurs between 6 A.M. and midnight, which is broader in scope than prime time and children’s programming. However, the rule still requires that at least 50 hours of described programming consist of prime time and children’s programming.

FCC (Again) Takes to Bully Pulpit to Urge Network Reliability “Best Practices” to Combat Service Outages

On July 12, 2017, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (“Bureau”) of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a Public Notice encouraging communications service providers to implement certain “best practices” to avoid major service disruptions.  The Bureau’s recommendations come on the heels of recent major service outages caused by minor changes to service providers’ network management systems that knocked out 911 service.  These service disruptions are known as “sunny day” outages because they are not caused by weather-related issues or other disasters, but rather internal network management failures due to faulty software or botched upgrades.  The Bureau’s recommendations serve as a warning to service providers, but do not (at this time at least) have an enforceable effect on providers.

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International Bureau Reminds Filers – Section 43.62 International Traffic and Revenue Reporting Requirement Temporarily Waived

As we reported in an earlier blog post, on May 1, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) International Bureau (Bureau) issued an Order temporarily waiving the annual Section 43.62 International Traffic and Revenue Reporting (the Traffic and Revenue Report) requirement.  The Traffic and Revenue Report filing, normally due by July 31 each year, is temporarily waived pending the outcome of an ongoing Commission rulemaking proceeding that, among other changes, proposes to eliminate the international Traffic and Revenue Report.  The Bureau’s Order waived the Traffic and Revenue Report filing until 60 days after the Commission issues an Order in the pending rulemaking proceeding.  The Commission has not yet issued an Order in that proceeding, and by e-mail correspondence sent today to Traffic and Revenue Report filers, the Bureau reminded filers that the reporting waiver remains in effect and stated the Commission currently will not be accepting the Traffic and Revenue Reports or waivers for the 2016 reporting period.

We continue to monitor this rulemaking proceeding so be sure to check back for updates.  If you would like additional information regarding the pending rulemaking proceeding, please see Kelley Drye’s client advisory or contact your regular Kelley Drye attorney.

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