In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers and actions. Kelley Drye’s Communications practice group is tracking these actions and provides this overview of the key actions impacting enterprise and small business customers of communications services. For additional information on these and other FCC actions, follow Kelley Drye’s CommLaw Monitor, where we post regular updates of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting the communications industry.

If you have any questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on labor, advertising, and other issues, visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.

Continue Reading COVID-19: What Enterprise and Small Business Customers Need to Know

On Friday, March 27, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau (“Bureau”) granted Onvoy d/b/a Inteliquent a temporary and limited waiver of the Commission’s rules that treats competitive local exchange carriers with an interstate terminating-to-originating traffic ratio of at least 6:1 as engaging in access stimulation. The Bureau found that the extraordinary circumstances accompanying the current COVID-19-related public health crisis leading to increased conferencing traffic warranted a company specific waiver, which temporarily exempts Inteliquent from the requirement, if it exceeds the 6:1 ratio due to traffic from its existing customers (as of March 17, the date of Inteliquent’s petition for waiver), of assuming the financial responsibility for any applicable intermediate access provider’s terminating charges for any traffic between a local exchange carrier’s terminating end office or equivalent and the associated access tandem switch. However the Bureau stresses that the waiver was limited to Inteliquent and expressly rejected a request that the waiver extend to all conferencing traffic.

Continue Reading Coronavirus Increases Use of Conferencing Services Leading to Company-Specific Access Stimulation Rule Waiver

On March 3, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released its Report and Order and Order of Proposed Modification (FCC 20-22) (respectively, the “C-Band Order” and the “Proposed License Modification”) realigning the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band in the contiguous United States and proposing to modify most of the satellite, earth station, and fixed service licenses in the Band. If one sorts out the significant deadlines established by the C-Band Order leading up to the target date for the auction of the 3700-3980 MHz range, namely December 8, 2020, and the transition of incumbent space station and earth station operations and fixed service stations which must be completed in the auction’s wake, the heavy lifting required before the auction proceeds is plain. In the attached advisory, these deadlines are discussed in some detail.  Here, they are presented in abridged fashion.

For more information, register here for our April 2 C-Band Update webinar.

Continue Reading Scheduling the Race to the “C-Band” Auction

On March 25, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission announced a one-month postponement of the 3.5 GHz auction (3550-3650 GHz) in the Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”), a.k.a. Auction 105. The Commission cited the need “to protect the health and safety of Commission staff during the auction and [the ancillary benefit” that parties have additional time to prepare to participate.”  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reiterated the agency’s commitment to hold the auction this summer. The band is the first in the so-called mid-band, a range of spectrum seen as critical to the roll out of 5G wireless applications. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly tweeted today that a further delay would be unlikely absent absolutely compelling circumstances. The start of the auction has been postponed to July 23, 2020, (from June 25, 2020), and the new short-form application filing window is April 23 through May 7, 2020.

The Commission also postponed indefinitely its Auction 106, which was set to begin April 28, 2020, and was selling through competitive bidding construction permits in the FM broadcast service.

Continue Reading FCC Postponing 3.5 GHz Auction on Account of COVID-19; Agency Hopes to Keep 3.7-4.2 GHz Auction on Track

As COVID-19 has reached pandemic levels, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers and actions. Kelley Drye’s Communications practice group is tracking these actions and what they mean for communications service providers. CommLaw Monitor will provide regular updates to its analysis of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting your business. Subscribe to receive these alerts.

If you have any questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on labor, advertising, and other issues, visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.

Continue Reading COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know

The FCC plans to mandate that voice service providers adopt caller ID authentication technology to combat illegal “spoofing” and deregulate longstanding end-user access charges at its next meeting scheduled for March 31, 2020. Under the FCC’s proposal, voice service providers that originate or terminate calls would be required to employ STIR/SHAKEN technology (a framework of interconnected standards to authenticate phone calls as they are passed from carrier to carrier) in their networks no later than June 30, 2021, allowing them and other providers in the call chain to verify that calls are coming from the displayed caller ID number. The proposal would implement provisions of the recently-passed TRACED Act, which requires the FCC to kick off a multitude of near-term rulemakings and other actions aimed at addressing unlawful spoofing and robocalling operations. FCC Chairman Pai previously urged major providers to adopt STIR/SHAKEN technology voluntarily, but his assessment is that the voluntary approach did not move fast enough. In addition, the FCC anticipates launching a rulemaking to deregulate a host of end-user charges related to interstate access service and prohibit carriers from invoicing such charges through separate line items to simplify customer bills.

Although the March agenda is relatively light, the STIR/SHAKEN and access charge items could significantly impact provider costs, tariffing practices, and billing procedures. As a result, providers should closely examine the FCC’s proposals and get their input in early in light of the agency’s recent decision to restrict in-person meetings and expand telework in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You will find more information on the key March meeting items after the break:

Continue Reading FCC Plans to Mandate STIR/SHAKEN Anti-Spoofing Framework, Deregulate End-User Access Charges at March Meeting

On February 28, 2020, at its Open Meeting, the FCC voted to commence a rulemaking to examine the rebalancing of many technical rules governing the deployment of fixed and certain mobile, unlicensed white space devices in the television bands (in and around the 600 MHz range) to increase opportunities for relatively long-distance connectivity in rural and underserved areas, such as for wireless broadband solutions or applications associated with the Internet of Things (“IoT”), although there are no application restrictions on white space devices per se. The rule changes are proposed only in those frequencies below TV channel 35, and so exclude the 600 MHz duplex gap and the 600 MHz service band. The text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) was promptly released on March 2. Comments are due 30 days after Federal Register publication with replies due sixty days after publication, which has not yet occurred.

Continue Reading FCC Opens Proceeding to Reinvigorate Opportunities for TV White Space Devices

Last week, in a major enforcement action, the FCC proposed $208 million in fines against the nation’s four largest wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—for allegedly selling access to their customers’ location information without taking “reasonable measures” to protect the information against unauthorized disclosure. The FCC argued that such actions violated its rules regarding the protection of customer data known as customer proprietary network information (CPNI).

This enforcement action marks a series of firsts. It is the first CPNI enforcement action since the pre-2016 CPNI regulations were reinstated following the repeal of the broadband privacy rules by Congress in 2017. This is also the first large consumer protection enforcement action under Chairman Pai’s leadership—up to now, Chairman Pai has eschewed the principle-based enforcement of his predecessor in favor of more clear-cut rules violations. The action also generated criticism both for being too soft (and too late) and for potentially being beyond the Commission’s jurisdiction.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes Over $200 Million in Fines to Big Four Wireless Carriers for Allegedly Selling Customer Data Without Safeguards

Please join us on March 10, 2020 for Kelley Drye’s annual webinar discussing the state of the federal Universal Service Fund. This webinar, back for its 11th year, provides an in-depth look at all four USF programs and the USF contribution mechanism, highlighting major developments in the last year and trends for the upcoming year. In addition, this year, the program will discuss the FCC’s proposal to overhaul its suspension and debarment process and we will highlight strategies participants can employ to best protect themselves from negative consequences upon discovery of an error or compliance issue. This webinar supplements the knowledge our clients gain from the monthly USF Tracker to provide context and analysis of the issues you need to know.

The 11th Annual Update will address the following, among other topics:

  • The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”);
  • Significant modifications to the Rural Healthcare and Lifeline programs;
  • The proposal by the state members of the Joint Board to modify the contributions mechanism; and
  • The FCC’s proposed new suspension and debarment rules.

This unique educational event should be attended by anyone involved in the federal USF programs. Regardless of how you participate in the Federal USF programs today, this webinar will provide new insights and recommendations for making the most of this $9 billion program. Click here to register.

CLE credit is available for this webinar.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is acting swiftly on efforts to protect the communications supply chain from entities posing a national security threat. In a Public Notice (“Public Notice”) released yesterday, the FCC announced that U.S. telecommunications carriers receiving Universal Service Fund (“USF”) support, known as eligible telecommunications carriers (“ETC”), must report on their use of equipment and services from Huawei Technologies Company (“Huawei”) and ZTE Corporation (“ZTE”).

The information collection is mandatory for all entities that were ETCs as of December 31, 2019, and includes the ETC’s subsidiaries and affiliates. The information filings, which must be submitted via the FCC’s online filing portal, are due by April 22, 2020.

Continue Reading FCC Continues Supply Chain Protection Efforts; ETCs to Report on Huawei and ZTE Use by April 22, 2020