The FCC released a light agenda for its next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, July 13, 2021. The meeting will kick off by first considering a Third Report and Order (“Order”) to amend the agency’s rules for the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program. The Order would expand eligibility for reimbursement to providers with ten million or fewer customers for the replacement of all equipment and services provided or produced by Huawei or ZTE obtained on or before June 30, 2020. The FCC will next consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would propose revisions to the agency’s rules governing short range radar operations in the 57-71 GHz frequency band. The NPRM proposes technical rule changes that would aim to provide expanded operational flexibility to unlicensed field disturbance sensor (“FDS”)/radar devices that operate under section 15.255 of the Commission’s rules, while promoting compatibility with unlicensed and licensed devices operating in the 60 GHz band. The agency will also consider an NPRM updating the technical rules for radio broadcasters, and an Order mandating electronic filing for all International Bureau applications and filings. To close out the meeting, the FCC will consider an enforcement action.

You will find more information about the most significant items after the break:

Continue Reading FCC July Open Meeting Focuses on Supply Chain Reimbursement and Radar Operations in the 60 GHz Band

At its June 17 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Second Report and Order for its Connected Care Pilot Program, which provides administrative guidance that will enable award recipients to begin their pilot projects. On the same day, it announced its second set of projects awarded support through the Pilot Program.

The Connected Care Pilot was established in April 2020 to make up to $100 million in Universal Service Fund support available over three years for selected projects to defray costs for projects that will bring broadband connectivity and other connected care information services to eligible health care providers. The program is primarily aimed at supporting services that will benefit veterans and low-income patients. It is a longer term initiative than the short-term COVID-19 Telehealth Program designed to provide financial support for telehealth services, which are expected to remain in demand after the pandemic fully abates.

Continue Reading FCC Provides Guidance for Connected Care Pilot Program, Selects Additional Projects

Protecting the U.S. telecommunications networks from security threats has long been an area of strong agreement at the FCC. Following several actions by the Pai Commission to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment deemed to pose a national security threat, Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel has continued the effort. Indeed, in February, at the first meeting she led as acting chair, Rosenworcel called on the FCC to “revitalize” its approach to network security “because it is an essential part of our national security, our economic recovery, and our leadership in a post-pandemic world.”

At the FCC Open Meeting on June 17, 2021, the FCC took its most visible step yet toward Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s vision. The Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) and Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) to further address national security threats to communications networks and the supply chain. The NPRM and NOI sets its sights on the Commission’s rules relating to equipment authorization and competitive bidding. The Commission’s proposals have seeds of a much broader focus on Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices, cybersecurity and RF fingerprinting, to name a few. All participants in the telecommunications ecosystem should take notice.

Continue Reading FCC Begins Proceeding to Broaden its National Security Protections Beyond Universal Service Disbursements; IoT, Cybersecurity in its Sights

The FCC released the agenda for its next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for June 17, 2021. The meeting will first consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) and Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) to broaden the secured communications supply chain beyond the FCC’s universal service programs. Specifically, the NPRM would propose to prohibit all future authorizations for equipment on the FCC’s Covered List, revoke current equipment authorizations for equipment on the Covered List, and require certifications from future FCC auction participants that they will not rely on financial support from any entities designated as a national security threat. The FCC also tees up a Report and Order that would allow for expanded marketing and importation of radiofrequency devices prior to certification, with certain conditions to prohibit sale or operation of those devices prior to authorization. The agency will next consider a Report and Order and FNPRM that would improve and streamline the agency’s Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (“WEA”) Systems, as initially proposed in a March 2021 NPRM. The FCC will also consider a Report and Order that would streamline private entity reporting of robocalls and spoofed caller ID by creating a direct reporting portal to the Enforcement Bureau, along with a Report and Order providing additional guidance and clarity on the agency’s telehealth-driven Connected Care Pilot Program. Lastly, the meeting agenda includes items that would explore spectrum options for maritime navigations systems and modify existing low power FM rules.

You will find more information about the most significant items on the June meeting agenda after the break:

Continue Reading FCC June Meeting Agenda Includes Broadened Supply Chain Measures, Improved Emergency Alerts and Robocall Reporting, and Expanded Telehealth Guidance

The FCC Open Meeting, scheduled for May 20, 2021 and led by Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, includes four agenda items and two enforcement actions. First, the FCC will consider a Third Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Fifth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that will lower interstate rates and charges, limit international rates, and seek comment on further reforms to the FCC’s calling services rules for inmate calls. Second, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) and Order to set Telecommunications Relay Services (“TRS”) Fund compensation rates for video relay service (“VRS”). Third, the FCC will consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to combat robocalls by accelerating the date by which small voice service providers that originate an especially large amount of call traffic must implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework. Fourth, the FCC will consider an Order on Reconsideration to allow certain affiliates of merging companies that receive model-based and rate-of-return universal service support to be excluded from a “mixed support” merger condition cap.

You will find more details about these items on the May meeting agenda after the break.

Continue Reading FCC’s May Open Meeting Addresses Prison Phone Rates, Video Relay Service Rates, Robocall Restrictions, and Mixed Universal Service Fund Support Transaction Conditions

On May 10, 2021, the FCC unanimously adopted final rules in a Report and Order to implement the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (“ECF Program”). The ECF Program is a fund that enables “schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The ECF Program was funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Biden in early March. Along with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBB Program”), the ECF provides significant, pandemic-related expenditures addressing the digital divide, funded outside of the existing federal Universal Service Fund programs.

With these rules, the FCC sets in motion a process for schools and libraries to receive funding for 100% of purchases to provide remote learning and remote library services during the pandemic.  This fund will be a significant one-time opportunity for applicants and service providers and is expected to see high demand for funding.

Continue Reading FCC Meets Statutory Deadline, Adopts Report and Order Establishing Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Rules

The application window for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program opened today at 12PM ET and will close at 12 PM ET on Thursday, May 6, 2021. As we have covered, the first round of funding was quickly distributed to over 200 applicants in over 40 states, with all funding exhausted by July 2020. Then, in December 2020, Congress authorized additional money to support telehealth services provided by non-profit and public healthcare organizations during the pandemic.

Continue Reading Ding, Ding: Round 2 of the Telehealth Program Begins

After nearly four months of work, the FCC announced today that the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBBP”) will launch on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Providers participating in the EBBP can begin enrolling eligible households into the program to receive supported service. Nearly 750 providers are qualified to offer EBB-supported services, with service discount reimbursements of up to $50 per subscriber ($75 in tribal areas) and equipment discount reimbursements of up to $100 available. The FCC recently conducted a webinar for consumer groups and outreach partners about the program, and USAC has been testing connectivity with eligible providers since April 19. USAC will also host a pre-launch webinar and an office hour session the week of May 3.

Click here to read the April issue of our USF Tracker for more information on the EBBP and related programs.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will keynote “Legal Code: Reframing the Divide by Addressing Broadband Access Through Affordability and Inclusion”, a virtual event co-hosted by Kelley Drye and Silicon Flatirons on May 12th from 2:00-4:00 PM (ET) that will explore issues surrounding broadband affordability. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality, and with it, illuminated the broader issue of digital inclusion and internet access as a civil right. Over the last four years, efforts to close the Digital Divide have been geared largely toward access to networks in rural America, but pandemic related displacement is driving a shift in focus toward affordability in both rural and urban areas. This shift is most clearly evidenced by the recently adopted Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which gives broadband providers the unique opportunity to help fight Digital Inequality by offering subsidized discounts on robust Internet service and connected devices capable of helping low-income Americans connect to classrooms, jobs, and telehealth. Other recent efforts include the schools and libraries-focused Emergency Connectivity Fund, which aims to address a homework gap that transformed into a school-year-long remote learning gap.

This event will examine the pandemic’s impact on how we think about the digital divide and digital inequality, the new administration’s approach, and related activity in Congress, at the FCC, and at other federal agencies.

Agenda
Introduction & Opening Remarks

  • Amie Stepanovich, Executive Director, Silicon Flatirons

Keynote

  • Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator for Oregon

Panel: Conceptualizing and Navigating Paths to Affordability and Inclusion

  • John J. Heitmann (Moderator), Partner, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
  • Chris M. Laughlin (Moderator), Associate, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
  • Kate Black, Acting Chief Policy Advisor, Federal Communications Commission
  • Jose Cortes, Chair, Regulatory and Government Affairs Committee, National Lifeline Association
  • Claire Park, Policy Program Associate, New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Trinity Thorpe-Lubneuski, Senior Director, Internet Essentials, Comcast

Click here for more information and to register.

Continue Reading Join Kelley Drye and Silicon Flatirons for a Discussion of the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality

The FCC Open Meeting, scheduled for April 22, 2021 includes several items of interest. During the April meeting, the third meeting led by Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC will consider seven agenda items plus an enforcement order. The items include two emergency service items — a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) to examine expanding the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to support text messaging to 988 — and a Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to promote public safety by ensuring that 911 call centers and consumers are notified of disruptions to 911 service in a timely manner. The FCC will also consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to permit licensed wireless microphone users to operate a new wireless microphone technology called Wireless Multi-Channel Audio System (“WMAS”) technology on frequencies already available for Part 74 licensed wireless microphone operations in certain bands. Finally, the Commission will consider an enforcement item at its meeting, but, as is the custom with enforcement actions, the subject of the enforcement and the nature of the action is not disclosed prior to the vote on the item.

You will find more details about the most significant items on the April meeting agenda after the break.

Continue Reading FCC’s April Open Meeting Focuses on Emergency Services and Wireless Microphones