On Thursday, November 18, 2021, just days after President Biden signed the bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (aka “Infrastructure Act”) into law, the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) released a Public Notice setting forth a 60-day rulemaking process designed to implement the statute’s Affordable Connectivity Program (“ACP”) provisions.

While the final rules will not be available until a final order is adopted, which is expected by January 14, 2022, the program will launch on December 31, 2021. Here’s what we know now – a roadmap for current Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”) providers, as well as for fixed or wireless broadband providers seeking to participate in the ACP.

Click here to read our full advisory on the ACP.

Recent natural disasters like Hurricane Ida have highlighted the importance to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) of stable communications networks. Such disasters can cause disruptions and delays to the transmission of 911 calls, first responder communications, Emergency Alert Systems (“EAS”), and other important communications during emergencies. The FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) seeking comment on proposed rules to improve the resilience and reliability of communications networks during emergencies at its September Open Meeting. The NPRM was published in the Federal Register on November 4, 2021 and therefore comments are due on December 6, 2021, and reply comments are due on January 4, 2022.

Continue Reading Early December Deadline for Comments on FCC’s Resilient Networks NPRM

The FCC released a light agenda for its next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for November 18, 2021. The agency will consider a Second Report and Order to require covered text providers to support text messaging to 988 by routing those texts messages to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (“Lifeline”). The FCC will next address a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) to adopt an incentive program to encourage licensees to make spectrum available to small carriers and Tribal Nations, as well as to carriers seeking to expand wireless services in rural areas. The FCC will also review a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to assess whether FM and Low Power FM (“LPFM”) broadcast radio license applicants can verify directional antenna patterns by computer modeling instead of by taking physical measurements. The FCC will close its meeting by considering a Declaratory Ruling and Order (“Order”) that would grant Knéis, a French private satellite operator, with access to the United States market so that it can support connectivity for Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices and improved data collection.

You will find more information about the items on the November meeting agenda after the break:

Continue Reading FCC’s November Meeting Agenda Focuses on Enabling Text-to-988 for Suicide Prevention and Spectrum Access to Close the Digital Divide

On Tuesday, November 16 at 2:00 PM, the FCBA Privacy and Data Security Committee and the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law will hold the 16th Annual Privacy & Data Security Symposium: “The Evolving Privacy Landscape in the Absence of Federal Legislation”. This event will take a deep dive into the evolving privacy landscape, examining the latest developments in the states, at the FTC, and abroad and exploring how U.S. companies can implement policies and procedures that meet the expanding expectations of the varying regimes in the dynamic data ecosystem.

Associate Chris Laughlin, who is a co-chair of the FCBA Privacy and Data Security Committee, will moderate a panel discussion on “How the FTC is Filling the Federal Privacy Law Void”. The event will cover a number of policy issues, including the recently released FTC report on the data collection and use practices of Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”).

Click here for more information and to register for this virtual event.

On November 2, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“Bureau”) published a public notice in the Federal Register focused on asking whether the 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-94 GHz, and the 94.1-95 GHz bands (“70/80/90 GHz Bands”) could be used “to provide broadband Internet access to consumers and communities that may otherwise lack robust, consistent connectivity.” The Commission is particularly interested whether stratospheric-based platforms, such as High Altitude Platform Stations (“HAPS”), which operate above twenty kilometers (approximately 65,000 feet), could be deployed for this purpose in the 70/80/90 GHz Bands.  Comments are due by December 2, 2021, and replies by January 3, 2022.

Continue Reading Looking to the Skies: The FCC Seeks Additional Information on Potential Stratospheric-Based Communications Platforms and Services

On November 16th, Partner Steve Augustino will host the “Private 5G Networks” roundtable during Telecom Council’s virtual TC3 conference. This discussion will delve into this latest trend in 5G innovation, including the choices of unlicensed or licensed spectrum, MVNOs, privacy, control, and federal concerns about security. In addition to this and other Executive Roundtables, TC3 will feature case studies, executive chats, rapid-fire pitches, and demos with telecom tech scouts, investors, and startups.

Click here to learn more and register.

Over the past few years, the data collection and use practices of Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) have largely flown under the radar while large internet platforms and the broader adtech industry have been under greater scrutiny. That respite may be coming to end following a staff report released last week by the FTC detailing the scope of ISPs’ data collection and use practices. The staff report was based on orders issued in 2019 under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act and puts ISPs and large platforms on similar footing, observing that “many ISPs in our study can be at least as privacy-intrusive as large advertising platforms.” In addition, the staff report finds that several ISP data practices could cause harm to consumers but does not go as far as calling any practices unfair or deceptive.

What the FTC will do with the staff report is less clear. The Commission voted unanimously to release the report, which does not make any specific policy recommendations. Members of the Commission, however, drew their own conclusions and articulated starkly different outlooks on the report’s implications. Chair Lina Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter declared that the FCC should play a leading role in overseeing ISPs’ data practices, citing the FCC’s industry expertise and legal authority. Commissioner Christine Wilson, however, stated that “oversight of ISPs for privacy and data security issues should remain at the FTC.” ISPs’ data practices – and the broader question of whether the FCC should reclassify broadband service back to a Title II telecommunications service and re-impose strict broadband privacy rules – are likely to be prominent issues as the Biden FCC takes shape in the months ahead.

Continue Reading FTC Staff Report Puts Spotlight Back on ISP Data Collection and Use Practices; FCC Re-Regulation Suggested

On September 30, 2021,  the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing new requirements for mobile wireless carriers to protect consumers from two practices that nefarious actors use to take control of a subscriber’s cell phone service without gaining control of the subscriber’s device. With “SIM swap fraud” a bad actor fraudulently convinces a carrier to transfer wireless services from a cell phone associated with a subscriber’s subscriber identity module (“SIM”) to a cell phone associated with another SIM and controlled by the bad actor. “Port-out fraud” is the practice of arranging for a phone number to be transferred from a subscriber’s wireless carrier account to an account the bad actor has opened with another carrier. In both cases, the bad actor gains access to customer account information and can start sending and receiving calls and text messages using the victim’s account or phone number, including text messages customers receive for two-factor authentication.

The Commission’s consumer protection action arises from numerous complaints from consumers who have suffered harm as a result of these practices, and from concerns that consumers are vulnerable to these acts because wireless carriers have not implemented adequate protocols to verify that SIM swap and port-out fraud requests. To mitigate them, the agency suggests revisions to its Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”) and Local Number Portability (“LNP”) rules.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes Amending Privacy and Number Portability Rules to Stop Virtual Cell Phone Theft

Partner Hank Kelly will present “The Path to a Fully Connected America: Strategies for Expanding Broadband Access and Affordability” during The 2021 INCOMPAS Show’s Policy Workshop on October 25th. Getting and keeping Americans connected has become a priority for policymakers and industry leaders alike. The increased importance of broadband in the wake of the pandemic has sparked a number of approaches to achieving 100% coverage. Hank and the panel will explore and evaluate public and private funding strategies and technological solutions.

For more information 2021 INCOMPAS Show or to register, go to https://show.incompas.org/. For monthly updates on the Universal Service Fund (“USF”) and other broadband policy news, subscribe to Kelley Drye’s USF Tracker.

At its September 30, 2021 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) unanimously adopted a Second Report and Order in IB Docket No. 16-155 requiring applicants with reportable foreign ownership seeking Commission approval for certain applications to answer standardized national security and law enforcement questions (“Standard Questions”) prior to or when filing their applications. The Standard Questions were developed in coordination with the. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, and Commerce and the United States Trade Representative, which conduct review of national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy issues associated with the foreign ownership of the applicants of certain applications filed with the FCC and referred to the agencies. The Standard Questions will apply, following review and approval by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) (and issuance of an associated public notice) to the types of applications the Commission generally refers to the Executive Branch, namely applications for international section 214 authorizations and submarine cable landing licenses, applications to assign, transfer control or modify such authorizations and licenses where the applicant has reportable foreign ownership, and all petitions seeking to exceed foreign ownership limits applicable to broadcast or common carrier wireless licenses set forth in Section 310(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the “Act”) (47 C.F.R. § 310(b)).

The adoption of Standard Questions is the FCC’s complements several other reforms in the past year to formalize and streamline the FCC and Executive Branch review process conducted  pursuant to Executive Order No. 13913 of April 8, 2020, Establishing the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United State Telecommunications Sector (the “Committee” (commonly referred to as “Team Telecom”)). The Executive Order sets forth procedures and timelines for the Committee to conduct its reviews of referred applications. The Commission’s earlier reforms are detailed in the FCC’s (First) Report and Order  in Docket 16-155 Executive Branch Review Order released October 1, 2020 (and Erratum). As noted in the Second Report and Order, the FCC considered comments filed in response to a Public Notice containing proposed Standard Questions.

Continue Reading FCC Adopts Standard Questions to Facilitate Executive Branch Review of Applications Involving Foreign Interests in Applicants