In the latest episode of Full Spectrum’s Inside the TCPA series, Partner Steve Augustino and Senior Associate Brad Currier take a closer look at shifting strategies to provide effective enforcement of TCPA violations. Unlike TCPA actions of the past, which focused primarily on the entity that is placing the call, these new TCPA actions rely upon new approaches to enforcement, involving both new targets and new enforcers. Steve and Brad discuss how the government (importantly, not just the FCC) is looking “up the chain” in enforcement matters to target service providers who allegedly assist unlawful robocalling and spoofing practices. The theories used are different and involve varying degrees of allegedly culpable conduct, but the significance is in WHO the government is targeting, and HOW the government is seeking to modify behavior. If this approach continues, service providers may face new risks and may need new compliance strategies.

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At its January 30 Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would require wireless handset manufacturers to comply with the 2019 version of the American National Standards Institute (“ANSI”) technical standard for hearing aid compatibility. With the proposed changes, wireless handset manufacturers and wireless service providers, including resellers, would be required to offer hearing aid compatible (“HAC”) handsets designed to comply with the new standard as part of their product portfolio. Comments on the NPRM will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and replies will be due 45 days after publication, which has not yet occurred. Continue Reading FCC Proposes Updated Hearing Aid Compatibility Standard for Wireless Handsets

Following their recent episode on the FCC’s C-Band Proceeding addressing use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum range, Partners Chip Yorkgitis and Josh Guyan are back to discuss the recently released draft Report and Order, which is expected to be adopted at the FCC’s February 28th meeting. The Order would transition the use of the C-Band to make the 280 megahertz from 3.7 – 3.98 GHz available for flexible use through an auction to be held this year.

Click here to listen to the episode, and here for more in our “Tuning into Spectrum” series and other updates from Kelley Drye’s Full Spectrum podcast.

On Thursday, February 6, in a speech at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai outlined his proposal for the realignment of 3.7-4.2 GHz, the so-called C-Band. Later in the day, the FCC website posted a summary of the Chairman’s proposals, and Republican Commissioners Carr and O’Rielly released statements in support of the initiative. A draft order is expected sometime today, February 7, which will fill in a lot of gaps missing from the broad brushstrokes the Chairman outlined.

Continue Reading Pai Offers Highlights of His 3.7-4.2 GHz Band Proposal; Particulars Presently Forthcoming

Our “Tuning into Spectrum” podcast series takes a close look at hot topics and issues in radio spectrum. Recently, in a letter to Senator Kennedy (R-LA), Chairman Pai stated that he intends to conduct a public auction of the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum range (commonly referred to as the C-Band) that would clear 280 megahertz for flexible use to be allocated by auction and allot 20 megahertz to a guard band. In this episode, Associate Avonne Bell and Partners Chip Yorkgitis and Josh Guyan discuss the issues that remain unresolved, including the impact on satellite operators and MVPDs, technical issues, a possible transition to fiber in some areas, and C-Band-related legislation. Click here to listen to the episode, and here for more in our “Tuning into Spectrum” series and other updates from Kelley Drye’s Full Spectrum podcast.

Since the recording of this episode, it now appears that a C-Band item will be on the agenda for the FCC’s next Open Meeting on February 28, 2020.

At its Open Meeting on January 30, the FCC adopted a Report and Order (“Order”) making video relay service (“VRS”) calls that use communications assistants (“CAs”) that work from home (as opposed to at a call center) eligible for compensation from the Telecommunications Relay Service (“TRS”) Fund. According to the FCC, this change will afford VRS providers more flexibility in the type of CAs they can employ, which will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this service for consumers with hearing or speech disabilities. All VRS providers must comply with new safeguards and any applicants to be a VRS provider will need to request authorization to use at-home CAs and include a proposed compliance plan.

Continue Reading FCC Makes Remote VRS Call Assistants Pilot Program Permanent

Nearly two years ago, in ACA International v. FCC, the DC Circuit reversed the FCC’s 2015 order interpreting the term “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and remanded that interpretation for further consideration.  Since that time, callers, call recipients, practitioners and litigants have all been awaiting the FCC’s remand decision.

In the meantime, litigation has continued to move forward in many cases.  Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit addressed the ATDS definition, agreeing with decisions by the 2nd and 3rd Circuits on an interpretation that requires the use of a random or sequential number generator, and disagreeing with an interpretation of the 9th Circuit to the contrary.  Our colleagues at a KDW sister blog, AdLaw Access, provide the analysis of this decision and its impact.

On December 31, 2019, the most significant anti-robocall legislation in fourteen years was signed into law. The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act increases the penalties for transmitting illegal calls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), extends the FCC’s statute of limitations for bringing some enforcement actions and eliminates the requirement to give warnings before issuing certain filings. But most significantly, the TRACED Act requires all voice service providers to implement SHAKEN/STIR, a technical feature of telephone networks that will make it easier to identify the originators of illegal calls.

Kelley Drye continues to closely monitor this, and other TCPA developments. Click here to read our advisory and summary of the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act. You can find additional coverage at Kelley Drye’s Legal Download, where Partner Steve Augustino discusses what an illegal call really is, highlights of the TRACED Act, and what’s next for the FCC.

Be sure to subscribe to Kelley Drye’s Full Spectrum podcast, which features our “Inside the TCPA” series, and check out our monthly TCPA Tracker newsletter, which helps you stay current on TCPA (and related) matters, case developments and provides an updated comprehensive summary of TCPA petitions pending before the FCC.

In a strongly worded Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order (the “Order”) released on November 26, 2019, the FCC adopted several measures to protect U.S. communications networks from potential national security threats. Likely coming as no surprise to anyone following the proceeding or current news, the FCC identified Huawei Technologies Company (“Huawei”) and ZTE Corporation (“ZTE”), both Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturers, as national security threats based, in large part, on the companies’ close ties to the Chinese government. Adding to numerous recent federal actions addressing national security concerns, the Order takes three significant steps, within the context of the universal service fund (“USF”) program, to try to mitigate national security threats to the nation’s communications networks.

Continue Reading FCC Prohibits Carriers Receiving USF Support from Using Providers Deemed to Pose a National Security Risk; Further Notice to Explore Using USF to Replace Equipment Already Installed

The FCC proposed sweeping reforms to its process for suspending and debarring entities from participating in its largest funding programs, including the four Universal Service Fund (“USF”) programs, at its meeting on November 22, 2019. If adopted, the proposed rules would mark a sea change in FCC enforcement, allowing the FCC to cut off funding more quickly and for a wider range of alleged misconduct. The FCC also would expand the scope of these rules to cover its Telecommunications Relay Service (“TRS”) program and National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (“NDBEP”), in addition to the High-Cost, Lifeline, E-Rate, and Rural Health Care USF programs.

The proposed rules also would impose new disclosure obligations on support recipients and require them to verify that they do not work with suspended/debarred entities. In addition, the proposed rules would create a federal reciprocity system, in which entities suspended/debarred from participating in funding programs administered by other agencies similarly would be prevented from participating in the FCC’s programs (and vice versa). The proposed rules would impact nearly every USF participant and warrant close attention. The FCC has not announced comment deadlines on its proposals, but they will likely occur in early 2020. While the FCC’s proposals are just the first step towards actual rule changes, the agency has shown every indication that it will continue moving full speed ahead on USF reform in the coming year.

Continue Reading FCC Plans Major Overhaul of Suspension and Debarment Rules for its USF, TRS, and Other Funding Programs