The FCC’s proposed rulemaking to establish an overall budget cap on the Universal Service Fund (“USF”) was published in the Federal Register on June 13, 2019, which sets the comment deadline on July 15, 2019, and the reply comment deadline on August 12, 2019.  As we previously highlighted, the notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) will consider a USF cap separate and above the individual budgets for each of the four USF programs, although the NPRM does not propose a specific budget, primarily raises questions about how to proceed, and does not contain any proposed rules.

A request to extend the NPRM comment period has been filed by the Education and Library Networks Coalition, but the FCC generally does not grant such requests.

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Full Spectrum’s “Inside the TCPA” offers a deeper focus on TCPA issues and petitions pending before the FCC. Each episode tackles a single TCPA topic or petition that is in the news or affecting cases around the country. In this episode, Partner Steve Augustino and Associate Chris Laughlin discuss the FCC’s efforts to reduce the volume of illegal robocalls. Steve and Chris refresh the audience on illegally spoofed calls and discuss the FCC’s efforts to urge carriers to implement call blocking and call authentication techniques, including the SHAKEN/STIR framework.

To listen to this episode and subscribe, please click here.

On Friday, May 31, 2019, the FCC released a much-anticipated notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) to consider the adoption of an overall budget cap on the Universal Service Fund (“USF”), separate from any individual budgets for each of the four USF programs. The NPRM is in response to years-long advocacy on the part of Commissioner O’Rielly to impose budgets on USF spending, and it comes over dissent of the two Democratic Commissioners. While Commissioner O’Rielly justified the proposal as responsible stewardship of public money and said it would not limit funding in the near future, Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks criticized the proposal as undermining the goals of Universal Service and, at worst, creating a “universal service hunger games” among the support programs.

The release of the NPRM was our first look at the specifics of a proposal that broke a month ago. The NPRM does not propose a specific budget, primarily raises questions about how to proceed, and does not contain any proposed rules. Nevertheless, opponents of the proposal have been most vocal since word of the NPRM came out, and we expect those USF stakeholders to continue in opposition to the approach. Meanwhile, proposals to reform USF contributions remain stalled (and lacking any consensus), while the contribution factor hovers around 20% of assessable revenues.

Continue Reading Does the Universal Service Fund Need a Cap? A Divided FCC Begins its Inquiry

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS) added Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and its non-U.S. affiliates to the U.S. Entity List. The move by the U.S. export control regulator broadly prohibits U.S. and non-U.S. persons from providing the listed Huawei entities with any “items” that are “subject to” BIS’s Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

The sanctions could have a serious impact on Huawei and on companies that supply and do business with the firm. Similar sanctions temporarily imposed on ZTE, another Chinese telecommunications firm, last year were referred to as a “death penalty” ban due to the crippling impact it had on ZTE’s operations.

Continue Reading Department of Commerce Announces New Sanctions on Huawei

By unanimous vote, the FCC launched a rulemaking this past week to consider allocating the 1675-1680 MHz band for co-primary use by flexible commercial terrestrial fixed and mobile operators with incumbent federal operators. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), released on Monday, May 13, is, in many fundamental ways, similar to a proposal Ligado first made in a 2012 petition for rulemaking, with adjustments over the years, seeking to allow terrestrial mobile operations in the 1675-1680 MHz band.

Continue Reading FCC Starts Rulemaking on Commercial Mobile Access in 1675-1680 MHz Band, Similar to 2012 Ligado Petition

At its May 2019 Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Public Notice (“Notice”) that sets the stage for the auction of certain toll free numbers with the dialing code 833—the first time an auction mechanism will be used to distribute any numbering resources. The FCC intends to auction over 17,000 numbers set aside during the opening of the 833-prefix because more than one entity expressed an interest in the number. In 2018, the FCC approved the use of competitive bidding to allocate these numbers. With this Public Notice, the FCC sets proposed ground rules for the auction. Comments on the auction pre-bidding procedures proposed in the Notice are due by June 3, 2019 and reply comments by June 10, 2019.

Continue Reading 1-833-AUCTION: FCC Proposes Procedures for First-Ever Auction of Numbering Resources

Our “Tuning into Spectrum” podcast series takes a close look at hot topics and issues in radio spectrum. Thanks to technological advancements, a major development in recent years has been the growing prospects for innovative use of higher spectrum bands. In this episode, Associate Avonne Bell talks with Partners Chip Yorkgitis and Josh Guyan about the FCC’s heightened focus on millimeter wave spectrum. They discuss the connection to 5G, potential impacts on federal meteorological and passive services, the use of an incentive auction in a new setting, innovative proposals for spectrum access, and more. Look out for additional spectrum updates in the coming months in this continuously evolving environment.

To listen to this episode and subscribe, please click here.

At its April Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Fifth Report and Order (“R&O”) in the Spectrum Frontiers Proceeding that adopted sharing rules in two settings. The new rules will allow the federal government to deploy, in limited circumstances, additional station sites in spectrum to be auctioned for flexible mobile and fixed use in the 37.6-38.6 GHz frequency range (the “Upper 37 GHz Band”). The rules also will allow fixed satellite service (“FSS”) operators to individually license earth stations in the 50.4-51.4 GHz band (the “50 GHz Band”) while the FCC considers whether spectrum in the 50 GHz Band should also be auctioned for flexible mobile and fixed use. By acting now on these matters, the Commission intends to help provide Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (“UMFUS”) providers with certainty regarding their potential future use of the spectrum before the auctions commence.

Continue Reading FCC Adopts Limited Sharing Arrangements in the Upper 37 GHz and 50 GHz Bands

The FCC is requiring fixed-satellite service (“FSS”) operators to provide the Commission with information about their current use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band (“C-Band”) by May 28, 2019, according to a Public Notice released jointly earlier this month by the FCC’s International Bureau, Wireless Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology. The FCC will use the information to consider potential rules that allow new commercial terrestrial services in the Band while protecting incumbent satellite and earth station operators. The Band is currently allocated to FSS and the fixed service, but the Commission has proposed adding a mobile, except aeronautical mobile, allocation, which would allow commercial wireless providers to operate 5G services in the Band. The amount of spectrum to be reallocated or shared, the extent of protection for incumbents, and the means of protection for incumbents are all, as yet, undetermined, and they are topics of substantial debate among stakeholders.

Continue Reading FCC Seeks Further Information About Satellite Use of C-Band from FSS Space and Earth Station Operators

Continuing to implement the FCC’s rules to improve service to rural areas, the FCC announced that all “intermediate providers” (i.e., entities that carry, but do not originate, long distance traffic) must register with the agency by May 15, 2019. The registration requirement stems from rules adopted by the FCC last summer designed to increase transparency and accountability in the rural call completion process and avoid dropped calls. Intermediate providers must register with the FCC by the deadline in order to continue to receive traffic from carriers that originate long distance calls (known as “covered providers”). The registration requirement applies to all intermediate carriers, not just ones completing calls to rural areas. Covered providers will be prohibited from transmitting their traffic to unregistered intermediate providers beginning on August 13, 2019 (90 days after the registration deadline). Intermediate providers must register with the FCC online and the registration instructions may be found here.

Click here to read our full advisory on the registration requirement.