At its September 30 Open Meeting, the FCC took new steps to address costs and service quality related to its IP Captioned Telephone Services (IP CTS) program in a Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. IP CTS, a form of telecommunications relay service (TRS), allows individuals who have difficulty hearing but are speech-capable to use a telephone with an IP-enabled device to communicate over the Internet by simultaneously listening to and reading real-time captions of what th other party is saying.

The item adopted by the Commission builds on its earlier efforts to promote sustainability of the TRS fund, address potential waste, fraud, and abuse in the IP CTS program, and improve IP CTS service quality for users. These efforts began in a June 2018 order where the FCC adopted a new methodology to set compensation rates for IP CTS services based on a calculation of the costs to provide the services and new measures to limit incidents of unnecessary IP CTS use. At the same time, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comment on potential new standards for the provision of those services. The FCC’s reforms continued in a November 2019 order, where the Commission expanded the TRS Fund contribution base for IP CTS to include intrastate, in addition to interstate, end-user revenues. Following that, in February 2019, the FCC created new rules requiring IP CTS providers to submit user registration information to the existing video relay service (VRS) Database to limit program access to only those determined to be eligible to use IP CTS. The instant Report & Order extends the compensation methodology adopted in June 2018 and the FNPRM proposes new standards to measure and test the quality of captioning based of the NOI responses and input from the Disability Advisory Committee.

Continue Reading FCC Sets New Rates for IP CTS Compensation and Proposes New Minimum Service Standards

In this edition of Full Spectrum’s recurring series on FCC enforcement, Partner Steve Augustino and Special Counsel Brad Currier feature a “decision of the month” illustrating key FCC enforcement trends. For September, they cover the proposed fine against BarrierFree, where the FCC took a hard look at broadband reporting requirements and the continuing violation theory. Steve and Brad discuss why all providers should pay attention to the BarrierFree decision and offer lessons for providers and other entities with FCC reporting obligations. Steve and Brad also briefly recap the summer in FCC enforcement and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on FCC enforcement.

Click here to listen and subscribe.

The Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”) has long been interested in the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services to make healthcare more accessible, particularly for veterans and low-income patients. On September 3, 2020 the Commission released a Public Notice (“Public Notice”) providing additional information about its Connected Care Pilot Program (“Connected Care Program”). The Connected Care Program will make available up to $100 million dollars, over a three year period, to defray the costs of broadband connectivity and other connected care information services for eligible health care providers (“HCP”). While the CARES Act allowed the Commission to quickly implement the short-term COVID-19 Telehealth Program supporting eligible HCP telehealth services during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connected Care Program is a longer-term initiative, under Commission consideration since late 2018 and formally established in April 2020. The Connected Care Program is intended to provide much-needed financial support for telehealth services, particularly for veterans and low-income patients, and also to provide the Commission with data regarding how funding can support telehealth services in the future to treat the health needs of individuals that may lack sufficient – or any – mobile or residential broadband internet access services necessary for healthcare needs.

The FCC has not yet set a deadline for Connected Care Program applications but issued the recent Public Notice to enable HCPs to begin preparing to apply once the application filing deadline is established. If the Connected Care Program garners the same level of interest as the COVID-19 Telehealth Program – a $200 million fund that was depleted within 3 months of the Commission first accepting applications – HCPs seeking to participate in the Connected Care Program may want to consider how to prepare now to submit a timely application once the final application details and filing deadline are established. The Commission will be issuing a subsequent Public Notice identifying the final Connected Care Program application procedures and filing deadline.

Continue Reading FCC Provides Guidance on $100 Million Connected Care Pilot Program; Application Deadline Remains TBD

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact how Americans connect at work and home, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers, extensions, and other regulatory relief. Kelley Drye’s Communications Practice Group is tracking these actions and what they mean for communications service providers and their customers. CommLaw Monitor periodically provides updates to its analysis of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting your business and the communications industry. Click on the “COVID-19” blog category for previous updates.

If you have any urgent questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on other aspects of the federal and state response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as labor and employment and other issues, please visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.

Continue Reading COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – October 5, 2020

The FCC announced a jam-packed agenda for its penultimate meeting before the 2020 general election, with a focus on long-awaited spectrum sharing and caller ID authentication actions. At its meeting scheduled for September 30, 2020, the FCC plans to clear the way for eventual sharing of 3 GHz spectrum between commercial wireless providers and federal incumbents. The FCC announced earlier this year its intention to auction flexible use licenses in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band in December 2021. The Department of Defense, as a primary user of the band, has already devised a sharing framework for the spectrum. The FCC also plans to allow commercial wireless providers to lease spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band, which currently is allocated to public safety operations. The agency claims the band remains underutilized and that leasing arrangements could free up to 50 megahertz of mid-band spectrum to support commercial 5G services. In addition, the FCC plans to hold firm on its June 30, 2021 deadline for most voice providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework for IP networks and to extend such requirements to intermediate providers that neither originate nor terminate calls. Rounding out the major agenda items, the FCC plans to streamline executive branch foreign ownership reviews of certain applications formerly handled by “Team Telecom,” adopt a phase down in IP Captioned Telephone Service (“IP CTS”) compensation and impose IP CTS service standards, and launch an inquiry into state diversion of 911 fees.

FCC regulatory activity likely will slow in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of the 2020 general election. As a result, the September agenda may represent the FCC’s last big push on major reforms for the year. You will find more details on the significant September meeting items after the break:

Continue Reading Spectrum Sharing and Caller ID Authentication Top Jam-Packed FCC September Meeting Agenda

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact how Americans connect at work and home, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers, extensions, and other regulatory relief. Kelley Drye’s Communications Practice Group is tracking these actions and what they mean for communications service providers and their customers. CommLaw Monitor periodically provides updates to its analysis of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting your business and the communications industry. Click on the “COVID-19” blog category for previous updates.

If you have any urgent questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on other aspects of the federal and state response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as labor and employment and other issues, please visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.

Continue Reading COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – September 2020

The 2020 election is likely to bring changes to the FCC, regardless of which party wins the presidential election. What process and substantive changes will the next administration bring to the FCC? Join Partners John Heitmann and Steve Augustino on September 14 at the 2020 INCOMPAS Show for a discussion of what to expect at the FCC as we look toward 2021. They will cover the “digital divide,” 5G deployment, privacy, and other issues that will be affected by the outcome of the election.

Click here for more information on this and other sessions at the virtual conference.

Please join us on September 17 for an overview of the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”), the agency’s largest universal service high-cost program designed to support broadband deployment in unserved areas. One year after the RDOF’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC is preparing for the Phase I auction of up to $16 billion in support on October 29, 2020. This webinar will take listeners through what they need to know ahead of the auction, including the auction structure, performance requirements, deployment obligations, and post-auction considerations. We will cover:

  • The background of the RDOF and how it relates to Connect America Fund Phase II;
  • How the RDOF works (budget, eligible areas, support awarded, deployment);
  • The two-stage RDOF application process;
  • Unresolved issues and potential pitfalls in RDOF; and
  • Considerations and recommendations for RDOF participants.

The webinar will also focus on the process for petitioning the states and/or the FCC for eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status, which will be required before the winning entities can provide service and receive the support. Register here.

This event builds on our annual Universal Service Fund webinar and ongoing coverage of the FCC’s efforts to close the “digital divide” between rural and urban areas.

Americans who lack high-speed broadband internet access are caught on the wrong side of the “Digital Divide,” with students facing a “homework gap” and adults, and even entire communities, facing an “opportunity gap” that impacts everything from jobs, education, and healthcare to sustainability and well-being. In this episode of Kelley Drye’s Legal Download, Partner John Heitmann and Associate Carolyn Mahoney discuss the increasing importance of access to advanced communications networks and services, and a few of the legal issues involved in closing the digital divide and enabling connected life.

Click here to listen and subscribe.