With the new chairman still awaiting Senate confirmation, it has been fairly quiet on the enforcement front the past few months. Yesterday was an exception, when the the FCC released an NAL proposing to fine a carrier $100,000 for failing to obtain a 214 from the FCC. Although this order is significant, its timing most likely reflects the operation of the FCC’s statute of limitations, rather than a revival of carrier enforcement activity. Absent a tolling agreement (which the Bureau apparently did not seek in this instance), the statute of limitations would have expired on June 18, one year after the carrier received its 214 in this instance. The Bureau thus had to release this order or lose the ability to fine the carrier for its action.
On the merits, the order is not surprising. The Enforcement Bureau proposed to fine a carrier $100,000 for initiating international service before obtaining FCC authorization pursuant to section 214 of the Communications Act. This marks the third time that the FCC has proposed a $100,000 forfeiture for failing to obtain a 214, indicating the FCC considers this the "base forfeiture" for such a violation. However, the Bureau still has not explained why it is consistent with the statute to penalize a carrier $8,000 for an unauthorized transfer of control but 12 times that amount for the unauthorized operation of a carrier (which is like an unauthorized acquisition of a carrier). Until a carrier challenges the FCC’s approach in court, we can expect to see more orders using the $100,000 base forfeiture for this type of violation.