Federal & State Regulatory

Earlier this year, Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle an Illinois class action alleging that the company collected facial recognition data of users without disclosure, in violation of the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). The large settlement payment grabbed the attention of both companies and the plaintiffs’ bar. In this episode

It has been more than two years since the D.C. Circuit found the Federal Communications Commission’s (the “FCC”) discussion of predictive dialers and other equipment alleged to be an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS,” or “autodialer”) to “offer no meaningful guidance” on the question. In the absence of an FCC ruling on the remand, multiple courts of appeals have addressed the statute’s definition. In the most recent case, Allan v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the Sixth Circuit adopted (in a split decision) a broad definition of an autodialer. Construing the term ATDS to include both devices that “generate[] and dial[] random or sequential numbers,” and “that dial from a stored list of numbers,” the Sixth Circuit has aligned itself with the Second and Ninth Circuits in a growing circuit split, with the Third, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits adopting a narrower interpretation. At this point, all eyes are on the Supreme Court, which accepted a case addressing the ATDS definition for next term.¹ The FCC, meanwhile, is not likely to address the core ATDS definition until after the Supreme Court ruling.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Holds That Stored-Number Systems Meet the TCPA’s Definition of an Autodialer, Deepening Circuit Split to be Addressed by the Supreme Court Next Term

The FCC is slowing down from its busy summer going into August, with its next open meeting scheduled for August 6, 2020. Kicking off the meeting, the Commission anticipates adopting procedures for the auction of new flexible-use overlay licenses in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band (“C-band”), or Auction 107, which is scheduled to begin on December 8, 2020. The FCC would establish specific auction dates and procedures for the clock auction of 280 MHz of spectrum in the C-band. The agency will also consider an item on inmate calling services, responding to remands by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and proposing comprehensive rate reform for inmate calling services. The remainder of the agenda focuses on eliminating and streamlining existing FCC rules. Specifically, the Commission will consider two actions aimed at streamlining broadcast rules that would eliminate the radio duplication rule for AM stations and eliminate the common antenna siting rules for FM and TV broadcaster applicants and licensees. Finally, the Commission plans to repeal certain telecommunications relay service (“TRS”) rules that are no longer necessary given advances in technology since the rules were initially adopted.

You will find more details on the most significant August meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Previews C-Band Auction Procedures and Inmate Calling Services Reform for August Open Meeting

At its July 16, 2020 meeting, the FCC adopted a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“R&O and FNPRM”) to facilitate development of new broadband deployment maps and data sets. According to the R&O and FNPRM, the item furthers the Commission’s ongoing Digital Opportunity Data Collection (“DODC”) efforts and the requirements established in the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (“Broadband DATA Act”) passed in March 2020.

As detailed in the R&O and FNPRM, the Commission will require fixed and mobile broadband providers to report more precise broadband availability and service information than required under the current FCC Form 477 filings. Separately, the Commission will create a nationwide database containing geocoded locations for all areas where broadband connections can be installed—the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (“Fabric”). The Commission will use the Fabric to create publicly-available maps showing areas across the country that are served and unserved by broadband service. Among the expected benefits, the new broadband deployment data collection and mapping framework will allow the Commission to better target Universal Service Fund support, which has been a hot-button issue since the agency mothballed Phase II of the Mobility Fund in 2018 after the accuracy of mobile wireless coverage maps was called into question.


Continue Reading FCC Maps Out Requirements for Broadband Deployment Data Collection Framework

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly unfolds, 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 will provide regular 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 – July 13, 2020

On July 9, 2020, the Supreme Court granted Facebook’s petition for certiorari in a case with potentially broad implications for both class action litigation and business communications with their current and potential customers. The Supreme Court’s disposition of Facebook’s petition may settle the complex question of what qualifies as an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq. (“TCPA”).

The TCPA prohibits telemarketing calls to be placed using an ATDS without the requisite level of prior consent. Thus, the definition of what technology qualifies as an ATDS is often a fundamental, threshold question upon which TCPA litigation turns. Prior to 2015, the FCC had offered various, sometimes vague, interpretations of the term.  In 2015, the FCC offered an expansive definition, which was set aside in March 2018 in the ACA International decision. While the issue has been before the FCC on remand for over two years now, courts nevertheless engaged in their own analysis of the statute, resulting in a broadening Circuit split on how the law is interpreted and applied and divergent outcomes based on the court in which the case is filed. Now the Supreme Court is poised (potentially) to resolve that dispute.


Continue Reading Supreme Court to Weigh-in on the Definition of an Autodialer Under TCPA

On July 6, 2020, in a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the TCPA, but severed as unconstitutional the government debt exception. William P. Barr et al. v. American Association of Political Consultants et al., Case No. 19-631 (2020). Our preview of the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Barr case can be found here and our summary of the oral argument can be found here.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of the TCPA

Incumbent earth stations operating in the 3700-4000 MHz range are entitled to have eligible space station operators provide a turnkey solution to transition them out of the band to the upper 200 megahertz of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band. All of an earth station’s actual, reasonable, and necessary transition costs, for such transitions are reimbursable. As an alternative to having the space station operator conduct the transition, earth station operators may choose to accept a pre-determined per-earth station lump sum – still being worked on by the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s”) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau – for all their earth stations as sole compensation for moving out of the band themselves regardless of what solution is pursued after the transition, including moving to another band or off the radiofrequency spectrum altogether. (Previously, we covered the Commission’s schedule for the C-Band transition in detail.) The trick, however, is that, to qualify for reimbursement or the lump sum option, the earth stations must be “incumbent.” On Monday, July 6, 2020, the International Bureau (“Bureau”) issued a preliminary list of incumbent earth stations that would qualify for reimbursement or the lump sum. The Bureau, in the accompanying Public Notice, provided ten (10) days for interested persons to comment on the list, until Thursday, July 16.

Continue Reading C-Band Earth Stations: The FCC Made the List; It’s Worth Checking It Twice

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly unfolds, 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 will provide regular 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 – July 6, 2020

The FCC is moving full steam ahead this summer with a jam-packed agenda for its next open meeting, scheduled for July 16, 2020. Headlining the meeting is the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, establishing 988 as the 3-digit dialing code for the suicide and mental health crisis hotline. All telecommunications carriers and VoIP providers would be required to implement 988 on their networks by July 16, 2022. The FCC continues to move forward on eliminating unwanted and illegal robocalls, planning to carve out safe harbors from liability for call blocking based on reasonable analytics and seeking comment on any additional obligations for blocking providers. The supply chain rulemaking would adopt the Commission’s prohibition on using universal service funds to support equipment or services provided by identified companies posing a national security threat, and propose further requirements for securing communications networks. The agency also plans to affirm and build upon vertical location requirements for enhanced 911 location accuracy and to establish procedures for enhanced broadband mapping and data collection. In addition, the agenda includes items to modernize the leased access rate formula and streamline and update the priority service program rules for emergency workers.

While FCC action historically dwindles going into an election year, the July agenda shows no signs of slowing down on the Commission’s main priorities. You will find more details on the most significant July meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Previews a Jam-Packed July Open Meeting with National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Call Blocking, and Supply Chain Items Leading the Agenda