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As required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“CAA”), on February 25, 2021, the FCC adopted a Report and Order to officially establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”) Program. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in virtual services and learning, access to broadband services has now become essential for most households. With this in mind, the program is designed to provide broadband services to help low-income households in particular stay connected. We have summarized the program and noted some key provisions and next steps for the FCC and potential participating providers. The program is temporary, and will expire when funds have been exhausted or 6 months after the Health and Human Services Secretary declares the end of the nationwide COVID-19 health emergency.

Continue Reading FCC Implements $50/Month Broadband Subsidy For Low-Income Households

The FCC released the agenda for its next Open Meeting, scheduled for February 17, 2021, which will be the first with Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at the helm. The FCC plans to kick off the meeting with three presentations detailing the Commission’s progress in implementing programs designed to support broadband access and deployment. First, the FCC will hear a presentation on the creation of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which will allow low-income consumers to receive discounted broadband services and devices. Second, the FCC will hear a presentation covering the agency’s next steps for its COVID-19 Telehealth program, which provides funding to health care providers to offer telehealth and connected care services to patients. Third, the FCC will hear a presentation on the agency’s efforts to improve its broadband mapping data, including through the Digital Opportunity Data Collection. Rounding out the meeting agenda, the FCC will consider proposed rulemakings that would modify the agency’s supply chain security rules and address 911 fee diversion in line with recent legislation.

The February meeting begins what is expected to be a busy 2021 for the FCC’s agenda. You will find more information about the meeting items after the break.


Continue Reading FCC Tees Up Broadband and Telehealth Updates for First Meeting under Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel

The FCC released the agenda for its December Open Meeting, scheduled for December 10, 2020 on November 19, 2020, but the agency has made several changes since. The last meeting of the year will lead with a Report and Order on securing the communications supply chain that would require Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) receiving federal universal service funding to remove and replace equipment and services identified as a risk to national security from their networks. The supply chain rulemaking would establish procedures and requirements for affected providers to seek reimbursement of their removal and replacement costs. The Commission will also consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would propose to modernize the marketing and importation rules for regulated equipment. Additionally, the December meeting will include an Order that would amend the invoice filing deadline rule for the E-Rate Program, which supports communications services for schools and libraries, and an Order on Reconsideration clarifying the agency’s interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), although the draft texts of these two items have not been released.

The December meeting may be the first attended by recently-confirmed Republican FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, who will replace outgoing Commissioner Michael O’Rielly after today’s confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate. In addition, Chairman Pai recently announced that he intends to leave the FCC on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. As a result, the January 2021 FCC open meeting will be his last meeting before the change in administration.

You will find more details about the most significant items on the December meeting agenda after the break.


Continue Reading FCC Wraps Up 2020 with December Meeting Focusing on Supply Chain Security and Equipment Marketing

The FCC recently took a major step in promoting deployment of 5G networks in rural and hard-to-serve areas by adopting a Report and Order establishing the 5G Fund for Rural America (5G Fund) support program. The program, which is effectively the wireless counterpart to the wireline-focused Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), will offer up to $9 billion over ten years to support the deployment of mobile voice and 5G broadband in these areas. It replaces Phase II of the Mobility Fund, which the FCC mothballed in 2018 after questions arose about the accuracy of wireless coverage data reported by carriers, which was meant to determine which areas are eligible for funding. Half of the 5G Fund budget also comes from repurposing the $4.53 billion that the Commission had originally allotted for 4G LTE deployments under Mobility Fund Phase II. The 5G Fund auction may not occur until 2023 because the Commission opted to wait until it can collect new data on existing deployments to identify areas eligible for support. In the meantime, recipients of legacy mobile high-cost support will be required to start using those funds for 5G networks beginning in 2021.

Continue Reading FCC Creates Framework to Fund 5G Deployments in Rural Areas

Headlining the FCC’s next open meeting, scheduled for November 18 is an item to adopt proposed rules to reallocate the 5.9 GHz band. The FCC would repurpose the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed use, while retaining the upper portion of the band for Intelligent Transportation Systems (“ITS”) operations and transitioning to Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (“C-V2X”) technology. The Commission plans to seek additional comment on proposed technical rules for outdoor unlicensed use and on implementation timelines for transitioning to C-V2X. The November meeting will also consider two satellite items. The FCC plans to streamline its satellite licensing rules by creating an optional unified license system for satellite and earth station operations, and will propose a new allocation in the 17 GHz band for Fixed Satellite Service (“FSS”) space-to-Earth downlinks. Additionally, the Commission will propose expanding the contribution base for the Telecommunications Relay Services (“TRS”) Fund.

FCC regulatory will likely slow in the aftermath of the election and with an upcoming change in Administration. However, the Commission tees up two new rulemaking proceedings with the November agenda, signaling that the FCC may still be moving forward with policy initiatives  going into a transition period. You will find more details on the most significant November meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Highlights Reallocating the 5.9 GHz Band at November Open Meeting

The FCC announced the agenda for its last Open Meeting before the upcoming 2020 general election, scheduled for October 27, 2020. The FCC first plans to respond to the remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on its Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The Commission will address three issues sent back to the agency for further consideration and largely reiterate its original conclusions regarding the impact of its reforms on public safety, pole attachments, and the Lifeline program. The Commission also plans to finalize its proposed 5G Fund with a two-phase reverse auction to target support for the deployment of 5G networks in rural areas, establishing a ten-year support term and a $9 billion overall budget. The October meeting will also consider allowing unlicensed white space devices to operate on broadcast television channels, as well as streamlining the state and local approval processes for wireless tower modifications. Lastly, the FCC plans to eliminate certain unbundling and resale requirements for incumbent local exchange carriers.

Unlike most monthly Commission meetings, none of the items on the October agenda initiate new proceedings or propose new rules. Instead, the items focus on implementation of a number of policies prioritized under Chairman Pai. FCC regulatory activity will likely slow in the aftermath of the election. As a result, the October agenda may represent the FCC’s final push for any major reforms in the near-term. However, on October 15, Chairman Pai did announce his intention to move forward with a rulemaking to interpret the meaning of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. You will find more details on the significant October meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Plans to Finalize Internet Reform, 5G Fund, and TV White Spaces at October Open Meeting

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

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

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