At the next open meeting on September 26th, the FCC Commissioners will vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) aimed at improving the nation’s 911 system and Americans’ ability to access emergency services. The proposed rule changes are largely intended to implement directives from Congress in two bills that were signed into law earlier this year. Importantly, the proposed rules will apply not only to traditional providers of telecommunications service, but also equipment manufacturers and other vendors in the communications supply chain, as well as businesses and other entities that operate communications systems that allow users to dial 911. Given the potentially broad reach of these proposed rules, we encourage our readers to monitor this proceeding carefully and be prepared to offer feedback to the FCC on proposed changes that will impact your business.

Continue Reading

On July 13, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at improving the reliability of the nation’s Emergency Alert System (“EAS”). This action comes six months after a well-publicized false ballistic missile alert that caused widespread confusion and concern in Hawaii, which the FCC observed “underscore[d] the need to streamline [its] testing processes and to ensure proper safeguards are in place.” The FCC explained that the rule changes “will help alert initiators, as well as EAS Participants to develop the skills necessary to effectively use the EAS.” EAS Participants are radio and television broadcast stations, cable systems, wireline video systems, wireless cable systems, direct broadcast satellite service providers, and digital audio radio service providers. In an unusual move, Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly dissented in part from the item, citing concerns about “alert fatigue” and suggesting that the Commission may be “overstepping” its bounds by requiring communications providers to provide false alert reports.

Continue Reading

On December 7, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for “Beyond Traffic: The Smart City Challenge,” the first in a two-part solicitation for a federally funded program aimed at developing “a holistic, integrated approach to improving surface transportation performance within a city and integrating this approach to improving smart city domains such as public safety, public services, and energy.”  DOT will award $40 million to one mid-sized city that demonstrates how it will use the funds to address challenges such as congestion, safety, climate change, and improving connections with underserved communities.  Broadband providers that are considering deploying or expanding their networks in mid-sized cities may want to consider partnering with an eligible applicant to use some of the funds to either deploy new broadband infrastructure or add increased capacity to the existing network to accommodate new technology such as connected cars.  Initial applications for this grant opportunity are due on February 4, 2016.  DOT will then narrow the field to five finalists, and make a selection in June 2016.

Continue Reading

On September 17, 2015, the FCC released a Report and Order with a long-awaited update to the Contest Rule that gives broadcasters substantially more flexibility as to the medium they choose to announce rules for contests (a term the FCC uses to encompass both contests and sweepstakes).  The Commission determined that it is in the public interest to allow television and radio broadcasters to disclose their contest terms and conditions on the Internet, as an alternative to announcing terms and conditions on the air.  However, the revised rule simultaneously creates a number of requirements for broadcasters that choose to post disclosures online.  The revisions were approved unanimously by all five FCC Commissioners and generally have been well-received by broadcasters.

Continue Reading