On April 1, 2021, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) under the TCPA is limited by the plain grammar of the statute itself. The Court, in a decision authored by Justice Sotomayor, held that a device must have the capacity to use a random or sequential number generator in either storing or producing a telephone number, to qualify as an ATDS under the TCPA. Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid et al., Case No. 19-511 (2021).

Our preview of the Supreme Court’s consideration of Duguid can be found here and our analysis of the oral argument can be found here. The Court’s decision is discussed below, and its opinion can be found here.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Defines ATDS Under The TCPA

In episode 9 of Kelley Drye Full Spectrum’s “Inside the TCPA” series, Partner Steve Augustino and Associate Chris Laughlin provide an update on the new FCC requirement for voice service providers to develop and implement robocall mitigation programs. Building on their Episode 7 discussion of the STIR/SHAKEN framework, Steve and Chris discuss when providers need to implement mitigation programs and what needs to be included. They also offer recommendations for customizing a program to fit a provider’s needs and how to build a program that is both effective and manageable.

Click here to listen to this episode.

On March 10, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, the COVID-19 stimulus bill recently enacted by Congress. The Act allocates $1.9 trillion to provide relief to businesses and individuals that are struggling due to COVID-19. Importantly, it appropriates $7.17 billion for emergency support for remote learning and remote library services. This stimulus follows $3.2 billion appropriated for an Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income consumers and caps over $13 billion in broadband funding provided in addition to the traditional Universal Service Fund programs.

The new Emergency Connectivity Fund (“ECF”) will reimburse schools and libraries for internet access and connected devices for students and teachers for remote learning and remote library services. The passage of this legislation has been welcomed by the FCC, with Chairwoman Rosenworcel stating, “the American Rescue Plan provides the FCC with new tools to support the millions of students locked out of the digital classroom.”

The legislation requires the FCC to issue rules within 60 days of enactment to provide funding to eligible schools and libraries. Here’s a look at what to expect in the new fund.

Continue Reading Biden Signs Stimulus Package: FCC Set to Establish a $7 Billon Emergency Connectivity Fund to Assist with Virtual Learning

The FCC released the agenda for its next Open Meeting, scheduled for March 17, 2021. The March meeting will notably include a Report and Order that would reallocate 100 megahertz of prized mid-band spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band through Auction 110, and propose a band plan for the new 3.45 GHz flexible use wireless service aimed at supporting 5G technologies. The FCC will also consider a Public Notice for Auction 110 that would seek comment on appropriate auction application and bidding procedures. While the FCC is required to start the auction by the end of 2021, the agency expects Auction 110 to begin in October 2021. The 3.45 GHz band items are the product of long-term FCC, NTIA, and DOJ collaboration to open frequencies currently used by federal agencies for shared use by commercial wireless providers. The FCC also teed up a Report and Order that would increase public safety officials’ access to network reliability information by providing direct access to Network Outage Reporting System (“NORS”) and Disaster Information Reporting System (“DIRS”) data. In addition, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would propose reforms to the agency’s Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (“WEA”) System to facilitate comprehensive and timely emergency alerts for mobile devices. Lastly, the agency will consider a Notice of Inquiry on the status of open radio access networks (“Open RAN”) that virtualize certain network infrastructure, potentially increasing communications security.

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

Continue Reading FCC’s March Open Meeting Highlights 3.45 GHz Band Auction

2021 is well underway and the new leadership at the FCC is taking shape. While we don’t yet know who will fill the Chair on a permanent basis, the FCC under Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel is proceeding without delay. So far, the Commission has tackled ongoing issues of bipartisan support, including broadband mapping, communications supply chain security and preventing 911 fee diversion. But the biggest challenges ahead are in the universal service fund and, specifically, efforts to bridge the digital divide.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at developments in the FCC’s $9 billion-per-year Federal Universal Service Fund and more recent pandemic-related efforts to address deficiencies in broadband access that have been exposed by our year of remote work, school and social activities.

Continue Reading The State of the Universal Service Fund in 2021

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

Following weeks of speculation about a potential role for Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu in the Biden Administration, the White House announced on March 5 that Wu has been named Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy. As an official housed in the National Economic Council (“NEC”), Wu will not directly command staff within federal agencies or set the agencies’ enforcement or regulatory agendas. Instead, Wu will most likely focus on coordinating federal agencies’ efforts to identify and address competition issues. Given his history, Wu could seek to have particular influence on the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) and Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) as they shape their Biden Administration agendas.

Continue Reading Competition Policy Gets a Top Spot in the White House

Earlier this year, we were asked to suggest 2021 resolutions for clients in the telecommunications, media, and technology industries. We developed several that should guide industry participants to improve their compliance and services to customers. Research suggests that February typically is the month when New Year’s resolutions fail, so we decided to take a look at our resolutions and offer some suggestions for making these stick.

To start, here is the first resolution we suggested for the industry:

Resolution for Voice Service Providers: Resolve to reduce illegal robocalls. Voice service providers long have supported the FCC’s ongoing efforts to target bad actors sending illegal and fraudulent robocalls, but in 2021, each carrier should resolve to do its part individually  in the battle to stop illegal calls. All voice service providers must implement the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework by June 30, 2021 and should develop an effective robocall mitigation program to prevent their customers from originating illegal robocalls. These changes are necessary to stay on the right side of the anti-robocall battle.  Each voice service provider should resolve to make reducing illegal robocalls a top priority.

Continue Reading A Look at Communications Industry New Year’s Resolutions: Reduce Illegal Robocalls

On February 9, Partner Steve Augustino will moderate a two-part Robocall Compliance panel at the INCOMPAS Policy Summit. Steve, along with FCC attorneys and other industry leaders, will discuss 1) Progress towards the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN and call authentication solutions for non-IP portions of voice service providers’ networks and upcoming compliance requirements related to provider certifications, robocall mitigation plans, and extensions; 2)  A look ahead at how the FCC and the Industry Traceback Group (ITG) will address enforcement and traceback requests, now that the ITG has been selected as the single industry consortium; 3)  The thought process behind illegal robocall mitigation issues, such as call blocking, redress, notification and safe harbors; and 4) FCC actions in the call authentication and robocall mitigation dockets, including items recently adopted by the FCC.

See below for recordings of both sessions:

FCC Panel

Industry Panel

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