The 2020 election is likely to bring changes to the FCC, regardless of which party wins the presidential election. What process and substantive changes will the next administration bring to the FCC? Join Partners John Heitmann and Steve Augustino on September 14 at the 2020 INCOMPAS Show for a discussion of what to expect at the FCC as we look toward 2021. They will cover the “digital divide,” 5G deployment, privacy, and other issues that will be affected by the outcome of the election.

Click here for more information on this and other sessions at the virtual conference.

Please join us on September 17 for an overview of the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”), the agency’s largest universal service high-cost program designed to support broadband deployment in unserved areas. One year after the RDOF’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC is preparing for the Phase I auction of up to $16 billion in support on October 29, 2020. This webinar will take listeners through what they need to know ahead of the auction, including the auction structure, performance requirements, deployment obligations, and post-auction considerations. We will cover:

  • The background of the RDOF and how it relates to Connect America Fund Phase II;
  • How the RDOF works (budget, eligible areas, support awarded, deployment);
  • The two-stage RDOF application process;
  • Unresolved issues and potential pitfalls in RDOF; and
  • Considerations and recommendations for RDOF participants.

The webinar will also focus on the process for petitioning the states and/or the FCC for eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) status, which will be required before the winning entities can provide service and receive the support. Register here.

This event builds on our annual Universal Service Fund webinar and ongoing coverage of the FCC’s efforts to close the “digital divide” between rural and urban areas.

Americans who lack high-speed broadband internet access are caught on the wrong side of the “Digital Divide,” with students facing a “homework gap” and adults, and even entire communities, facing an “opportunity gap” that impacts everything from jobs, education, and healthcare to sustainability and well-being. In this episode of Kelley Drye’s Legal Download, Partner John Heitmann and Associate Carolyn Mahoney discuss the increasing importance of access to advanced communications networks and services, and a few of the legal issues involved in closing the digital divide and enabling connected life.

Click here to listen and subscribe.

Protecting the U.S. communications supply chain from national security threats has become a priority for the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) and the agency’s recent Communications Supply Chain Protection proceeding resulted in new rules restricting the use of universal service support funds for certain equipment and services and the designation of Huawei and ZTE as national security threats to the communications networks and supply chain. The recently enacted Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 (“Secure Networks Act”) requires the FCC to adopt additional communications supply chain protection measures and the Declaratory Ruling (“Declaratory Ruling”) and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Second FNPRM”), adopted by the FCC’s at its July Open Meeting, continues the Commission’s implementation of the Secure Networks Act. The Declaratory Ruling/Second FNPRM declares the Commission’s compliance with the Secure Networks Act’s federal funding prohibition requirement and seeks comment on the FCC’s proposed interpretation and implementation of other provisions including key definitions and the identification of equipment and services subject to federal funding prohibitions.

Comments on the Second FNPRM are due by August 31, 2020 and reply comments are due by September 14, 2020.

Continue Reading FCC Remains Focused on Communications Supply Chain Protection; Seeks Comment on Continued Implementation of Secure Networks Act

Last Thursday, the President issued two executive orders (“E.O.s”) targeting social media applications TikTok (and its parent company, ByteDance) and WeChat (and its parent company, Tencent Holdings).  The E.O.s direct the Department of Commerce (“DOC”) to prohibit transactions involving the applications.  Companies that deal directly with TikTok or WeChat in the United States and abroad or use their services need to evaluate the scope of those activities and determine if they will be affected by the E.O.s.

Click here to read the full post from Kelley Drye’s Trade and Manufacturing Monitor.

Owners and operators with incumbent earth stations operating in the 3700-4000 MHz range have three weeks to choose between the two options created by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) in its so-called C-Band proceeding, which requires transition of those earth stations out of the 300 MHz range. The two options each owner/operator has are either to elect to receive lump sum amounts the FCC announced in a Public Notice on July 30, 2020, for all of an owner/operator’s earth stations operating in the band, or to have the associated space station operators undertake the transition of the earth stations on a turn-key basis in accordance with the space station operators’ transition plans. Those plans will only be finalized on August 14, 2020. The lump sum elections, which are irrevocable if made, must be declared in on-line filings with the Commission on or before August 31, 2020, as explained at the end of the July 30 Public Notice.

Continue Reading Clock Winding Down on August 31 Lump Sum Election Date for C-Band Earth Stations

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 of Kelley Drye’s Full Spectrum podcast, Special Counsel Mike Dover and Senior Associate Janine Fletcher-Thomas discuss biometric privacy rights with a special focus on Illinois’ BIPA, which is the only law in the country that allows individuals and classes to bring a private lawsuit for violations without showing actual injury, spawning a huge wave of litigation. With the use of biometrics increasing, Janine and Mike explain the basics of the law, how it may affect your business, recent class actions, what companies should be doing now to protect themselves, and what to expect in the future.

Click here to listen 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