iStock_000019536561LargeOn April 8, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) Enforcement Bureau (“EB”) reached a $25 million consent decree with AT&T over privacy and data security breaches involving its customers’ proprietary information (“PI”) and customer proprietary network information (“CPNI”) at three of AT&T’s international call centers.  Under the terms of the settlement, AT&T must implement a wide-ranging compliance plan, notify affected customers of the breach (and provide free credit monitoring services), and report any noncompliance or future breaches to the Commission.

As explained in more detail below, this settlement represents the latest in a growing trend in aggressive enforcement of the Commission’s privacy and data security rules.  As the Commission continues to find new ways to apply its rules against carriers—and begins to implement its 2015 Open Internet Order against broadband Internet access service providers—providers should take steps to bring themselves (and their vendors) into compliance.


Continue Reading AT&T Reaches $25 Million Settlement with FCC over Privacy and Data Security Violations

Modern mobile devicesOn March 31st, a federal judge in California District Court issued an Order denying AT&T’s motion to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) lawsuit against the company concerning its advertising and business practices for its mobile wireless data plans.  This case presented an increasingly common question concerning the dividing line between jurisdiction of the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) over activities of telecommunications companies.  With the order, the FTC’s case against AT&T will now move forward on the merits. 
Continue Reading “Throttled” Motion to Dismiss; FTC Case Against AT&T for “Unlimited” Data Promises Continues

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A Notice of Apparent Liability issued today by the Federal Communications Commission against AT&T for numerous alleged violations of microwave point-to-point license rules after a lengthy investigation by the Enforcement Bureau, but the two Republican Commissioners took the Commission and Bureau to task for failing to provide transparent factual bases and justifications for both the base violations and also the grounds for proposed upward adjustments.  Commissioner Ajit Pai made a point of concurring and Commissioner Michael O’Reilly concurred in part and dissented in part.


Continue Reading FCC’s Proposed Forfeiture of $640,000 against AT&T for License Violations Stemming from Acquisitions Subject to Republican Criticism

On September 30, 2014, AT&T Mobility (“AT&T”) asked a U.S. District Court judge to approve a settlement agreement that would resolve a class action arising under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA” or “Act”).  In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that AT&T made auto-dialed calls to wireless phone numbers without receiving the prior express consent of the recipients, as required by the TCPA.  Specifically, the plaintiffs’ allegations concerned collection calls made to former customers at the wireless number provided when the account was established with AT&T.  AT&T disputed the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that the recipients gave consent to receive these calls when they provided their phone number as the “can-be-reached-at” number for calls regarding AT&T customer accounts.  Nevertheless, according to the joint motion submitted to the court, the company has agreed to pay $45 million to settle the dispute.  This is one of the largest TCPA settlements in recent history, and continues a trend of high profile TCPA class actions.
Continue Reading AT&T Mobility Agrees to Pay $45 Million to Settle TCPA Litigation

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission released an order affirming the International Bureau’s 2009 order directing all U.S. facilities-based carriers within the FCC’s jurisdiction to stop payments to Tonga Communications Corporation (“TCC”) for termination of switched voice service (“Stop Payment Order“) on the U.S.-Tonga route. The April 7 Memorandum Opinion and Order affirmed the Bureau’s conclusion that TCC’s significant increase in its rates for terminating traffic on the U.S.-Tonga route – even if ordered by the Tongan government – and its disruption of AT&T’s and Verizon’s circuits to Tonga each constituted anticompetitive conduct that harmed U.S. consumers and were contrary to the public interest. The FCC also rejected TCC’s contention that the Stop Payment Order constituted unauthorized extraterritorial regulation of TCC on the grounds that only U.S. international carriers were subject to the order.
Continue Reading FCC Maintains Suspension of U.S. Carrier Payments on U.S.-Tonga Route

The release of three notices of liability in the past two weeks regarding alleged violations of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) antenna structure violations by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) reveals the extent to which size may trump uncooperative and extended non-compliant behavior when it comes to proposed forfeitures.  For violations falling under same category

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (“District Court”) made a potentially significant pronouncement regarding the procedure affecting interpretation and enforcement of interconnection agreements and the types of claims that can be brought. In Level 3 Communications, LLC and Broadwing Communications, LLC v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co., et al.,  

Jameson Dempsey co-authored this post. 

With the new year upon us, the FCC will soon be receiving comment on one of the “big picture” issues facing telecom regulation: addressing the evolution of the Public Switched Telephone Network (“PSTN”) from “legacy” time-division multiplexing (“TDM”) systems toward an Internet protocol (“IP”) based network.  The transition from the traditional PSTN to IP has been a hot topic at the Commission and within the industry, as consumers increasingly “cut the cord” on landline copper networks and rely on mobile wireless or IP-enabled communications technologies running on broadband networks.  However, consumer groups and small carriers have warned that in recognizing the inevitable transition toward IP, the FCC should not abdicate—and in some cases must increase—regulatory authority over communications networks. Later this month, the FCC will receive comment on two divergent petitions proposing responses to the transition. These petitions provide the first opportunity for the FCC to frame the debate over IP-enabled communications in Obama’s second administration.


Continue Reading FCC Opens the Year with A New Look at the Transition from TDM to IP Networks

One of the central issues in any spectrum sharing environment is the ability to enforce compliance with the regulations governing operation of the devices in the band, particularly the operation of secondary devices sharing spectrum on a non-interference basis with primary services. This is equally the case when new categories of unlicensed users gain access to share a band with incumbent operators. Currently, the exploration of what spectrum bands the federal government may be able to make available for access by private sector broadband providers and users, whether as a result of spectrum sharing or band clearing, has assumed center stage among policy makers. Last week’s meeting of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) underscored the importance of rule enforcement when maximizing access to spectrum and the need for trust and confidence among users in a spectrum sharing environment.

At the end of September, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took several coordinated steps to enhance the better operation of a spectrum sharing framework adopted several years ago. Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (TDWRs) maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operate at airports in the 5600-5650 MHz band to obtain a variety of data used in real time by aviation operations, such as gust fronts, wind shear, and microbursts. The band is also used by wireless ISPs operating IEEE-802.11a devices on an unlicensed, non-interference basis as part of the Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) framework.

On September 27, the Commission issued an enforcement advisory (Advisory) directed to not just wireless ISPs operating U-NII equipment in the 5600-5650 MHz band, but to manufacturers, retailers, and marketers of U-NII devices. The multi-faceted target audience serves as a reminder that FCC enforcement actions to preserve the viability of sharing frameworks, especially when they involve unlicensed operations, will not be limited to the persons or entities operating the radio devices.


Continue Reading FCC’s U-NII Advisory and Enforcement Actions Underscore Potential Growing Pains of Spectrum Sharing by Unlicensed Devices