Spectrum issues will once again take center stage at the FCC’s next open meeting scheduled for March 15, 2019. In a jam-packed agenda, the FCC plans to create a new category of experimental licenses for operations in spectrum above 95 GHz and potentially make more than 21 gigahertz available for unlicensed use in these so-called “spectrum horizons.” The agency also anticipates launching a rulemaking to permit broadband operations in a portion of the 900 MHz band that currently is used for two-way radio operations. In addition, the FCC expects to seek input on improving spectrum partitioning, disaggregation, and leasing arrangements. These spectrum proposals follow similar FCC actions designed to improve access to mid- and high-band frequencies, and could jump-start a new wave of innovation in next-generation, short-range technologies. Rounding out the major actions on the March agenda, the FCC plans to propose new wireless E911 location accuracy requirements and adopt service quality standards for intermediate service providers to improve rural call completion. If adopted, these proposals would impose significant obligations on carriers of all sizes and could potentially lead to serious fines in the event of noncompliance.

You will find more details on the significant March meeting items after the break:

Continue Reading FCC Looks to the Spectrum Horizons in March Open Meeting

At its December 12 Open Meeting, the FCC adopted its first Communications Marketplace Report, which combines several separate reports into one and is meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the mobile wireless, fixed broadband, audio, video, and satellite communications markets. Congress directed the Commission to complete such a report biennially with its passage of the RAY BAUM’S Act in March 2018. The Act also reauthorized the FCC for the first time in nearly three decades and directed the FCC to take on additional efforts to free up spectrum for commercial mobile and fixed wireless use. Significantly, while the Commission was previously required to include in the Mobile Wireless Competition Report an assessment of whether there is effective competition in the mobile wireless market, whether any carriers have a dominant share of the market, and whether additional carriers would enhance competition, these requirements were struck by the RAY BAUM’S Act when the wireless report was folded into the marketplace report. As a result, the marketplace report does not venture to analyze, or even mention, the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile.
Click here for more on the report.

The FCC will focus on 5G spectrum and the infrastructure supporting next-generation broadband services at its meeting planned for August 2, 2018. Continuing its push to make more spectrum available for flexible wireless use to support 5G technologies, the FCC teed up two major spectrum-related items for its August Open Meeting, which comes hot on the heels of its July 12 meeting. The items would open up 1.55 GHz of spectrum for commercial use through two auctions, with the first auction set to begin later this year. The FCC also plans to take a major step forward in supporting broadband deployment by adopting a long-anticipated “one-touch make-ready” regime for pole attachments, while taking aim at deployment moratoria. Rounding out the major items, the FCC will seek comment on launching a $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program. The proposed items maintain the trend of jam-packed Summer FCC meetings (which will then take a break until September 26) and will be sure to generate input from all communications industry sectors. You will find more details on the significant August FCC items after the jump:

Continue Reading 5G and Broadband Infrastructure in the Spotlight at August FCC Meeting

Today the Office of Federal Register published a final rule from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) that formally voids the rule changes in the Commission’s 2016 Privacy Order—which Congress invalidated in a 2017 Congressional Review Act (CRA) joint resolution earlier this year—and reinstates the voice-centric customer proprietary network information (CPNI) rules “in effect immediately prior to the effect date” of the FCC’s 2016 Privacy Order.

As the Commission notes in the summary of today’s action, “because the CRA does not include direction regarding the removal . . . of the voided language from the Code of Federal Regulations, the FCC must publish this document to effect the removal of the voided” rule’s text.  The Commission further explains that the publication of the previous rules is not an exercise of rulemaking authority, but rather simply effectuates what Congress had already done, and therefore today’s action is neither subject to public comment nor to judicial review.  The FCC’s action is effective today and does not substantively modify the CPNI rules in effect immediately prior to the issuance of the 2016 Privacy Order.

In June, the FCC issued an Order that formally recognized the CRA’s disapproval of the 2016 Privacy Order and dismissed eleven petitions for reconsideration of the new privacy rules.  The June Order noted that the reinstated rules would not apply to broadband service, which would be subject only to the text of Section 222 of the Communications Act, as amended. The June Order was met with a strong partial dissent from Commissioner Clyburn, who challenged the Commission’s decision not to place the item on public comment or to provide consumers with privacy rules beyond the “bare text of section 222” and “decade-old rules for legacy voice.”

For providers, today’s action formalizes what we’ve known for some time: the old CPNI rules are back in effect for non-broadband telecommunications carriers and providers of interconnected VoIP, and the statutory text of Section 222 continues to apply to broadband providers until further action.

 

 

On August 24, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) published in the Federal Register its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that explores ways to improve the value of data, collected on FCC Form 477, regarding the availability of mobile and fixed broadband and other communications services, and to identify and eliminate unnecessary or overly-burdensome filing requirements.  The FNPRM proposes numerous changes to data collection for mobile and fixed services as well as ancillary logistical issues related to the Form 477 – for a more detailed overview of these proposals, see our previous blog post.  Federal Register publication starts the clock on the comment cycle for the item.  Initial comments on the FNPRM will be due on September 25, 2017, and reply comments will be due on October 10, 2017.

At its August Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) voted unanimously in favor of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that explores ways to improve the value of data, collected on FCC Form 477, regarding the availability of mobile and fixed broadband and other communications services, and to identify and eliminate unnecessary or overly-burdensome filing requirements.  The FNPRM proposes numerous changes to data collection for mobile and fixed services as well as ancillary logistical issues related to the Form 477.  Comments on the proposals set forth in the FNPRM will be due 30 days after the item is published in the Federal Register, and reply comments will be due 15 days after initial comments.  The FNPRM has not yet been published so the exact comment deadlines are not known at this time.

Continue Reading August 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Proposes Changes to Broadband Data Collection

At its August Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a Public Notice (“Notice”) that addresses the procedures for its upcoming Connect America Fund (“CAF”) Phase II auction (“Auction” or “Auction 903”), scheduled to begin in 2018. Auction 903 will be a competitive reverse auction wherein service providers will compete for up to $1.98 billion in financial support as part of an ongoing effort by the FCC to revise the high cost universal service support program. The Notice seeks comment on the FCC’s proposed process for how an applicant can become qualified to participate in the Auction, how bidders will submit bids, and how bids will be processed to determine winners and assign support amounts. Comments are due by September 18, 2017 and reply comments are due by October 18, 2017.

The Auction is the second part of CAF Phase II. The initial part of CAF Phase II occurred in 2015, when ten price cap carriers accepted offers of support calculated by a cost model in exchange for the providers’ commitment to deploy and maintain voice and broadband service in high cost areas. Service providers that seek to participate in the Auction will bid on providing service to eligible high cost areas including those areas where incumbent price cap carriers declined the support calculated by the cost-model. In 2016, the FCC adopted the Phase II Auction Order, which established the rules for the Auction’s bidding process including the bidder performance obligations, application mechanism, bidder eligibility criteria, eligible areas, and post-auction obligations. More recently, in March 2017, the FCC adopted bidding weights for the different performance category tiers for Auction 903 (as previously discussed here). The Notice takes final steps towards executing the Auction by resolving specific details of the mechanics established in these earlier proceedings.

Continue Reading August 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: Commission Sets Reverse Auction Procedures for CAF Phase II Auction

Below is Kelley Drye’s preview of the items under consideration at the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s or Commission’s) upcoming monthly Open Meeting, to be held on August 3, 2017. Consistent with the trend since he took over the Commission, Chairman Ajit Pai continues to schedule a large number of items.  Indeed, for the seventh month in a row, the Commission has six or more items on its agenda.  This month, the agenda consists of eight items and has several items taking concrete steps to resolve proceedings or important questions presented to the Commission.  The areas covered skew heavily toward broadband deployment, with a CAF Phase II item, a Mobility Fund item and several spectrum items.  In addition, the Commission again has enforcement items on the agenda:  one (unidentified) item on the regular agenda and a one-item consent agenda involving an additional (unidentified) enforcement action.

The most significant agenda items are summarized below. Note: these brief summaries are based on draft items, which may differ from the final items released following the Open Meeting.  Please check with Kelley Drye after the meeting for more information on the items below.

Continue Reading What to Expect at the FCC’s August 2017 Open Meeting

On June 22, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) conditionally granted OneWeb’s proposed 720 Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (“NGSO”) constellation access to the U.S. market in select frequency bands.   OneWeb filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the FCC or U.S. market access rather than an application because it states that its space system license application will be acted upon by the United Kingdom.

The FCC order approving the Petition (the “OneWeb Approval Order”) characterizes the grant as “the first of its kind for a new generation of large… NGSO systems” which the Commission hopes will facilitate “high-speed, affordable broadband connectivity” nationwide.  The FCC’s grant was conditioned on, among other things, ITU coordination, power limits, avoidance of in-line interference, orbital debris mitigation, the outcome of pending and future rulemakings, and satisfaction of bond and milestone requirements.  The OneWeb grant remains subject to the outcomes of several other pending proceedings (as well as any future FCC rules) and the requirement that OneWeb will share spectrum with other NGSO systems the Commission approves in the same spectrum bands and other users of the spectrum.  The OneWeb Approval Order makes clear that any earth station applications will be subject to a separate filing and review cycle. Continue Reading June 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Grants OneWeb’s U.S. Market-Access Petition for its Ka/Ku-Band NGSO System Subject to Conditions

At its June 2017 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or “Commission”) unanimously approved a process to review the alternative plans of States and Territories (“States”) that seek to opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (“FirstNet”) plan for the radio access network (“RAN”) portion of the nationwide public safety broadband network (“NPSBN” or “the Network”). Under the FCC’s Report and Order (“Order”), a State will have 90 days following receipt of FirstNet’s plan to notify the FCC, FirstNet, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) of its decision to opt out.  Following a preliminary Commission review, as detailed in the procedures adopted in the Order, the Commission will allow comment from approved stakeholders on a State’s alternative RAN plan and then make a decision on the sufficiency of that alternative plan.

Continue Reading June 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: FCC Adopts Rules to Govern State Opt-out of FirstNet Plan