At its November 15 Open Meeting, the FCC intends to vote on a Report and Order (“Order”) to make some important changes to the requirements for wireless service providers to report on the number of hearing aid compatible (“HAC”) handsets they offer. The dual aims of the rule changes are to ease the burden of the reporting obligations while improving consumer access to information about HAC wireless handsets. Specifically, the FCC proposes to drop the requirement for service providers to file annual forms with HAC device information, and instead disclose detailed information on their websites and make an annual certification of compliance with the rules. Websites updated with the new required information and the first certification of compliance will be due 30 days after notice of Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) approval of the new rules is published in the Federal Register. If the Order is adopted at Thursday’s meeting, service providers should promptly begin working on website revisions and not wait for OMB approval.

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At its Open Meeting on October 24, the FCC took a major step in recrafting the licensing and other rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”) in the 3550-3700 MHz band (the “3.5 GHz band”) and promote 5G rollouts.  Early in his tenure as FCC Chair which began in January of this year, Ajit Pai tasked Commissioner Michael O’Reilly with reexamining the regulatory framework in the band adopted in 2015, particularly as it applied to Priority Access Licenses (“PALs”).  Within months, CTIA and T-Mobile filed petitions for rulemaking to make the licensing rules, from commercial wireless’s perspective more investment friendly.  Now the Commission has moved ultra-rapidly to act on those petitions and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to consider making rule changes largely consistent with those sought by those proponents.  The Commission hopes to bolster commercial investment and deployment in the band convinced that, for large scale 5G deployments, providers need greater certainty than the Wheeler-era rules afford.
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businessman is dialing a phone number in officeOn November 19, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) adopted a Fourth Report and Order (R&O) and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), expanding its hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules to cover additional modes of voice communications access, including Wi-Fi calling and VoIP applications.  In the NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on a joint industry proposal (Joint Proposal) to move to 100 percent wireless handset HAC compliance within eight years.  Comments are due by January 14, 2016 and replies are due by January 29, 2016.

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stock_11272012_0902On Monday, May 18, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the effectiveness as of that same date of the remaining wireless infrastructure rules the agency adopted in October 2014.  In an earlier blog post, we explained that the rules adopted by the FCC in its Wireless Infrastructure Report and Order were taking effect in phases.  The newly effective rules were held up pending review by the Office of Management and Budget.

The principal rules taking effect May 18 fully implement the new 60-day “deemed granted” remedy for companies when the State or local reviewing body fails to act in a timely fashion on eligible facilities modification requests that do not substantially change the physical dimensions of the antennas structure.  This rule was adopted to implement Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which provides, in part, that “a State or local government may not deny, and shall approve, any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.”  This means that companies no longer need wait for actual approval for qualifying deployments in the event the State or local government does not act within sixty days. 
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At the FCC’s October Open Meeting on October 17, the Commission unanimously adopted a Report and Order to update its rules and procedures for new and modified antenna structures.   In the News Release following the vote, the Commission noted the new rules are expected to create the foundation for increased advanced wireless broadband deployment nationwide.  In their comments at the Open meeting, the Commissioners focused on the effect the new rules will have to facilitate Distributed Antenna Systems (“DAS”) and small cell deployment.

The full text of the Report and Order has not yet been released.  The new rules will take effect 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register.  The longer period was a concession to  Commissioner Clyburn’s concerns about the burdens on state and local governments to comply with the new rules, which will impose a “shot clock” on state and local government review.
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