CashThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reduced the penalty assessed against a long distance carrier by over $6 million in a Forfeiture Order issued earlier this week, after the carrier demonstrated an inability to pay the proposed fine.  In doing so, the FCC provided rare insight into how it assesses inability to pay claims raised by enforcement action targets and balances such claims against other forfeiture adjustment factors.  The Forfeiture Order provides the most recent detailed guidance about how a company’s finances can impact the FCC’s forfeiture analysis, but offers little comfort to low-margin businesses with limited net revenues.

Continue Reading FCC Provides Guidance on Inability to Pay Analysis in Enforcement Actions; Significantly Reduces Slamming/Cramming Penalty

On April 3, 2017, President Trump signed into law a Congressional joint resolution eliminating new broadband and voice privacy rules set forth in a November 2016 order (the 2016 Privacy Order) by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (the Joint Resolution).  Members of Congress largely voted along partisan lines. The House approved the Joint Resolution by a 215-205 vote and the Senate approved it by a 50-48 vote.
Continue Reading Client Advisory: Congress Repeals FCC 2016 Privacy Order via Congressional Review Act

On Thursday, February 23, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a pair of forfeiture orders against pirate radio operators.  Each was subject to a $25,000 fine for allegedly continually operating unlicensed radio stations in violation of Section 301 of the Communications Act. 
Continue Reading A Change of Pace? Pirate Radio Actions Signal A Possible Shift to Accelerated Issuance of Forfeiture Orders

On February 15, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its first Commission-level consent decree since Chairman Pai’s process reform measure, discussed in our earlier blog post, which removed the Enforcement Bureau’s (Bureau) power to settle monetary enforcement actions originally issued by the FCC.  Settlement of this matter had been in the works for some time so one should not draw too many conclusions about what the FCC’s priorities will be going forward. There are, however, some differences in this Consent Decree when compared with the Bureau’s approach under the leadership of Travis LeBlanc that are worthy of note.

Continue Reading FCC Issues First Commission-level Consent Decree Order Since Removing Authority from Enforcement Bureau

Last week, the Enforcement Bureau (“EB”) of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commision”) reached a $ 100 million Consent Decree with Straight Path Communications Inc (“Straight Path” or “The Company”) for fraudulently violating FCC buildout and discontinuance rules with respect to their licenses in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz spectrum bands.  Under

stock_12192012_0878Showing that it’s not about to slow down its aggressive enforcement of its open Internet regulations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a settlement yesterday resolving claims that T-Mobile USA Inc. (T-Mobile) failed to adequately disclose material restrictions on T-Mobile and MetroPCS data plans that were advertised as “unlimited” from August 2014 to June 2015.  Specifically, the FCC’s investigation found that T‑Mobile failed to adequately disclose that it would significantly slow the speed of its customers’ “unlimited” data after they reached preset, undisclosed thresholds for data usage.

The FCC’s settlement requires T-Mobile to pay a total of $48 million. It further requires T-Mobile to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material limitations on the amount and speed of mobile data for its “unlimited” plans, and includes reporting and training obligations.


Continue Reading FCC Flexes Muscle: T-Mobile to Pay $48 Million for Failing to Disclose Limits on ‘Unlimited’ Data

stock_03082013_0826It’s official: next Thursday, March 31, 2016, the FCC will vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposed framework for new privacy and data security rules for broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers.  This proceeding will have important implications for not only the broadband providers subject to the rules, but also for the Internet ecosystem as a whole.

This rulemaking proceeding stems from the 2015 Open Internet Order, which reclassified BIAS as a telecommunications service and applied several of the FCC’s core consumer protection provisions—including Section 201 and 222 of the Communications Act—to BIAS.  Section 201(b) prohibits “unjust or unreasonable” practices, which the FCC has interpreted to require reasonable data security practices.  Section 222 (and the Commission’s interpretations of that section) establishes a complex framework for the protection of proprietary information (PI), carrier proprietary information (CPI), and customer proprietary network information (CPNI).  CPNI, in short, is the information that a carrier has about its customer solely by virtue of the customer-provider relationship.  However, because the CPNI rules promulgated pursuant to Section 222 were designed with traditional telecommunications services in mind, the FCC declined to impose those rules on BIAS, instead opting for a rulemaking proceeding to create new broadband CPNI rules.


Continue Reading FCC Includes Privacy Item on Its March Open Meeting Agenda: What to Expect


Last week, the Federal Communication Bar Association’s (FCBA’s) Enforcement Committee hosted a legal seminar on an issue that is somewhat new and unfamiliar to the communications bar – the federal False Claims Act (FCA), and particularly its use by the federal government to combat fraud in the Universal Service Fund (USF).  All in attendance had the unique opportunity to hear from representatives from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau on the process for evaluating FCA cases, including the substantial intergovernmental coordination, as well as a lively debate from practitioners and litigators regarding whether or not the FCA should be applied to claims for USF.  For those unfamiliar with the FCA, a brief overview is available here.

While the entire discussion was enlightening and rich with inside detail, there were a few things that stood out for anyone keeping an eye on these issues.


Continue Reading The FCA and the USF: Reactions and Impressions from the FCBA’s False Claims Act Seminar

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On November 16, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which the two agencies agreed to engage in greater coordination and collaboration on consumer protection issues, with greater respect for each agency’s jurisdiction. The MOU comes at a time when both agencies are seeking to position themselves as protectors of consumers in the digital economy.
Continue Reading FCC and FTC Reach Consumer Protection Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Agencies Promise Cooperation, Express Shared Jurisdiction over Carrier Activities

Wi-Fi management or blocking practices have once again seized the enforcement spotlight at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  On November 2, the FCC released a Notice of Apparent Liability (Dean NAL) proposing  a $718,000 penalty against M.C. Dean, an electrical contracting company, for allegedly blocking Wi-Fi hotspots at the Baltimore Convention Center.  That same day, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) released an NAL proposing a $25,000 fine against Hilton Worldwide (Hilton NAL) for its apparent refusal to comply with a Bureau Letter of Inquiry (LOI) investigating the company’s Wi-Fi management practices.  That investigation continues.

The new releases highlight several items of interest: 1) the FCC’s continued focus on Wi-Fi management resulting in blocking activities and alleged malicious interference, 2) the debate among the Commissioners regarding the FCC’s ability to fine companies for such activities under current law and FCC regulations, and 3) the potential expansion of Bureau investigations into the activities of the subsidiaries, affiliates and possibly franchisees of the investigation’s initial target.


Continue Reading FCC Issues NAL in First Contested Enforcement Proceeding Involving Wi-Fi Blocking