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

At its May Open Meeting on May 13, 2020, in addition to items on regulatory fees and broadcaster applications notices, the Commission will consider two spectrum related items designed to further expand wireless broadband opportunities. In a draft Report and Order to transition the 900 MHz Band, the Commission would make six of the ten megahertz between 896-901 and 935-940 MHz available on a paired basis for commercial broadband mobile services while reserving four megahertz for incumbent narrowband communications. The Commission would also establish a transition mechanism based on voluntary negotiations to move narrowband incumbents operations to the lower and upper portions of each sub-band. In a draft Second Report and Order, the Commission would add new Ku- and Ka-Band frequencies for Earth Stations in Motion (“ESIMs”) and allow ESIMs, which have always communicated with geostationary orbit (“GSO”) fixed satellite service (“FSS”) satellites, to also communicate with non-geostationary satellite orbit (“NGSO”) satellites orbiting closer to Earth.

Stakeholders in the 900 MHz and Ku- and Ka-Bands should closely examine these two items and the impact on their business. You will find more information on the key May meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Plans to Realign 900 MHz Land Mobile Band to Include Commercial Broadband Mobile Licenses and Expand Frequencies Available to Earth Stations in Motion at May Meeting

On February 28, 2020, at its Open Meeting, the FCC voted to commence a rulemaking to examine the rebalancing of many technical rules governing the deployment of fixed and certain mobile, unlicensed white space devices in the television bands (in and around the 600 MHz range) to increase opportunities for relatively long-distance connectivity in rural and underserved areas, such as for wireless broadband solutions or applications associated with the Internet of Things (“IoT”), although there are no application restrictions on white space devices per se. The rule changes are proposed only in those frequencies below TV channel 35, and so exclude the 600 MHz duplex gap and the 600 MHz service band. The text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) was promptly released on March 2. Comments are due 30 days after Federal Register publication with replies due sixty days after publication, which has not yet occurred.

Continue Reading FCC Opens Proceeding to Reinvigorate Opportunities for TV White Space Devices

Last week, in a major enforcement action, the FCC proposed $208 million in fines against the nation’s four largest wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—for allegedly selling access to their customers’ location information without taking “reasonable measures” to protect the information against unauthorized disclosure. The FCC argued that such actions violated its rules regarding the protection of customer data known as customer proprietary network information (CPNI).

This enforcement action marks a series of firsts. It is the first CPNI enforcement action since the pre-2016 CPNI regulations were reinstated following the repeal of the broadband privacy rules by Congress in 2017. This is also the first large consumer protection enforcement action under Chairman Pai’s leadership—up to now, Chairman Pai has eschewed the principle-based enforcement of his predecessor in favor of more clear-cut rules violations. The action also generated criticism both for being too soft (and too late) and for potentially being beyond the Commission’s jurisdiction.


Continue Reading FCC Proposes Over $200 Million in Fines to Big Four Wireless Carriers for Allegedly Selling Customer Data Without Safeguards

Even with the dog days of summer upon us, the FCC shows no signs of slowing down on its policymaking priorities in a jam-packed agenda for its next open meeting on August 1, 2019. Headlining the agenda is a proposal to establish a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) offering $20.4 billion over a decade to support high-speed broadband deployment to unserved areas. The RDOF would eventually replace the FCC’s Connect America Fund (“CAF”) as the agency’s primary universal service program for high-cost areas. The areas receiving RDOF support would be determined by a new agency-led information collection, requiring more granular service data from broadband providers. As with the CAF, the RDOF proceeding is sure to engender debate in the broadband industry about the appropriate performance benchmarks, auction bidding rules, and data collection mechanisms. In addition to the RDOF, the FCC also plans to adopt items at the August meeting to reform how it allocates Rural Health Care Program funding; streamline licensing procedures for small satellite systems (otherwise known as “smallsats”); establish procedures for the auction of new toll free numbers; implement 911 direct dial and location information requirements on multi-line telephone systems (“MLTS”) often found in offices, hotels, and college campuses; expand the agency’s anti-spoofing rules; and limit the franchise fees placed on cable operators.

The August agenda items impact all corners of the telecommunications industry. You will find more details on some of the most significant August meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Previews Summer Blockbuster Meeting, With USF Reform, Smallsat Licensing, and Anti-Spoofing Measures on Tap for August

At Wednesday’s July Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Report and Order (“Order”) to modify the regulatory framework and allocation plan for the 2496 – 2690 MHz (“2.5 GHz”) band—at 194 megahertz, the largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz. The objective of the Order is to make more mid-band spectrum available for commercial use and facilitate the development of 5G services—a key spectrum policy priority for this FCC and the Trump Administration. The Order will allocate unused spectrum in the band and remove educational use requirements to free it up for non-educational commercial entities.

Continue Reading FCC Set to Commercialize Educational Broadband Service Portion of 2.5 GHz Band to Enable 5G

On Friday, May 31, 2019, the FCC released a much-anticipated notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) to consider the adoption of an overall budget cap on the Universal Service Fund (“USF”), separate from any individual budgets for each of the four USF programs. The NPRM is in response to years-long advocacy on the part of Commissioner O’Rielly to impose budgets on USF spending, and it comes over dissent of the two Democratic Commissioners. While Commissioner O’Rielly justified the proposal as responsible stewardship of public money and said it would not limit funding in the near future, Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks criticized the proposal as undermining the goals of Universal Service and, at worst, creating a “universal service hunger games” among the support programs.

The release of the NPRM was our first look at the specifics of a proposal that broke a month ago. The NPRM does not propose a specific budget, primarily raises questions about how to proceed, and does not contain any proposed rules. Nevertheless, opponents of the proposal have been most vocal since word of the NPRM came out, and we expect those USF stakeholders to continue in opposition to the approach. Meanwhile, proposals to reform USF contributions remain stalled (and lacking any consensus), while the contribution factor hovers around 20% of assessable revenues.


Continue Reading Does the Universal Service Fund Need a Cap? A Divided FCC Begins its Inquiry

At its April Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Fifth Report and Order (“R&O”) in the Spectrum Frontiers Proceeding that adopted sharing rules in two settings. The new rules will allow the federal government to deploy, in limited circumstances, additional station sites in spectrum to be auctioned for flexible mobile and fixed use in the 37.6-38.6 GHz frequency range (the “Upper 37 GHz Band”). The rules also will allow fixed satellite service (“FSS”) operators to individually license earth stations in the 50.4-51.4 GHz band (the “50 GHz Band”) while the FCC considers whether spectrum in the 50 GHz Band should also be auctioned for flexible mobile and fixed use. By acting now on these matters, the Commission intends to help provide Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (“UMFUS”) providers with certainty regarding their potential future use of the spectrum before the auctions commence.

Continue Reading FCC Adopts Limited Sharing Arrangements in the Upper 37 GHz and 50 GHz Bands