Simultaneously with issuing a nearly $3,000,000 fine to HobbyKing for marketing unauthorized (and in some cases not capable of being authorized) audio/video (“AV”) transmitters for use with drone mounted cameras, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s” or “Commission’s”) Enforcement Bureau issued an Advisory Tuesday reminding retailer manufacturers, and operators of their obligations:  no marketing or operation of unauthorized equipment except under very limited exceptions.

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On November 25, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc penned a blog post outlining the Commission’s enforcement process and touting the upward trend in recent years in collecting fines issued for violations of the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules.  The post was written in response to a recent Politico article suggesting that the agency may be more interested in grabbing headlines rather than actually collecting the massive fines it has announced in recent years.


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Kajeet, Inc., and its wholly-owned subsidiary Kajeet/Airlink LLC, has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a 2009 investigation by the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (Bureau), initiated in 2009, into several company violations.  The investigation concerned the company’s apparent failure to make timely contributions to the Universal Service Fund (USF) and various other industry funds (the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, the Local Number Portability (LNP) cost recovery mechanism, etc.) and Kajeet/Airlink’s failure to seek an assignment of an international Section 214 authorization in connection with the acquisition of assets of Airlink Mobile.  While the Consent Decree, released on October 7, 2015, has many of the provisions that have become the “new normal” for the current Bureau – an admission of liability, civil penalty – it is remarkable for several reasons.

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iStock_000008141839LargeToday, the Federal Communications Commission released a Policy Statement announcing a “treble damages” methodology to assess forfeitures for failure to make payment to a series of federal programs, a move which the agency anticipates will allow it to begin “significantly more investigations.”    The new policy appears to allow the FCC to impose significantly larger fines than in similar investigations in the past, but may implicate the FCC’s statutory maximum forfeiture authority in some cases.
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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.


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At Kelley Drye, we handle a lot of FCC investigations, so we know first hand how the Commission develops proposed forfeitures for telecom violations. A case released today, however, underscores the inherent weakness in the FCC’s current ad hoc approach. After proposing a fine of $100,000 for a privacy violation, the FCC settled the case for a mere $250. There is no mention of mitigating circumstances, of an inability to pay or of any of the statutory factors the FCC is obligated to consider. The outcome leaves you wondering: Just what is the base fine for failing to comply with the FCC’s privacy rules?
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As of COB yesterday, 3070 unique CPNI submissions were made in the FCC’s annual CPNI certification docket.  That number is almost the same as the 3,107 CPNI filers in 2009.  However, it still is about 500 fewer than the number of active USF filers, according to USAC’s most recent report, and is over 3,000 entities fewer