In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers and actions. Kelley Drye’s Communications practice group is tracking these actions and provides this overview of the key actions impacting enterprise and small business customers of communications services. For additional information on these and other FCC actions, follow Kelley Drye’s CommLaw Monitor, where we post regular updates of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting the communications industry.

If you have any questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on labor, advertising, and other issues, visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.

Continue Reading COVID-19: What Enterprise and Small Business Customers Need to Know

In 2010, the FCC revised its rules for the Schools and Libraries Program of the federal Universal Service Fund (commonly known as the "e-rate" program).  One of the principal changes to the rules was the adoption of rules prohibiting e-rate recipients from receiving gifts from service providers.  The FCC has clarified its gift rules twice, but has had other clarification requests pending for some time.  Yesterday, the FCC issued a public notice addressing an aspect of its rules that has caused the most confusion — when and how a service provider may provide free or discounted equipment bundled with eligible services without cost allocation of the ineligible portion.

Significantly, the public notice proposes to reverse course from the guidance provided in December 2010 that permitted, at least, cell phone contracts that include a free or discounted phone for customers signing a service contract.  Instead, under the proposal set forth in the public notice, service providers would be required to conduct a cost allocation in all instances where equipment is bundled with eligible services.  If adopted, the rule would end the "free cell phone" exemption from the cost allocation rules.

Continue Reading FCC Reverses Course, Proposes to Eliminate “Bundled Services” Exception to E-rate Cost Allocation Rules

Last September, the FCC adopted new rules governing gifts received by applicants for disbursements under the FCC’s Schools and Libraries program of the Universal Service Fund (known as the "e-rate" program).  Although the FCC clarified its rules once already, application of the new rules is proving to be very difficult.  For the second time, the Universal Service Fund administrator (USAC) is seeking guidance from the FCC regarding how to apply the rules.

The guidance request appears to result from USAC’s review of Funding Year 2011 e-rate applications.  Judging from the scope of the questions asked, a large number of e-rate applications may be affected by the guidance request.  In addition, although the FCC clarified that the e-rate gift rules did not apply before January 3, 2011, several requests implicate issues that are raised in pending appeals of prior funding year decisions.  The FCC’s decision, therefore, likely will have broad implications for e-rate applications, past and future.

The FCC did not seek comment on the guidance request back in December, and it is not clear whether it will seek public comment in this instance.  Given that funding decisions typically are issued around this time, it is likely the FCC will act quickly on the request.

Continue Reading E-rate Gift Rules Continue to Confuse

It did not take long for the FCC to respond to the flurry of questions being posted regarding the new E-rate rules adopted in the FCC’s Sixth Report and Order in the Universal Service proceeding.  Yesterday, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau released both a Public Notice and an Order addressing many of the questions that had been posted.  E-rate applicants and service providers should review these documents carefully.  Most rules are applicable to Funding Year 2011 applications.

Continue Reading E-Rate Gift, Dark Fiber Rules Clarified