Back for its 10th year, our most popular webinar offers an in-depth discussion on the federal Universal Service Fund for participants in USF programs and for contributors to the Fund. This webinar will address major developments in the four support funds and discuss the pressures on the USF contribution system in an era of 20% contribution rates. In addition, as usual, we will offer tips and insights into managing audits and investigations in these highly scrutinized programs.

Continue Reading

On February 4, 2019, the FCC announced a plan to create a new division housed in its Enforcement Bureau, dedicated to prosecuting fraud in the agency’s Universal Service Fund (“USF”) programs. Citing to recent USF-related proposed fines and voluntary settlements, the FCC asserted that the creation of a specialized Fraud Division was necessary to combat misuse of funds under the High Cost, E-Rate, Lifeline, and Rural Health Care programs that make up the USF. The FCC’s brief, two-page Order leaves many questions unanswered about the proposed Fraud Division’s ambit and the status of the “USF Strike Force” that preceded it. However, the Order signifies that the FCC plans to redouble its fraud enforcement efforts in 2019 following recent setbacks on the USF rulemaking front. As a result, eligible telecommunications carriers and other recipients of USF support should keep a close watch as the scope and function of the new Fraud Division starts to take shape.
Continue Reading

In June, the FCC approved a package of regulatory measures – Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”), and Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) – directed at reforming the IP Captioned Telephone Service (“IP CTS”) program to address concerns about its sustainability. IP CTS is a form of telecommunications relay service (“TRS”) that enables people with hearing loss to communicate by speaking while listening with any remaining hearing ability and reading real-time captions. IP CTS is paid for by the FCC through its TRS Fund and has experienced significant usage growth, now representing almost 80 percent of the costs covered by the Fund. The FNPRM and NOI, which propose fundamental reforms to the IP CTS program, were published in the Federal Register on July 17, 2018, which set the upcoming comment deadlines. Comments on the FNPRM are due by September 17, 2018 and replies by October 16, 2018. Comments on the NOI are due by October 16, 2018 and replies by November 15, 2018.

Continue Reading

The FCC will focus on 5G spectrum and the infrastructure supporting next-generation broadband services at its meeting planned for August 2, 2018. Continuing its push to make more spectrum available for flexible wireless use to support 5G technologies, the FCC teed up two major spectrum-related items for its August Open Meeting, which comes hot on the heels of its July 12 meeting. The items would open up 1.55 GHz of spectrum for commercial use through two auctions, with the first auction set to begin later this year. The FCC also plans to take a major step forward in supporting broadband deployment by adopting a long-anticipated “one-touch make-ready” regime for pole attachments, while taking aim at deployment moratoria. Rounding out the major items, the FCC will seek comment on launching a $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program. The proposed items maintain the trend of jam-packed Summer FCC meetings (which will then take a break until September 26) and will be sure to generate input from all communications industry sectors. You will find more details on the significant August FCC items after the jump:

Continue Reading

*J. Bradford Currier co-authored this post.

The FCC retracted actions related to net neutrality, network security, media ownership, and other hot-topic issues in a series of orders issued late Friday. The orders represent the first major salvo in Chairman Pai’s promised rollback of actions undertaken during the final days of former Chairman Wheeler’s tenure. Chairman Pai called the overturned actions examples of “midnight regulations” that were not supported by the new Republican-majority FCC. The action signals a significant pivot in the approach and substantive priorities following the change in Presidential administrations.


Continue Reading

At its open meeting on March 31, 2016 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) voted along party lines (3-2) to adopt a Lifeline Modernization Order implementing significant changes to the Lifeline Universal Service Program, the most significant of which is an expansion of the program to cover broadband service. Last week, the Commission released the text of the Order, and on Friday we released a client advisory that provides a summary of the Order’s key changes and effective dates.

Continue Reading

funding_opportunity_v1r1The Administration continues to drive efforts to spur broadband deployment across the country and to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable broadband service.  Yesterday afternoon, President Obama announced ConnectALL, an effort aimed at connecting 20 million more Americans to broadband by 2020.

This announcement builds on the successes of ConnectED, the White


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

warning sign 2On July 9th, the Enforcement Bureau (EB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or the Commission) reached a $3.5 million Consent Decree to resolve an investigation into whether TerraCom, Inc. (TerraCom) and YourTel America, Inc. (YourTel) (collectively, the Companies) violated laws protecting “phone customers’ personal information,” and whether YourTel failed to timely de-enroll Lifeline subscribers following an audit by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).  The Consent Decree solidifies a trend in FCC enforcement of carrier data security obligations.

Continue Reading

4406623_illustrationOn June 30th, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s or the Commission’s) Enforcement Bureau (EB) reached a projected $3.2 million consent decree to resolve an investigation into whether TracFone, the nation’s largest prepaid wireless carrier, violated Commission rules related to its cellphone unlocking capabilities.  The FCC has estimated an aggregate consumer benefit of close to $80 million from this settlement, based on the requirement to make handsets unlockable and the average trade-in value of handsets that TracFone will have to replace (i.e., an estimated $10 benefit for each of TracFone’s 8 million customers that could benefit from the settlement).  This consent decree is unusual in that it does not include language admitting liability, which the EB has pushed for in other cases.  There is no explanation provided and no clear reason why this case differs from others where an admission was part of the settlement.
Continue Reading