Responding to demands by high tech companies for more so-called “mid-band” unlicensed spectrum to augment that already made available in the 5 GHz Band, which accommodates Wi-Fi, Internet of Things (“IoT”), and other Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (“U-NII”) applications as well as Licensed Assisted Access and LTE-Unlicensed solutions, the FCC will vote on a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) at its October 26 Open Meeting to make up to 1200 megahertz of nearby spectrum available for similar purposes. The draft leaves no doubt that, to make the 5.925-7.125 GHz band (the “6 GHz Band”) available for unlicensed use, sophisticated sharing mechanisms will need to be in place. Various parts of this frequency range are already used by fixed, mobile, and satellite services, and the draft item commits to protecting these incumbents and allowing these services to grow while at the same time opening the band to increased numbers of unlicensed devices. To achieve this, the Commission is considering drawing upon its experience with white spaces and the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (at 3550-3750 MHz), and would seek comment on numerous subjects before adopting rules. The draft item would be a stepping stone to enabling unlicensed devices to operate with wider bandwidths and higher data rates, which the Commission hopes would set off a new wave of innovation in consumer devices complementing its recent moves to spur the rollout of next-generation 5G networks. The NPRM, when adopted, will be sure to generate a wave of comments from both equipment manufacturers and broadband providers hungry for more spectrum as well as incumbent public safety organizations, utilities, satellite companies, and various other fixed and mobile services licensees seeking to protect and hoping to expand their existing operations in the 6 GHz Band, particularly as relocation options for other similar spectrum are increasingly scarce.
In its July Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) adopted new rules in a Report and Order (“R&O”) to allow a more flexible, streamlined approach for certain radar operations in the 76-81 GHz band. The R&O modifies the applicable rules to increase access for enhanced safety vehicular, fixed, and mobile radar applications to all of the contiguous spectrum in the 76-81 GHz band.
On 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 Unpacking the TracFone Cellphone Unlocking Settlement
Yesterday, the FCC adopted a Second Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Memorandum Opinion and Order to comprehensively restructure and modernize the Lifeline program. While we do not yet have the order, the FCC issued a news release and the Chairman and Commissioners issued statements on the proceeding. (Chairman, Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai and O’Rielly).
Late last week, the FCC released a Second Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking imposing additional emergency alert accessibility obligations on both device manufacturers and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) pursuant to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The new requirements are designed to make access to emergency information easier for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The initial obligations will be effective at the end of 2016, and comments will be due on the FNPRM 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
As a result of the Federal Communications Commission ‘s Regulatory Fees Order released last Friday, submarine cable licensees will see a welcome decline in fees for fiscal year 2014 due to a reallocation among International Bureau regulatees, and Responsible Organizations (“RespOrgs”) will begin paying regulatory fees on toll free numbers in fiscal year 2015. However, among other decisions, the FCC declined to adopt its proposal to pool the revenues to be collected from payers of the Interstate Telecommunications Service Provider (“ITSP”) fee and Commercial Mobile Radio Service (“CMRS”) providers.
Because the Regulatory Fee Order for FY 2014 came out later than in years past, the FCC indicated the decision would become effective upon publication in the Federal Register, rather than thirty days thereafter. The FY 2014 regulatory fees are due September 23 (by 11:59 PM, Eastern Daylight Time), and Fee Filer, the Commission’s automated filing and payment system for FY 2014 regulatory fees, is now open. Continue Reading Regulatory Fees Order for FY 2014 Released; September 23 Payment Deadline Set
Josh Guyan contributed to this post.
In the latest of its orders to implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“CVAA”), the FCC released a Second Report and Order addressing the accessibility requirements of Internet browsers on mobile phones for the blind and visually impaired. This order adopted requirements for which it sought further comment in January 2012 when it released a Report and Order implementing provisions of the CVAA to ensure that people with disabilities have access to advanced communications services (“ACS”). The substantive obligations for mobile phones will go into effect at the same time as the CVAA’s substantive obligations for ACS services take effect, on October 8, 2013. The recordkeeping obligations, however, went into effect on January 30, 2013.
Federal law prohibits the circumvention of technological measures used by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect their works. In the context of mobile handsets, although users previously enjoyed a limited exemption from this prohibition, a new ruling means that users no longer can use self-help to unlock their mobile phone and move it to an alternative network.
Periodically, through a rulemaking process, the Copyright Office (the “Agency”) takes comments and evaluates whether the prohibition on circumvention measures adversely impacts the ability to use the works in a non-infringing manner. Recommendations are made by the Agency to the Librarian of Congress, who then establishes exemptions to the access control circumvention prohibition by rule. This time around, the rule did not continue the exemption for unlocking mobile devices.
So what happened?