Among the items being considered at the upcoming April 12, 2019 Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) open meeting is possible regulatory forbearance of certain legacy regulatory and structural requirements applicable to Bell Operating Companies (“BOCs”), price cap local exchange carriers (“LECs”), and independent rate-of-return carriers (“RoR carriers”). Acting on a nearly year-old USTelecom petition, the FCC’s draft Memorandum Opinion and Order (“Order”) proposes to forbear from enforcement of three regulatory requirements: (i) that independent RoR carriers offer in-region long distance service through a separate affiliate (“structural separations”); (ii) that BOCs and price cap LECs do not discriminate in service provisioning intervals and that they file special access provisioning reports; and (iii) that BOCs provide nondiscriminatory access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way (collectively, “pole attachments”). However, the draft Order declines to decide on USTelecom’s request for forbearance from certain network unbundling and resale requirements. The Commission’s deferral on the unbundled network elements (“UNE”)/resale issue is not surprising in light of the significant industry and consumer opposition to this aspect of USTelecom’s petition. With the exception of the few comments supporting USTelecom’s petition, the vast majority of comments were relatively silent regarding the other forbearance requests. If adopted, the draft Order will be effective upon release.

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The FCC plans to take major action to speed the deployment of small wireless broadband facilities to support 5G technologies at its next meeting, scheduled for September 26, 2018. The FCC’s draft Declaratory Ruling and Order may significantly tilt the balance of power in favor of wireless broadband providers over state and local governments concerning access to rights-of-way and deployment costs. The draft item highlights the FCC’s recent emphasis on spurring the creation of next-generation wireless networks and follows recent moves to exempt certain deployments from environmental/historic preservation reviews and prohibit moratoria on infrastructure projects. Under its latest proposal, the FCC would: (1) restrict the types of fees assessed on deployments; (2) limit the aesthetic requirements imposed on deployments; and (3) establish “shot clocks” on responding to deployment requests. The action is likely to result in legal challenges from state and/or local governments. You will find more about the FCC’s anticipated reforms as well as potential Congressional action on this issue after the jump.

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iStock_000006131068MediumFederal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai marked his first open meeting as Chairman by announcing a new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (Committee), which is intended to advise the FCC on accelerating the deployment of high-speed internet access in communities across the country.  Designed to make recommendations to reduce and remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment, the Committee will develop specific reforms to the FCC’s pole attachment rules, identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, ways to encourage local governments to adopt deployment-friendly policies, and other reforms within the Commission’s authority, including provisions under the Middle Class Tax Cut and Job Relief Act of 2012.
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iStock_000000295237LargeWith both Congress and the Administration focused on streamlining federal permitting and promoting Dig Once policies, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published updated rules for access to rights-of-way (ROW) on Indian Lands, including the deployment of communications infrastructure.  The new rules replace the existing regulations that were promulgated over 40 years ago and last updated over 30 years ago. Currently, DOI holds roughly 56 million acres of land in trust for both Indian Tribes and individual Indians, which gives it authority over granting ROWs.  The new rules “reflect modern requirements for rights-of-way and the need for faster timelines and a more transparent process for BIA approval.”  These new rules apply to ROWs granted on or after December 21, 2015.  For ROWs granted prior to December 21, 2015, the substantive provisions of the rule will not apply; however, the procedural provisions of the updated rule will apply retroactively, except where the procedural provisions conflict with the ROW grant or authorizing statute.

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