The FCC recently took a major step in promoting deployment of 5G networks in rural and hard-to-serve areas by adopting a Report and Order establishing the 5G Fund for Rural America (5G Fund) support program. The program, which is effectively the wireless counterpart to the wireline-focused Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), will offer up to $9 billion over ten years to support the deployment of mobile voice and 5G broadband in these areas. It replaces Phase II of the Mobility Fund, which the FCC mothballed in 2018 after questions arose about the accuracy of wireless coverage data reported by carriers, which was meant to determine which areas are eligible for funding. Half of the 5G Fund budget also comes from repurposing the $4.53 billion that the Commission had originally allotted for 4G LTE deployments under Mobility Fund Phase II. The 5G Fund auction may not occur until 2023 because the Commission opted to wait until it can collect new data on existing deployments to identify areas eligible for support. In the meantime, recipients of legacy mobile high-cost support will be required to start using those funds for 5G networks beginning in 2021.

Continue Reading FCC Creates Framework to Fund 5G Deployments in Rural Areas

The FCC plans to create a new “5G Fund” offering up to $9 billion over ten years to support the deployment of wireless broadband and voice services in rural and other hard-to-serve areas. Under a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) adopted at the FCC’s April meeting, the 5G Fund would operate as the wireless counterpart to the wireline-focused Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) approved earlier this year and replace Phase II of the Mobility Fund, which the FCC mothballed in 2018 after questions arose about reported coverage data. The NPRM proposes awarding funding through auction in two phases. Phase I would provide up to $8 billion in support, with $680 million reserved for deployments on Tribal lands. Phase II would provide up to $1 billion (plus any funding remaining after Phase I) for deployments for precision agriculture and particularly hard-to-serve areas like farms and ranches. The 5G Fund would exclude areas covered by the recently-approved T-Mobile/Sprint merger, which included a commitment to serve 90% of rural Americans within six years. The NPRM is just the first step towards launching the 5G Fund and presents an opportunity for all stakeholders to provide their input on the fundamental policies and procedures the will govern the new program.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes 5G Fund for Rural Wireless Networks, But Timing Remains Uncertain

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly unfolds, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers, extensions, and other regulatory relief. Kelley Drye’s Communications Practice Group is tracking these actions and what they mean for communications service providers and their customers. CommLaw Monitor will provide regular updates to its analysis of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting your business and the communications industry. Click on the “COVID-19” blog category for previous updates.

If you have any urgent questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on other aspects of the federal and state response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as labor and employment and other issues, please visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.


Continue Reading COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – April 27, 2020

As the flurry of coronavirus-related actions continues, the FCC plans to return to “bread and butter” policy areas of spectrum and rural 5G deployment at its next meeting scheduled for April 23, 2020. First, the FCC plans to move forward on its proposal to open up 6 GHz band spectrum (5.925-7.125 GHz) for unlicensed use by smartphones, IoT devices, and other technologies. The FCC would allow standard-power unlicensed operations in certain band segments, subject to controls designed to avoid interference with incumbent microwave, cable, and satellite operators. The FCC also would permit lower-power unlicensed operations across the entire band, but only for indoor uses. Second, the FCC would consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to seek public input on a “5G Fund” offering up to $9 billion over ten years through an auction to support deployment of wireless broadband and voice services in rural and other hard-to-serve areas. The 5G Fund would represent the wireless counterpart to the wireline-focused Rural Digital Opportunity Fund adopted earlier this year and replace Phase II of the Mobility Fund, which the FCC mothballed after questions arose about reported coverage data. Finally, the FCC would update its orbital debris mitigation requirements to mandate additional disclosures and incorporate new inter-agency standards.

Running the gamut from rural networks to outer space, the FCC’s April agenda will impact service providers across the industry. Consequently, stakeholders should closely examine the deployment and funding opportunities presented in the FCC’s proposals. You will find more information on the key April meeting items after the break:


Continue Reading FCC Plans to Open Up 6 GHz Band for Unlicensed Use, Propose $9 Billion Rural Mobility Fund, and Address Orbital Debris at April Meeting

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

As COVID-19 has reached pandemic levels, the Federal Communications Commission (“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 what they mean for communications service providers. CommLaw Monitor will provide regular updates to its analysis of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting your business. Subscribe to receive these alerts.

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 Communications Service Providers Need to Know

After a long road that included questions over the scope of FTC and FCC jurisdiction, AT&T finally settled one of two cases challenging the unlimited data plans it offered to consumers.   On Tuesday, November 5, 2019 the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) moved to settle its October 28, 2014 complaint against AT&T Mobility, LLC (“AT&T” or “Company”) in which the FTC asserted that the Company was reducing the data speeds of customers grandfathered into unlimited plans after they had used a certain amount of data. The stipulated order, approved 4-0 by the FTC and awaiting final approval from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, will require AT&T to dole out $60 million to eligible customers and prohibit the Company from portraying the amount or speed of mobile data in its plans, including unlimited, without disclosing any material restrictions accompanying such plans.

As we covered extensively in several previous blog posts, one of the primary consequences of the case were questions about the limits of the FTC’s jurisdiction. The case mirrored a time when the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) took opposing positions in successive administrations regarding whether mobile data services and other Broadband Internet Access Services (“BIAS”) were subject to FCC regulation. One of the central questions underlying the case was which agency, the FCC or the FTC, could regulate AT&T’s mobile data practices. After the FTC won a Ninth Circuit decision that its jurisdiction reaches to non-common carrier activities of common carriers (and the FCC concluded that mobile BIAS was not a common carrier service), AT&T agreed to settle the FTC case. However, so long as the jurisdiction of particular services remains in doubt, or is subject to changing FCC positions, service providers will face potential overlapping enforcement activities by the two agencies.


Continue Reading AT&T To Pay $60M to Settle 2014 FTC Data Throttling Complaint

At its Open Meeting on October 24, the FCC took a major step in recrafting the licensing and other rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”) in the 3550-3700 MHz band (the “3.5 GHz band”) and promote 5G rollouts.  Early in his tenure as FCC Chair which began in January of this year, Ajit Pai tasked Commissioner Michael O’Reilly with reexamining the regulatory framework in the band adopted in 2015, particularly as it applied to Priority Access Licenses (“PALs”).  Within months, CTIA and T-Mobile filed petitions for rulemaking to make the licensing rules, from commercial wireless’s perspective more investment friendly.  Now the Commission has moved ultra-rapidly to act on those petitions and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to consider making rule changes largely consistent with those sought by those proponents.  The Commission hopes to bolster commercial investment and deployment in the band convinced that, for large scale 5G deployments, providers need greater certainty than the Wheeler-era rules afford.
Continue Reading October 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: Can We Be Better PALs? The FCC Seeks to Modify the Two-Year-Old Rules in the 3.5 GHz Band Citing the Need to Bolster Investment Incentives.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 imposes limitations on a local government’s ability to deny permits to construct telecommunication towers. These include, among others, prohibitions against discrimination, a review of applications within a reasonable timeframe, and a requirement that application denials be “in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.” See 47 U.S.C. §332(c)(7)(B)(i)-(iv). The statute juxtaposes these restrictions against an express preservation of a local government’s “decisions regarding the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities.” Id. at § 332(c)(7)(A).

Recently, some courts have strictly construed Section 332(c)(7)(B)’s prohibitions. For example, last week, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that a local government’s requirement that municipal voters approve certain constructions was not subject to the prohibitions of Section 332(c)(7). In Omnipoint Commc’ns Inc. v. City of Huntington Beach, — F. – -, 2013 WL 6486240 (9th Cir. Dec. 11, 2013), a seventeen year-old voter initiative amended the local government’s charter to require city council and voter approval before construction costing more than $100,000 occurred on city-owned property. After initially approving the carrier’s siting of antennas in a city park within a reasonable time but discovering that the construction costs exceeded $100,000, the local government required that the construction be approved by voters. The carrier filed suit arguing that Section 332(c)(7)’s restrictions barred applying the voter-initiative requirement to the proposed construction. 
Continue Reading Courts Continue to Strictly Interpret the Preemptive Scope of Tower Siting Rules

As consumers increasingly rely on mobile phones, marketers naturally are following.  Text messaging, in particular, has proven to be a popular marketing method.  It is not surprising, therefore, that we are seeing in increase in litigation over the obligations of senders and mobile carriers with respect to text messaging campaigns. 

The latest example of this trend