Even with the dog days of summer upon us, the FCC shows no signs of slowing down on its policymaking priorities in a jam-packed agenda for its next open meeting on August 1, 2019. Headlining the agenda is a proposal to establish a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) offering $20.4 billion over a decade to support high-speed broadband deployment to unserved areas. The RDOF would eventually replace the FCC’s Connect America Fund (“CAF”) as the agency’s primary universal service program for high-cost areas. The areas receiving RDOF support would be determined by a new agency-led information collection, requiring more granular service data from broadband providers. As with the CAF, the RDOF proceeding is sure to engender debate in the broadband industry about the appropriate performance benchmarks, auction bidding rules, and data collection mechanisms. In addition to the RDOF, the FCC also plans to adopt items at the August meeting to reform how it allocates Rural Health Care Program funding; streamline licensing procedures for small satellite systems (otherwise known as “smallsats”); establish procedures for the auction of new toll free numbers; implement 911 direct dial and location information requirements on multi-line telephone systems (“MLTS”) often found in offices, hotels, and college campuses; expand the agency’s anti-spoofing rules; and limit the franchise fees placed on cable operators.

The August agenda items impact all corners of the telecommunications industry. You will find more details on some of the most significant August meeting items after the break:


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At its May 2019 Open Meeting, the FCC approved a Public Notice (“Notice”) that sets the stage for the auction of certain toll free numbers with the dialing code 833—the first time an auction mechanism will be used to distribute any numbering resources. The FCC intends to auction over 17,000 numbers set aside during the opening of the 833-prefix because more than one entity expressed an interest in the number. In 2018, the FCC approved the use of competitive bidding to allocate these numbers. With this Public Notice, the FCC sets proposed ground rules for the auction. Comments on the auction pre-bidding procedures proposed in the Notice are due by June 3, 2019 and reply comments by June 10, 2019.

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Continuing its focus on broadband infrastructure deployment for 5G technologies, the FCC announced that it plans to eliminate regulatory impediments that delay and increase the cost of wireless deployments at its next meeting, scheduled for September 26, 2018. The item would alter the balance of power between wireless broadband providers and state/local governments concerning control over rights of way and deployment fees. The FCC also anticipates initiating a rulemaking aimed at improving 911 dialing and location accuracy for multi-line telephone systems (“MLTS”), potentially imposing new compliance obligations on office building, hotel, and other large facility managers. Rounding out the major actions, the FCC released draft items that would:  (1) permit toll free numbers to be auctioned and sold on the secondary market and (2) consolidate rules and expand the spectrum available for so-called Earth Stations in Motion (“ESIMs”) that provide high-speed broadband service to vehicles, aircraft, and vessels. The proposed items will generate input from all corners of the communications industry as well as real estate interests. You will find more details on the significant September FCC items after the jump:

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The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) at its September Open Meeting that proposes significant changes to not only the methodology for assigning toll-free numbers but also the management of the toll free number assignment process.  The principal proposal in the NPRM is to use an auction process to assign certain highly valued (e.g., vanity and repeater) toll free numbers “to better promote the equitable and efficient use of numbers.”  The Commission also proposes to eliminate its prohibition on the brokering of toll free numbers, which would open the marketplace for sales of valuable toll free numbers. Comments will be due 30 days after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register and reply comments will be due 60 days after publication.

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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.
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