Today, the FCC is holding its last Open Meeting of the summer. Here is the agenda. The meeting will first consider a Public Notice to establish two new Innovation Zones for experimental licenses in Boston, MA and Raleigh, NC to study wireless technology use cases and test integration with new technologies. The FCC will next consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) that would propose to adopt clarifications and revisions to the agency’s numbering rules, including requiring additional certifications and ownership disclosures for authorization of direct numbering access. The Commission will also hear a Third Report and Order that would authorize the agency’s private Governance Authority overseeing the STIR/SHAKEN framework to review and revoke a voice service provider’s participation in STIR/SHAKEN. The Order would further establish an appeals process and procedures for providers affected by a revocation. Additionally, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would update the compensation methodology for the Internet Protocol Relay (“IP Relay), a form of Telecommunications Relay Service. Lastly, the FCC will consider an NPRM proposing to update the agency’s political programming rules, followed by a Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration that would grant three petitions for reconsideration of the Part 95 Personal Radio Services Rules Report and Order.

You will find more information about the most significant items after the break.


Continue Reading FCC Closes Out the Summer With STIR/SHAKEN Revocation in August Open Meeting

At its June 17 Open Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a Second Report and Order for its Connected Care Pilot Program, which provides administrative guidance that will enable award recipients to begin their pilot projects. On the same day, it announced its second set of projects awarded support through the Pilot Program.

The Connected Care Pilot was established in April 2020 to make up to $100 million in Universal Service Fund support available over three years for selected projects to defray costs for projects that will bring broadband connectivity and other connected care information services to eligible health care providers. The program is primarily aimed at supporting services that will benefit veterans and low-income patients. It is a longer term initiative than the short-term COVID-19 Telehealth Program designed to provide financial support for telehealth services, which are expected to remain in demand after the pandemic fully abates.


Continue Reading FCC Provides Guidance for Connected Care Pilot Program, Selects Additional Projects

On May 10, 2021, the FCC unanimously adopted final rules in a Report and Order to implement the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (“ECF Program”). The ECF Program is a fund that enables “schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and broadband connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The ECF Program was funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Biden in early March. Along with the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBB Program”), the ECF provides significant, pandemic-related expenditures addressing the digital divide, funded outside of the existing federal Universal Service Fund programs.

With these rules, the FCC sets in motion a process for schools and libraries to receive funding for 100% of purchases to provide remote learning and remote library services during the pandemic.  This fund will be a significant one-time opportunity for applicants and service providers and is expected to see high demand for funding.


Continue Reading FCC Meets Statutory Deadline, Adopts Report and Order Establishing Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Rules

The application window for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program opened today at 12PM ET and will close at 12 PM ET on Thursday, May 6, 2021. As we have covered, the first round of funding was quickly distributed to over 200 applicants in over 40 states, with all funding exhausted by July 2020. Then, in December 2020, Congress authorized additional money to support telehealth services provided by non-profit and public healthcare organizations during the pandemic.

Continue Reading Ding, Ding: Round 2 of the Telehealth Program Begins

After nearly four months of work, the FCC announced today that the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (“EBBP”) will launch on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Providers participating in the EBBP can begin enrolling eligible households into the program to receive supported service. Nearly 750 providers are qualified to offer EBB-supported services, with service discount reimbursements

2021 is well underway and the new leadership at the FCC is taking shape. While we don’t yet know who will fill the Chair on a permanent basis, the FCC under Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel is proceeding without delay. So far, the Commission has tackled ongoing issues of bipartisan support, including broadband mapping, communications supply chain security and preventing 911 fee diversion. But the biggest challenges ahead are in the universal service fund and, specifically, efforts to bridge the digital divide.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at developments in the FCC’s $9 billion-per-year Federal Universal Service Fund and more recent pandemic-related efforts to address deficiencies in broadband access that have been exposed by our year of remote work, school and social activities.


Continue Reading The State of the Universal Service Fund in 2021

As required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“CAA”), on February 25, 2021, the FCC adopted a Report and Order to officially establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit (“EBB”) Program. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in virtual services and learning, access to broadband services has now become essential for most households. With this in mind, the program is designed to provide broadband services to help low-income households in particular stay connected. We have summarized the program and noted some key provisions and next steps for the FCC and potential participating providers. The program is temporary, and will expire when funds have been exhausted or 6 months after the Health and Human Services Secretary declares the end of the nationwide COVID-19 health emergency.

Continue Reading FCC Implements $50/Month Broadband Subsidy For Low-Income Households

The FCC released the agenda for its December Open Meeting, scheduled for December 10, 2020 on November 19, 2020, but the agency has made several changes since. The last meeting of the year will lead with a Report and Order on securing the communications supply chain that would require Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) receiving federal universal service funding to remove and replace equipment and services identified as a risk to national security from their networks. The supply chain rulemaking would establish procedures and requirements for affected providers to seek reimbursement of their removal and replacement costs. The Commission will also consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would propose to modernize the marketing and importation rules for regulated equipment. Additionally, the December meeting will include an Order that would amend the invoice filing deadline rule for the E-Rate Program, which supports communications services for schools and libraries, and an Order on Reconsideration clarifying the agency’s interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), although the draft texts of these two items have not been released.

The December meeting may be the first attended by recently-confirmed Republican FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, who will replace outgoing Commissioner Michael O’Rielly after today’s confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate. In addition, Chairman Pai recently announced that he intends to leave the FCC on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. As a result, the January 2021 FCC open meeting will be his last meeting before the change in administration.

You will find more details about the most significant items on the December meeting agenda after the break.


Continue Reading FCC Wraps Up 2020 with December Meeting Focusing on Supply Chain Security and Equipment Marketing

On November 5, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”) released a Public Notice announcing the opening of the Connected Care Pilot Program (“Connected Care Program”) 30-day application filing window, which opened on Friday, November 6 at 12:00 pm ET. The Public Notice provides additional details on the application window and guidance on the Pilot Program application process. The application window will close on Monday, December 7, 2020 at 11:59 pm ET.

Continue Reading FCC Announces Opening of Connected Care Pilot Program Application Filing Window

The Federal Communications Commission (“Commission” or “FCC”) has long been interested in the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services to make healthcare more accessible, particularly for veterans and low-income patients. On September 3, 2020 the Commission released a Public Notice (“Public Notice”) providing additional information about its Connected Care Pilot Program (“Connected Care Program”). The Connected Care Program will make available up to $100 million dollars, over a three year period, to defray the costs of broadband connectivity and other connected care information services for eligible health care providers (“HCP”). While the CARES Act allowed the Commission to quickly implement the short-term COVID-19 Telehealth Program supporting eligible HCP telehealth services during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connected Care Program is a longer-term initiative, under Commission consideration since late 2018 and formally established in April 2020. The Connected Care Program is intended to provide much-needed financial support for telehealth services, particularly for veterans and low-income patients, and also to provide the Commission with data regarding how funding can support telehealth services in the future to treat the health needs of individuals that may lack sufficient – or any – mobile or residential broadband internet access services necessary for healthcare needs.

The FCC has not yet set a deadline for Connected Care Program applications but issued the recent Public Notice to enable HCPs to begin preparing to apply once the application filing deadline is established. If the Connected Care Program garners the same level of interest as the COVID-19 Telehealth Program – a $200 million fund that was depleted within 3 months of the Commission first accepting applications – HCPs seeking to participate in the Connected Care Program may want to consider how to prepare now to submit a timely application once the final application details and filing deadline are established. The Commission will be issuing a subsequent Public Notice identifying the final Connected Care Program application procedures and filing deadline.


Continue Reading FCC Provides Guidance on $100 Million Connected Care Pilot Program; Application Deadline Remains TBD