Selected portions of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, and/or the BloostonLaw Private Users Update — newsletters from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP are reproduced in this section with the firm's permission.
| BloostonLaw Telecom Update || Vol. 17, No. 9 || March 5, 2014 |
Final Reminder – Broadband Experiment Expressions of Interest Due March 7, 2014
The FCC's March 7, 2014 date for the filing of non-binding Expressions of Interest (EOIs) in conducting experiments in price cap and rate of return areas is nearly here. BloostonLaw has prepared an EOI template, which we can further tailor with company-specific information. While EOIs may continue to be filed after the deadline, clients interested in submitting EOIs should nevertheless contact the firm without delay.
Effective Date for IP Transition Order and Comment Deadline for FNPRMs Set
The final rule portion of the FCC's January 31, 2014 IP Transition Order and the FNPRMs on rural broadband experiments and numbering research appeared in the Federal Register on February 28, 2014. This sets both the effective date of the final rules (except for § 54.313(e)(1) through (3), which contain new or modified information collection requirements that will not be effective until approved by the Office of Management and Budget) and the comment deadline for the rural broadband experiments and the numbering research as March 31, 2014. Reply comments for the rural broadband experiments and the numbering research are due April 14, 2014.
Topics for comment regarding the rural broadband experiments include:
- Budget: Because annual disbursements from the Connect America Fund to date have been less than the total $4.5 billion available and funds have accumulated in the reserve account, the FCC proposes that a limited amount of these unallocated funds be made available for experiments in any part of the country, whether served by an incumbent price cap carrier or rate-of-return carrier.
- Application Process: The FCC proposes generally to apply the same application process and procedures adopted in the Order for the Connect America Phase II experiment to the experiments in rate-of-return areas, recognizing that it may be appropriate to adopt an implementation schedule different than that used in price cap territories.
- Selective Criteria: The FCC proposes that (i) cost effectiveness; (ii) the extent to which the applicant proposes to build robust, scalable networks; (iii) the extent to which applicants propose innovative strategies to leverage non-Federal governmental sources of funding, such as State, local, or Tribal government funding; and (iv) whether applicants propose to offer high-capacity connectivity to Tribal lands be selective criteria. The FCC further asks for comment on how to score the final criteria.
- Additional Criteria: The FCC also seeks comment on specific measures to implement its objective to focus on areas where end users lack Internet access that delivers 3 mbps downstream and 7 kbps upstream. For example, the FCC asks what specific numerical measure should be used to determine whether the extent of competitive overlap is de minimis, and what measures should be taken to ensure that federal funds are focused on unserved areas.
Topics for comment regarding numbering research include appropriate budgeting and funding. For example, the FCC asks whether it should use numbering contributions associated with telephone numbering management that are used to fund the operation of numbering databases and services; what types of awards would be appropriate; and whether it should seek input from the North American Numbering Council (NANC).
Clients interested in filing comments on either FNPRM should contact the firm without delay.
FCC Announces Rural Broadband Workshop
The FCC has announced a workshop dedicated to, "an examination of the broadband needs of rural populations and the unique challenges of both broadband deployment and adoption in rural areas." The workshop will be held on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in the FCC Meeting Room (TW-C305), 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C., 20554, and will also be streamed live at http://www.fcc.gov/live .
According to the news release, the discussion will also highlight the economic, educational, and healthcare benefits that can be realized through broadband deployment and adoption; examine different business models that have been used to deploy broadband in rural area, including a discussion of the factors that drive investment decisions and technology choices of different types of providers in rural communities; and examine the role that states have played, and can continue to play, in meeting the rural broadband challenge.
Additional details concerning the workshop agenda and panelists will be forthcoming.
AT&T IP Service Transition Trials Proposed in Florida and Alabama
Although AT&T has promoted the concept of IP trials, it has sought approval to conduct two rather limited trials for full IP transition in wire centers in rural Carbon Hill, Alabama and suburban Kings Point, Florida. (General dockets 12-353 and 13-5) Comments on the trials are due March 31 and reply comments are due on April 10. AT&T states that its objectives are to 1) identify and resolve operational, technical, logistic and other issues that could arise when existing TDM-based networks are discontinued; 2) help AT&T develop and implement processes for migrating customers off TDM networks and services; 3) ensure that customers, manufacturers and other stakeholders have "sufficient education and notice regarding the impending transition so that they also have the opportunity to prepare for the time when TDM networks and services no longer are available"; 4) "come out of the trials with an actionable plan that we can utilize to continue this transition in our approximately 4,700 wire centers and across the country in order to meet our stated goal of completing the IP Transition by the end of 2020."
In the trial wire centers, AT&T proposes to offer subscribers a choice of either U-verse Voice-over-IP (for those subscribers already within AT&T's existing footprint for this service), Wireless Home Phone, Wireless Home Phone and Internet with 4G LTE Broadband service, or 4G LTE. AT&T appears to contemplate that some customers will continue to have no option other than POTS.
It appears that Wireless Home Phone and Wireless Home Phone and Internet with 4G LTE is similar to and has the same problems as Verizon's Voice Link service, which was proposed for parts of New York and New Jersey affected by Superstorm Sandy. According to AT&T, Wireless Home Phone and Wireless Home Phone and Internet with 4G LTE, which are CMRS services, "comply with the Commission's existing 911 requirements for CMRS, and do not provide E-911 with street address." The services also do not "currently support alarm monitoring, medical alert and credit card validation applications." Although AT&T states that it is currently "developing enhancements that will provide all of these applications" it files as confidential when it plans to introduce these enhancements. AT&T states that it will not "seek to grandfather its TDM-based voice services until these enhancements are available." The services also are not compatible with fax machines and dial-up Internet service, which, apparently, will not be rectified.
In the Carbon Hill wire center proposed for the trial, AT&T proposes to offer 96 % of living units (which include residential and business locations, occupied or unoccupied and those under construction) a choice of either U-verse Voice-over-IP, a wireline IP service, Wireless Home Phone, or 4G LTE. AT&T states that it "has not yet found a viable replacement service for the remaining four percent of locations, and it is still considering it options for those living units." Although AT&T submitted its filing as confidential and redacted the percentage of subscribers that would be offered the various services, TRDaily has reported that approximately 41% of subscribers would have a choice of either U-verse Voice-over-IP or Wireless Home Phone and 55% would only have a wireless 4G LTE option.
In the Kings Point, Florida, wire center selected for the trial, identified as a wire center in the West Palm Beach metropolitan area, AT&T will offer wireless broadband services to 100% of living units. AT&T redacts the percentage of living units that will have wireline broadband service, which, apparently, will be less than 100%. It appears that AT&T selected this wire center for a trial because more than 70% of the population is over 50 years of age. TRDaily also reports that a significant number of households are in a community where the homeowner's association has an exclusive deal for video and broadband services with Comcast Corp.
AT&T also states that some of its existing DSL customers reside at locations that cannot be reached by its U-verse of IP DSLAM network, and some of these customers in Carbon Hill and Kings Point will only have access to a wireless broadband service.
With respect to wholesale services, AT&T states that non-affiliated carriers currently are purchasing wholesale services in both test wire centers. AT&T states that it has identified the available replacement products to legacy TDM services used by wholesale customers and it "will provide customers who choose to do so the opportunity to transition to those alternatives in this initial phase of the trial." AT&T states that it will continue to meets its wholesale obligations under Section 251(c) of the Act, "including making UNEs available through the current state of the trial." Wholesale customers also "will have the opportunity to obtain bare copper loops and utilize their own electronics to provide high capacity services to their end user customers." AT&T states that it is developing IP replacement services, "which it intends to make available for resale to wholesale customers on commercial terms."
With respect to interconnection, AT&T states that the status quo will be maintained. However, AT&T states that the exchange of traffic for customers subscribing to IP replacement service will entail differences in call routing, which could mean a change in routing through AT&T's access tandem instead of direct end office trunking that had been established at the AT&T ILEC central office for call terminating to AT&T's TDM customers. AT&T claims that there should be no material cost impact on interconnecting carriers attributable to this phase of the trials, and that as the transition proceeds, "carriers also will likely experience cost savings as they eliminate existing direct end office trunking arrangements that no longer would be necessary to reach TDM customers."
With respect to intercarrier compensation, AT&T states that it will maintain the status quo, including the transition to bill- and-keep. AT&T further states that VoIP and Wireless Home Phone services "are and will remain subject to the existing intercarrier compensation regimes for VoIP-PSTN or CMRS traffic, as appropriate." Therefore, to the extent AT&T's trial forces some customers to wireless service or they voluntarily switch to wireless service, "compensation for terminating calls to that customer would be the compensation regime applicable to CMRS, rather than the wireline compensation regime."
If the trials are approved, AT&T will move onto Phase 1 of the proposed trial, where AT&T would seek authority to limit new service orders to wireless and IP-based services. Existing POTS customers would be "grandfathered" and allowed to continue to receive their traditional POTS offering. In Phase 2, AT&T would seek authority to transition existing POTS customers off of that service.
Auction of H-Block Licenses Closes; DISH Network Big Winner
The FCC's auction of H block spectrum officially ended on Thursday afternoon, with total bids of $1.564 billion – exactly the reserve price – and just one bidder. DISH Network was confirmed as the winner for all 176 U.S. Economic Area (EA) licenses that were available for bidding in Auction 96. These funds will go toward the construction of the nationwide public safety broadband network known as FirstNet. According to bidding results available on the FCC's Integrated Spectrum Auction System, three most expensive licenses covered the New York City ($217 million), Los Angeles ($167 million) and Chicago ($96 million).
DISH can use the spectrum to launch its own wireless network, either on its own, or by partnering with an incumbent service provider(s). Alternatively, DISH could lease its spectrum to wireless carriers. Wireless devices will need to be capable of operating on the H-Block channels first, however, so it may be some time before the H-Block spectrum is actually in use.
The H Block is a 10 MHz block of paired airwaves that runs from 1915-1920 MHz (for the uplink) and from 1995-2000 MHz (for the downlink). DISH already controls 40 MHz spectrum adjacent to a portion of the H Block, known as the AWS-4 band, which runs from 2000-2020 MHz (for the uplink) and 2180-2200 MHz (for the downlink). Last year, however, DISH asked the FCC to allow it to use the 2000-2020 MHz band for downlink operations instead of uplink as a condition for agreeing to bid the reserve price. Sprint was also on record with the FCC as possibly wanting to bid for the H-Block in order to pair this spectrum with PCS G-Block to create a 2 x 10 MHz nationwide LTE network. DISH and Sprint have spent the past two years battling over power limits and interference protections that the FCC should adopt for the downlink portion of the H-Block, a dispute that was complicated by DISH chairman Charlie Ergen's last ditch attempt to acquire Sprint and its affiliate Clearwire. Sprint was successfully purchased by Japan's Softbank for $21.6 billion in a transaction that closed last fall.
In a prepared statement, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said: "With this successful auction, the Commission makes good on its commitment to unleash more spectrum for consumers and businesses, delivering a significant down payment towards funding the nationwide interoperable public safety network. The H Block auction is a win for the American people, and we thank Chairwoman Clyburn for her leadership scheduling it. We also commend everyone who worked so hard to resolve technical issues that made this previously unusable spectrum valuable."
FCC Cancels Newsroom Study Entirely
An FCC spokesperson announced on Friday that the FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study. The FCC's spokesperson indicated that the FCC plans to reassess the best way to fulfill its obligation to Congress to identify barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses (the stated original purpose of the study).
As we reported in the February 26 Edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai authored an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the FCC's study which, in part, would "send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run."
Of the decision, Commissioner Pai said, "I am pleased that the FCC has canceled its Critical Information Needs study. In our country, the government does not tell the people what information they need. Instead, news outlets and the American public decide that for themselves. I look forward to working with my colleagues to identify and remove actual barriers to entry into the communications industry. This newsroom study was a distraction from that important goal."
Law & Regulation
Lifeline Notice of Apparent Liability: $8,300 Overpayment becomes Proposed $3.7 million Civil Fine
On February 28, 2014, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NALF) in the amount of $3,719,900 against Budget PrePay, Inc. d/b/a Budget Mobile (Budget) for alleged violations of the Lifeline Rules.
According to the NALF, the FCC determined that Budget had apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Rule Sections 54.407, 54,409 and 54.410 "by requesting and/or receiving support from the Lifeline program … for ineligible subscriber lines for the months of February through April 3013." As determined by a USAC compliance audit ( i.e., an "in-depth data validation" or an "IDV"), the over-payments over the three-month period totaled $8,300 spread among 691 individual duplicate lines for which Budget improperly sought Lifeline reimbursement, as reflected on the twelve FCC Forms 497 that were submitted.
Budget is a Louisiana corporation designated as an ETC in the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin, and the USAC audit encompassed Budget's Lifeline activities in all of these states.
For the violations at issue, Section 503(b)(2)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, authorizes the FCC to assess a forfeiture against a telecommunications carrier of up to $150,000 for each violation or each day of a continuing violation, up to a maximum of $1.5 million for a single act or failure to act. In calculating the proposed monetary forfeiture, the FCC stated as a general proposition that it "believes that the imposition of a significant forfeiture amount is a necessary response to Lifeline over-collection violations;" and that "imposing a significant forfeiture on such rule violators should deter those service providers that fail to devote sufficient resources to ferreting out company practices resulting in over-collection violations," and further stated that "a significant forfeiture should achieve broader industry compliance with Lifeline rules that are critically important to the effective functioning of the [Universal Service Fund]."
The FCC noted that it has implemented a three-part forfeiture framework for Lifeline over-collection violations that imposes: (1) a $20,000 base forfeiture for each instance in which an ETC files a Form 497 that includes ineligible subscribers in the line count; (2) a base forfeiture of $5,000 for each ineligible subscriber for whom the ETC requests and/or receives support from the fund in violation of the above-mentioned rule sections; and (3) an upward adjustment of the base forfeiture equal to three times the reimbursements requested and/or received by the ETC for ineligible subscribers. Application of these standards yielded the proposed $3,719,900 forfeiture.
FCC Proposes to Fine AT&T $25,000 for Installing Whip Antenna on Rooftop
The FCC has proposed to fine AT&T $25,000 for installing a 20-foot whip antenna on top of a building mounted antenna structure without first obtaining clearance from the FAA and an antenna structure registration from the FCC. While it is commonplace for telecom companies and private users of radio to install their antennas on rooftop structures, this case demonstrates that the mere mounting of an antenna can inadvertently cause an FCC violation, if the structure was already just below the height triggering FAA clearance and the antenna put it over.
The FCC became aware of the whip antenna in response to a complaint from the Los Angeles Police Department concerning an unlit tower. In this case, the overall vertical height of the building (including the unmarked and unlit antenna structure and whip antenna) was 208 feet. AT&T admitted that the whip antenna had been installed in November 2012 without receiving prior approval from the FAA.
AT&T's actions resulted in two violations: (a) failure to maintain proper marking and lighting since installation of the whip antenna would have required the tower and perhaps the building to have been lighted since the overall height exceeded 200 feet above ground and (b) failure to register the antenna structure since notice to the FAA was required.
While the FCC notes that the base amount of the proposed fine should be $13,000, it is proposing a $25,000 fine because the FCC wants to ensure that forfeiture liability is a deterrent and not simply a cost of doing business for large multi-billion dollar companies such as AT&T.
Any antenna structure must undergo FAA clearance and FCC Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) if its height exceeds 200 feet above ground level, or if it is close enough to an airport or heliport to violate the landing strip's "glide slope". Clients mounting their antennas on a rooftop must determine whether the antenna will increase the structure height above the limits, along with other regulatory compliance measures such as making sure their antenna will not cause the structure to violate RF radiation limits, or trigger warning sign/restricted access requirements.
FCC Proposes Over $1.9 Million In Penalties For Misuse Of Emergency Alert Warnings
Earlier this week, the FCC proposed fines against Viacom, ESPN, and NBC Universal in excess of $1.9 million for repeatedly transmitting an advertisement that misused the warning sounds of the nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) in March 2013.
The EAS system is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television operators, wireless cable operators, wireline video service providers, satellite digital audio radio service providers and direct broadcast satellite providers to make it possible for the President of the United States to address the American public in the event of an emergency. This system is also utilized by federal, state and local officials to deliver important emergency information such as Amber Alerts and weather information such as tornado warnings, flood watches and warnings, etc. that are targeted to specific geographic areas. Because of abuses involving the old Emergency Broadcast System – where alert tones had been simulated for other purposes, the FCC adopted strict rules in 1994 that prohibited the improper use or simulation of EAS Alert tones. This is to ensure that the EAS alert tones are taken seriously by the public and are truly able to alert the public to an emergency message that may require prompt or immediate attention. As a result, EAS codes or the Attention Signal may only be broadcast in the event of an emergency or to test the EAS system. The routine use of EAS alert tones for other purposes would relegate the alert tones to mere background noise – thus reducing the needed effect to alert the public to an emergency.
Like most cases involving EAS violations, the FCC's investigation was made in response to viewer or consumer complaints from the public concerning the broadcast of the Olympus has Fallen movie trailer on various networks. In response to Letters of Inquiry from the Enforcement Bureau, the Companies each admitted that the commercial appeared multiple times on multiple national and regional networks under their control, and that the commercial used actual EAS codes and the Attention Signal to advertise the film. The networks generally claimed in one fashion or another that they did not realize that broadcast of the movie trailer would violate the FCC's rules – and in each instant, the network had pre-screened the movie trailer to make sure it did not raise any "red flags" or otherwise violate their standards for broadcast. Likewise, the FCC did not accept the argument that the networks merely transmitted content that had been received from another source.
In this regard, it appears that the FCC's focus for enforcement was the various networks rather than the individual broadcasters, cable companies or MVPDs. [...] is the originator of the content – meaning where the content is placed into the broadcast stream – rather than the local cable operator or distributor for content that is broadcast over national and/or regional networks. For content originated on local cable or MVPD channels, the FCC would likely look to the local cable or MVPD provider. As a result, those of our clients who receive local content for broadcast should review it prior to broadcast in order to ensure that it does not contain any material, including EAS codes or the Attention Signal, which would violate the FCC's Rules.
[ Brad's note: MVPD is a multichannel video programming distributor — a service provider delivering video programming services.]
As a result of the investigation, the FCC issued an omnibus Notice of Apparent Liability for a total of $1,930,000 to the Companies. Seven Viacom-owned networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 108 times over five days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $1,120,000. Three ESPN-owned networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 13 times over four days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $280,000. Finally, seven NBC Universal-owned cable networks transmitted the advertisement a total of 38 times over a span of six days, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $530,000.
U.S. Sues Sprint Over Wiretapping Overcharges
A number of news sources are reporting that the government of the United States has filed a law suit against Sprint Corp. alleging that the company over-billed the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to the tune of $21 million for costs associated with assisting in court-ordered wiretaps.
The complaint states that Sprint "knowingly included in its intercept charges the costs of financing modifications to equipment, facilities, and services" associated maintaining compliance with the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the 1994 law that requires telecommunications companies to be capable of performing wiretaps for the government. While CALEA provides that companies may charge for "reasonable expenses" incurred by the actual performance of the wiretap, the government argues, but not for upgrading equipment to maintain compliance over time.
The complaint continues, "Because Sprint's invoices for intercept charges did not identify the particular expenses for which it sought reimbursement, federal law enforcement agencies were unable to detect that Sprint was requesting reimbursement of these unallowable costs" – an issue more commonly known as cramming.
Sprint denied the allegations. "Under the law, the government is required to reimburse Sprint for its reasonable costs incurred when assisting law enforcement agencies with electronic surveillance," said a spokesman for the company. "The invoices Sprint has submitted to the government fully comply with the law. We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously."
Mar. 7 – Initial expressions of interest in rural broadband experiments are due.
Mar. 7 – Reply comments on NECA 2014 Average Schedule Formulas are due.
Mar. 10 – Oppositions to Petitions to Deny T-Mobile/Verizon Spectrum Sale are due.
Mar. 10 – Electronic filing deadline for Form 497 for carriers seeking support for the preceding month and wishing to receive reimbursement by month's end.
Mar. 11 – Replies to Oppositions to Petitions for Reconsideration on Rural Call Completion Order are due.
Mar. 17 – Reply comments are due on Use of Mobile Wireless Devices on Airborne Aircraft.
Mar. 17 – Replies to Oppositions to Petitions to Deny T-Mobile/Verizon Spectrum Sale are due.
Mar. 31 – FCC Form 525 (Delayed Phase-down CETC Line Counts) is due.
Mar. 31 – FCC Form 508 (ICLS Projected Annual Common Line Requirement) is due.
Mar. 31 – Comments on FCC Process Reform Report are due.
Mar. 31 – Comments are due on Rural Broadband Experiments and Numbering Research.
Mar. 31 – Comments are due on AT&T Wire Center Trials Proposal.
Apr. 1 – FCC Form 499-A (Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet) is due.
Apr. 1 – Annual Accessibility Certification is due.
Apr. 1 – PRA comments on Form 477 (Local Telephone Competition and Broadband Reporting) are due.
Apr. 1 – PRA comments on Form 477 (Local Telephone Competition and Broadband Reporting) are due.
Apr. 10 – Reply comments are due on AT&T Wire Center Trials Proposal.
Apr. 14 – Reply comments are due on Rural Broadband Experiments and Numbering Research.
| BloostonLaw Private Users Update || Vol. 15, No. 2 || February 2014 |
FCC Acts to Help Emergency Responders Locate Wireless 911 Callers
The FCC has proposed rules that will help emergency first responders locate wireless callers to 911. These proposed rules will update the Commission's Enhanced 911 (E911) rules in order to respond to the increasing use of wireless phones to call 911 – especially from indoor locations where traditional wireline phones may not be available or otherwise used.
Under the FCC's current rules, wireless providers are required to automatically transmit location information to 911 call centers (PSAPs) within a certain degree of accuracy. The current rules were adopted in 1999 and last updated in 2010 and only allow wireless carriers to meet the accuracy standard based on the performance of outdoor wireless calls. Because many Americans have replaced their landline phones with wireless devices, the FCC's new rules would require the location accuracy to identify the building for most indoor calls.
In California, the FCC noted 73 percent of 911 calls originate from wireless phones and that 80 percent of all smart phone use is indoors. Additionally, in multi-story buildings such as office buildings and apartment buildings, first responders are frequently not able to easily locate the caller since they are unable to determine the floor or even the building from which the call originated.
In the near term, the FCC is proposing that wireless providers meet interim location accuracy metrics that would at least identify the building for most indoor calls and the floor from which the call originated. For the long-term, the FCC seeks to develop a more granular indoor location accuracy standard that would require the identification of a specific room, office, or apartment from which a 911 call is made.
The Commission has not yet set a comment cycle for its proposals.
FCC Issues Software Tool to Help Protect AM Stations from Interference by Other Towers
The Commission's Rules to provide a single protective scheme for the construction and modification of antenna towers near AM tower arrays became effective as of February 20, 2014. Under these rules, which were originally adopted in August, 2013, the FCC has designated the "Moment Method" computer modeling as the principal means for determining whether a nearby tower will affect an AM radiation pattern. Our clients constructing antenna structures, or modifying existing structures, must make sure they are not inadvertently modifying an AM station radiation pattern by doing so.
In order to facilitate compliance with these rules, the FCC has developed an AM Tower Tool that will allow parties proposing the construction or modification of towers to input their proposed location into the tool. The AM Tower Tool will then determine if there are nearby operating AM stations that could be affected by the proposed construction or modification of the tower. In addition to advising the proponent, the AM Tower Tool will also notify the proponents of proposed AM stations within the coordination distances that are authorized, but not yet operating. The FCC's AM Tower Tool can be found at http://fcc.gov/am-towertool .
Deadline for Signal Booster Compliance Extended to April 30, 2014
The FCC has extended, until April 30, 2014, the deadline for all consumer signal boosters that are marketed, sold or distributed in the United States to comply with the Commission's new technical standards for Consumer Signal Boosters. The 60-day delay, from March 1, 2014 until April 30, 2014, was necessary so that the FCC would have sufficient time to certify Consumer Signal Boosters under its new rules and thereby provide consumers with adequate choices among compliant Consumer Signal Boosters.
Regardless of this extension, consumers will be permitted to operate legacy signal booster equipment if (a) they have the consent of the wireless service provider whose signal is being extended by the booster, and (b) the signal booster is registered with that provider. Wireless service providers will be permitted to shut down any signal booster that causes harmful interference to their operations or harms network performance.
The FCC extended the deadline because unexpected complexities in its rules, coupled with the Government shut down in October, 2013, led to delays in finalizing test procedures for Consumer Signal Boosters. As a result, signal booster manufacturers could not finalize and submit equipment certification applications until those procedures were in place. The 60-day extension will allow for the review and testing of these devices so that they can be properly certified and offered for sale. Additionally, by making more signal booster equipment available, the FCC determined that the use of legacy equipment would be reduced.
FCC Denial of Construction Notice Waiver Request Demonstrates Importance of Meeting FCC Deadlines
Spartanburg County, South Carolina (Spartanburg) requested a waiver of the FCC's Rules to permit the late-filing of a construction notification after the FCC had terminated the authorization through its "Term-Pending" Process. The basis for the Spartanburg's request was that while it had timely constructed its facility, it had inadvertently overlooked the filing of the required construction notification. Unfortunately, because Spartanburg neither timely filed its construction notification nor sought reconsideration of the FCC's proposal to terminate its operational authority, the FCC denied Spartanburg's late-filed construction notification and deemed Spartanburg's operating authority terminated.
On November 28, 2012, the FCC issued a Public Notice which notified Spartanburg that the frequency 807.4625 MHz had been placed in a Termination Pending status due to non-construction. The Public Notice advised Spartanburg that it had 30 days (or until December 28, 2012) within which to file a petition for reconsideration demonstrating that it had timely constructed its facility. Spartanburg did not file a petition for reconsideration as required by the Public Notice. Having missed this dead-line, Spartanburg instead requested a waiver of the FCC's Rules on January 30, 2013, pointing out that it had timely constructed the frequency before the October 25, 2012 deadline.
In reviewing Spartanburg's waiver request, the FCC not-ed that Spartanburg did not demonstrate why it failed to make its construction notification filing in a timely manner or file the required Petition for Reconsideration. As a result, the FCC concluded that Spartanburg's authorization to operate the 807.4625 MHz transmitter automatically terminated.
GE Fluorescent Lighting Ballasts Cause Harmful Interference to Verizon Wireless' 700 MHz LTE Cell Site – Results in Citation to Building Owner
The FCC has cited a building owner of the Ernst & Young Plaza in Los Angeles, California for violations of the FCC's Rules involving the use of GE fluorescent light ballasts that are causing interference to Verizon Wireless' nearby 700 MHz LTE cell site.
Upon receiving complaints from Verizon Wireless, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau notified the Property Manager that the GE light ballasts were causing interference to the Verizon Wireless 700 MHz LTE cell site. At the time of the visit, the FCC provided the Property Manager with a copy of a GE Product Bulletin that indicated that certain GE UltraMax ballasts could "produce unintentionally high-frequency radio emissions that have the potential to cause interference with certain types of radio communications." The Property Manager was directed to investigate the matter and provide an interim report within 30 days and a final report within 60 days. Almost seven months later, because the interference had not been addressed, the FCC investigated the matter further and determined that the light ballasts in use at the Ernst & Young Plaza were covered by the GE Product Bulletin.
Because the light ballasts are unintentional radiators of radio frequencies, they are regulated by the FCC. Light ballasts are regulated by the FCC as industrial, scientific or medical equipment (ISM) and are not permitted to cause harmful interference to any authorized radio service. In the event that harmful interference occurs, the FCC's rules require the operator/user of ISM equipment to promptly take whatever steps may be necessary (including the termination of operations) to eliminate the interference.
In the event that an ISM device causes harmful interference, the operator (or manufacturer of the ISM device) is required to investigate the interference claim and provide an interim report to the FCC's Field office within 30 days of being notified of the harmful interference, followed by a final report 30 days later. Here, it appears that the Property Manager neither resolved the interference issue nor provided the FCC with the required reports – despite being directed to do almost 1 year ago.
The FCC's decision to issue a citation puts the FCC in a position to fine the property owner if it remains uncooperative. The Commission does not have to issue a separate citation before fining entities already regulated by the FCC ( e.g., licensees).
Tower Owner Draws $10,000 Fine For Not Having Lights On During Daylight
The FCC continues to issue fines for tower lighting violations. On February 21, 2014, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture against Ohana Media Group, LLC, the owner of a 96 meter antenna tower in Anchorage, Alaska, for $10,000. The proposed fine is due to Ohana's failure to display the required flashing white light at the top of the tower during daytime hours. Ohana elected to have day-time white strobe lighting so that it could avoid painting the tower. This is critical during the day so that the tower is conspicuous to aircraft pilots.
In the course of its investigation, the FCC determined that no only had the top-mounted white light failed, but that Ohana Media also failed to report the light outage to the FAA within 30 minutes, as required by the FCC's Rules.
For those of our clients who own antenna towers with obstruction marking and lighting, it is extremely important that you verify the operation of the obstruction lighting daily. Should there be a failure that cannot be corrected within 30 minutes, it is important that the FAA be promptly notified so that a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) can be issued. You should note that NOTAMs are for limited duration and must be renewed if the outage is not fixed within the required time frame.
FCC Fines Directlink $20,000 for Operating a Transmitter without a License and in Violation of Part 15
The FCC has issued a $20,000 fine against Directlink for operating a transmitter without a license and in a manner that violated Part 15 of the FCC's Rule – which allows the operation of certain unlicensed devices.
In response to an interference complaint from the FAA, the FCC utilized direction finding equipment to determine that interference on the frequency 5630 MHz coming from a U-NII system being operated by Directlink, LLC. The FCC's investigation determined that Directlink's device was authorized to operate within a frequency range of 5745 to 5825 MHz, and that it was improperly operating out of the authorized range on a center frequency at 5630 MHz. Once Directlink adjusted the device's operating frequency from 5630 MHz to 5785 MHz, the interference to the FAA's Denver Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TWDR) was resolved.
In order to prevent the potential for interference to the FAA's TDWR installations, the FCC requires operators of U-NII devices in the 5.25 – 5.35 GHz and 5.47 – 5.725 GHz bands to have Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) radar detection functionality, which allows the device to detect radar systems and prevent co-channel operations with radar systems. During the FCC's inspection, Directlink advised that it was not operating with the required DFS functionality.
In originally proposing a $25,000 fine in the NALF, the FCC noted that the base fine for both violations is $15,000. However, the FCC applied an upward adjustment of $10,000 due to the circumstances and the public safety risks posed by Directlink's operation of an unauthorized system that created interference to the FAA's DTWR radar system at the Denver International Airport. Nonetheless, because Directlink demonstrated a good history of regulatory compliance, the FCC reduced the fine by $5,000 to $20,000.