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. 37||September 24, 2014|
FCC Reminds Carriers of Broadband Experiment Application Deadline, Announces Rural Broadband Webinar Scheduled September 29
Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) will hold a webinar on Monday, September 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm EST on completing the application form that parties must submit to participate in the Rural Broadband Experiment bidding process to be eligible to receive Connect America Fund support in price cap areas. Rural Broadband Experiment applicants will be required to complete FCC Form 5610, which requires applicants to provide certain identifying information and attach proposed project bids. The application must be submitted by October 14, 2014. Due to the short time period for submitting an application, BloostonLaw encourages all companies that may participate in the Rural Broadband Experiments to take advantage of this webinar and raise any questions they may have in connection with the application. Interested clients can contact BloostonLaw with questions about the requirements for this application process, and for assistance in completing the application. However, given the impending deadline, and the amount of information required, it is important that interested clients give this matter priority attention.
The WCB will release additional information concerning how interested parties can attend the webinar soon.
FCC Proposes to Terminate Older Proceedings
The FCC Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau (“CGB”) released a Public Notice on September 18 seeking comment on whether numerous docketed Commission proceedings should be terminated as dormant in its fourth Dormant Proceedings Termination Public Notice. The third Dormant Proceedings Termination Public Notice, issued on June 30, 2014, resulted in the termination of 645 dormant proceedings.
The proceedings to be terminated include dockets in which no further action is required or contemplated by the FCC, as well as those in which no pleadings or other documents have been filed for several years. The termination of a dormant proceeding includes dismissal as moot of any pending petition, motion, or other request for relief that is procedural in nature or otherwise does not address the merits of the proceeding. The records in terminated proceedings remain part of the Commission’s official records, and the various pleadings, orders, and other documents in these dockets continue to be accessible to the public, post-termination.
Parties with pending proceedings at the FCC should review the list and consider filing comments. According to the FCC, proceedings in which petitions addressing the merits are pending should not be terminated, absent the parties’ consent. However, to the extent that a particular proceeding includes a petition addressing the merits or other pending pleadings, a party’s failure to file comments in response to the FCC's Public Notice will be construed as consent to termination of that proceeding.
Comments on the proceedings to be terminated will be due 30 days and reply comments will be due after 45 days after Federal Register publication of the Public Notice.
Law & Regulation
Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Open Internet
On September 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Why Net Neutrality Matters: Protecting Consumers and Competition through Meaningful Open Internet Rules.”
In written testimony, Former Commissioner Robert McDowell said that classifying broadband as a common-carrier style utility under Title II of the Communications Act would generate uncertainty, cause unintended consequences, and undermine the growth of the entire internet ecosystem. He also argued that wireless broadband is different from wireline internet and should not be subject to Net Neutrality.
Jeffrey A. Eisenach , Visiting Scholar at the AEI Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy, argued that Net Neutrality would not protect the public interest; that it is a prime example of rent-seeking by edge providers; that the potential costs of Net Neutrality are huge; and that existing anti-trust and consumer protection laws are sufficient to ensure fair play.
On the other hand, Brad Burnham , Managing Partner of Union Square Ventures, argued that last mile broadband access should be classified as a telecommunications service followed by an immediate forbearance
from “most of the regulatory overhead of current telecommunications regulation.” According to Mr. Burnham, this would give the FCC “sound legal authority to adopt the kind of open internet rules we need to protect innovation and investment on the Internet.”
Ruth Livier , a writer, independent producer, and actress, also called for the reclassification of Internet service as a telecommunications service. She said the Open Internet issue is civil rights issue, and her testimony focused on how open Internet access and information distribution allowed her to bypass traditional media companies (and apparently traditional industry biases) to get her work in front of the public.
Nuala O’Connor , President and CEO for the Center for Democracy & Technology, urged the FCC to consider any and all options, including Title II, Section 706, and hybrid proposals. She noted, however, that these existing structures have significant limitations and that a new framework may be needed.
During the hearing, representatives were largely concerned with preserving equal access to Internet “lanes,” and stressed the need to ensure that infrastructure investment and innovation is not dampened.
Chairman Testifies at House Committee Hearing on Needs of Small Business and Rural America
Also on September 17, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing entitled Is the FCC Responding to the Needs of Small Business and Rural America? The sole witness at the hearing was FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
In his testimony, Chairman Wheeler cited the FCC’s reformation of the Universal Service Fund to focus on broadband and the establishment of the Connect America Fund as steps the FCC has taken to expand access by small business and rural areas to high-speed broadband. The Chairman also cited to the upcoming Rural Broadband Experiments proceeding, which he contends will allow the FCC to explore how best to structure the second phase of the Connect America Fund (including through the use of a competitive bidding process in price-cap areas) and to gather valuable information about deploying next generation networks in high-cost areas.
Chairman Wheeler also addressed wireless connectivity and competition. In this regard, he cited to the auctioning in February of the 10 megahertz H-Block, which raised more than $1.5 billion, the upcoming AWS-3 auction of 65 megahertz of “highly desirable spectrum” this November, and the establishment in May of ground rules for the oft-delayed Incentive Auction.
Chairman Wheeler also mentioned the FCC’s ongoing Open Internet proceeding, which received over 3 million comments, and the upcoming roundtable series dedicated to Open Internet issues.
A full copy of Chairman Wheeler’s testimony can be found here .
House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on FCC Oversight
In yet another hearing on September 17, this time at the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins and Inspector General David Hunt testified regarding the Oversight of FCC Budget and Management.
In his testimony, Mr. Hunt noted that audits of the FCC’s financial management and operations have disclosed deficiencies that, in some cases, repeat year after year, and that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigations have resulted in referrals to management for action and the dismissal or retirement of several employees. He noted that the FCC has refused to allow the OIG to hire criminal investigators, which in his opinion are very much needed to increase the ability to conduct criminal investigations without consuming DoJ and FBI resources.
In his testimony, Mr. Wilkins cataloged the FCC’s efforts to remain within the four corners of its budget for Fiscal Year 2014 and explained the increase requested for Fiscal Year 2015 (primarily increased inflationary costs for such items as rent, utilities and contracts, and personnel pay raises; IT modernization to carry out reform mandates and support Commission mission objectives; and enhanced USF enforcement ).
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden pre-emptively addressed some of the issues discussed in the witness’ testimony, including noting that the FCC has spent more than $352 million in the last five years on information technology (“How much of that was wasted on the FCC’s disastrous revamp of its website? How much is now being spent to “fix” the website that then-FCC CIO Steve Van Roekel said would pay for itself in just nine months?”), and that the FCC appeared to have a problem with duplicative spending with regard to USF enforcement, based on the testimony of Mr. Hunt.
Sprint Sells 900 MHz Licenses to Former Nextel Executives
A company led by former Nextel co-founders Morgan O’Brien and Brian McAuley has raised $218 million in a private equity deal and is using a portion of these proceeds to acquire all of Sprint Corporation’s 900 MHz spectrum licenses (approximately 6 megahertz nationwide). The spectrum was formerly used in Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz/900 MHz iDEN network, which has been shut down.
Pacific DataVision, Inc. (“PDV”) plans to use the spectrum to launch a modern ( i.e., non-iDEN) push-to-talk radio network dedicated solely to serving business customers. The service will target dispatch-oriented small and medium-sized businesses in the major metropolitan markets of the United States and will be offered primarily through Motorola Solutions, Inc.’s Authorized Dealer Network.
Mr. McAuley, Chairman of PDV, said, “Morgan and I are proud of the role we played in building Nextel into a carrier focused on the needs of the enterprise community. With the availability of Motorola Solutions’ digital radio technology, we see an opportunity to incorporate PDV’s proprietary cloud-based mobile resource management solutions into a next generation offering for businesses. These solutions increase productivity through the delivery of real-time information from and about mobile workers to their managers.”
The license assignment transaction, which involved 893 Major Trading Area (or “MTA”) and 512 site-specific 900 MHz licenses, was approved by the FCC’s Wireless Bureau last week. PDV intends to implement a push-to-talk dispatch service using its Dispatch Plus™ communications system, which features handset technology from Motorola and PDV’s proprietary mobile resource management solution. The company has been developing dispatch-centric, business mobility solutions for over ten years and has reportedly secured six U.S. and two foreign patents.
While some traditional Commercial Mobile Radio Service (“CMRS”) providers, including Sprint, also provide PTT services, PDV expects that its network solution, which will be dedicated to dispatch, will restore the speed and simplicity demanded by its targeted dispatch-centric customers and will greatly enhance the instant communication abilities of business users within their organizations and with their suppliers, vendors, and customers. Sprint de-commissioned its iDEN network in June 2013, and has been transitioning its 800 MHz spectrum to wideband CDMA and wideband LTE.
Sep. 19 – Reply comments are due on Tenth Broadband Report Notice of Inquiry.
Sep. 19 – Comments are due on fifth Congressional White Paper.
Sep. 19 – Open Internet Roundtable Series.
Sep. 23 – Annual Regulatory Fee Payments for Fiscal Year 2014 are due.
Sep. 29 – Reply comments are due on Rural Broadband Experiment FNPRM.
Sep. 30 – Reply comments are due on E-Rate Modernization NPRM.
Sep. 30 – FCC Form 396-C (MVPD EEO Program Annual Report).
Oct. 1 – FCC Form 477 due (Local Competition and Broadband Reporting).
Oct. 6 – Comments due on IP Captioning proceeding.
Oct. 14 – Deadline for applications for rural broadband experiments.
Oct. 15 – Auction 97 upfront payments are due.
Oct. 17 – Comment deadline for FirstNet RFI.
Nov. 3 – FCC Form 499-Q (Quarterly Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet) is due.
Nov. 3 – Reply comments are due on IP Captioning proceeding.
Nov. 13 – Auction 97 begins.
Nov. 14 – Comments are due on USDA Notice on Changes to Guaranteed Loan Program Regulations.
Nov. 14 – Comments are due on Part 32 Accounting Rules NPRM.
Dec. 1 – Deadline to Increase Residential Rate Floor to $16.
Dec. 15 – Deadline for Special Access Data Collection.
Dec. 15 – Reply comments are due on Part 32 Accounting Rules NPRM.