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. 18, No. 26||June 24, 2015|
FCC Clarifies Enhanced Transparency Exemption; Seeks Comment on Permanent Exemption
On June 22, the FCC clarified that the relevant metric for determining whether a carrier is exempt from Open Internet transparency rules should be the number of connections from the carrier’s Form 477 Local Telephone Competition and Broadband Reporting. Although the FCC originally discussed the exemption in terms of “subscribers,” the Public Notice indicates that “connections” are the broadband equivalent of subscriber lines. Therefore, carriers with 100,000 or fewer connections are exempt from the enhanced transparency requirements until the exemption expires.
The FCC is also seeking comment on whether to make the exemption permanent. See the full article below for more information.
FCC Seeks Comment on Making Enhanced Transparency Exemption Permanent
As noted above, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau issued a Public Notice on June 22 clarifying the threshold of exemption from the FCC’s enhanced Open Internet transparency rule and seeking comment on whether to make that exemption permanent. Comments will be due 30 days after the Public Notice appears in the Federal Register, and reply comments will be due another 30 days after that.
Specifically, comment is sought on the following questions:
- What is the burden of the enhanced disclosure requirements on smaller providers, as measured in financial and other resources, and how is the burden disproportionately experienced by smaller providers?
- To the extent that concerns remain regarding any burdens, what is the corresponding benefit to customers of smaller providers of the information contained in those disclosures? For example, to what extent are customers of exempted providers deprived of information they need to understand the services they purchase and receive, and to monitor practices that could undermine an open Internet?
- Are rural customers likely to be disproportionally affected by exempting smaller providers from the enhanced disclosure requirements?
- How should any benefits of the enhanced transparency requirements to customers of exempted providers be balanced against any public interest benefits of reducing burdens to the providers?
- Will the reduction of compliance burdens for smaller providers benefit consumers in the areas served by those providers by, for example, facilitating broadband deployment, lower prices, or better quality services for consumers?
Currently, the threshold for purposes of the exemption is 100,000 or fewer broadband connections as measured by the carrier’s most recent Form 477, aggregated over all affiliates. The FCC also seeks comment on whether this is the right threshold for any extension of the exemption and, if not, what a more appropriate level might be. Additionally, the FCC seeks comment on whether there are reasons to adopt thresholds that vary for fixed and mobile providers.
FCC Releases Lifeline Modernization Second Report and Order; FNPRM
On June 22, the FCC released its Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Order on Reconsideration, Second Report and Order, and Memorandum Opinion and Order in the Lifeline modernization proceeding. In the FNPRM, the FCC seeks comment on a number of proposals aimed at including broadband service within the program. In the Second Report and Order, the FCC adopts several rules and procedures in response to the previous Lifeline NPRM.
Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on a number of aspects of the Lifeline program, including:
- Improving Lifeline Service Offerings , by establishing minimum service levels for both broadband and voice service; whether to set a budget for the program; and a transition period to implement these reforms.
- Reducing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse , by establishing a national verifier to make eligibility determinations and perform other functions related to the Lifeline program; leveraging efficiencies from other federal benefit programs and state agencies that determine eligibility; whether a third-party entity can directly transfer Lifeline benefits to individual consumers; changing the programs through which consumers qualify for Lifeline to ensure that those consumers most in need can receive support; and putting in place standards for eligibility documentation and state eligibility databases.
- Increasing Competition , by streamlining the eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) designation process; permitting Lifeline providers to opt-out of providing Lifeline supported service in certain circumstances; ways to encourage states to increase state Lifeline contributions; how to best utilize licensed and unlicensed spectrum bands to provide broadband service to low-income consumers; and, as an alternative to streamlining the Commission’s current ETC designation process, creating a new designation process for participation in Lifeline.
- Enhancing Lifeline Service , by amending the rules to treat the sending of text messages as usage of Lifeline service; adopt procedures to allow subscribers to de-enroll from Lifeline upon request; and to increase Lifeline provider participation in Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).
- Increasing Administrative Efficiency , by changing Tribal enhanced support; enhancing the requirements for electronic signatures; using subscriber data in the NLAD to calculate Lifeline provider support; and rules to minimize disruption to Lifeline subscribers upon the transfer of control of Lifeline providers.
In the Second Report and Order, the FCC established a uniform “snapshot” date each month for Lifeline providers to calculate their number of subscribers for the purpose of reimbursement (the first day of the month); eliminated the requirement that incumbent local exchange carriers must resell retail Lifeline-discounted service; and limited reimbursement for Lifeline service to Lifeline providers directly serving Lifeline customers.
FCC Adopts Order Allowing VoIP Providers Direct Access to Numbering Resources
The FCC has also released an Order allowing Voice over Internet Protocol providers to go directly to numbering administrators for phone numbers. According to the FCC, this will benefit consumers by reducing costs and promoting additional competition from these innovative VoIP providers.
The Order also “facilitates the ongoing transitions in communications technology that are sweeping the nation and improves FCC oversight of the numbering system.” According to the press release, these improvements will “help ensure that calls connect nationwide and provide more accountability in and protections for the numbering system.”
The Order also imposes a number of conditions to protect and enhance the security and integrity of the numbering system. Conditions will also ensure that all numbers distributed are used, protecting the system from running out of phone numbers.
FCC Largely Affirms 600 MHz Incentive Auction Rules; Applications to Bid Likely Due This Fall
The FCC last Friday released a Second Order on Reconsideration (FCC 15-69) in the incentive auction docket (GN Docket 12-268) which largely affirmed the rules adopted in last year’s Incentive Auction R&O, with certain clarifications and modifications discussed below. Based on these rules, the Commission is now developing the more detailed procedures to govern the incentive auction process. The FCC says it intends to begin accepting applications to participate in the incentive auction in the fall of 2015, and to start the bidding process in early 2016 .
In the Incentive Auction R&O, the Commission adopted a 600 MHz Band Plan that can accommodate market-by-market variation, since this would avoid restricting the amount of repurposed spectrum that is available in most areas nationwide. The Commission denied requests by broadcasters to adopt a uniform band plan nationwide, since a “least common denominator” band plan would result in a constrained market despite the availability of more spectrum elsewhere in the country.
With respect to the 600 MHz band plan, the FCC affirmed that paired uplink and downlink bands supporting a Frequency Division Duplex (“FDD”)-based framework for operations was the best design in light of current technology, the Band’s propagation characteristics, and the potential interference issues present in the Band.
Other highlights from the Second Reconsideration Order include affirmation of the Commission’s decision to designate one unused television channel following the repacking process for shared use by unlicensed devices and wireless microphones, and to permit unlicensed devices to operate in the 600 MHz guard bands and channel 37, subject to the development of appropriate Part 15 technical rules and database requirements.
The FCC reiterated that, “consistent with the Spectrum Act, unlicensed use of the guard bands will be subject to the Commission’s ultimate determination that such use will not cause harmful interference to licensed services.”
With respect to eligibility to participate in the reverse auction, the Commission rejected arguments that LPTV stations be allowed to participate in the incentive auction, and affirmed its decision to allow Non-Commercial and Educational (NCE) stations to participate fully in the reverse auction.
With the FCC’s incentive auction framework recently upheld by the DC Circuit, and petitions for reconsideration addressed in the Second Reconsideration Order, the Commission is steadily crossing its legal and regulatory hurdles and looks to be on schedule for plans to hold the incentive auction in early 2016. With auction applications likely to be due this fall, we strongly urge clients that may be interested in bidding to immediately size up the PEA license areas and to begin discussions with potential partners. We can assist our clients with structuring auction applicants to best take advantage of bid credits and other considerations.
FCC Adopts Rules for Robocalls and Texts
On June 18, the FCC adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Order in which it made a number of affirmations aimed at increasing consumer protection from robocalls and texts. The full text of the order is not yet available, but a press release issued by the FCC indicates the Order :
- Permits service providers to offer robocall-blocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls.
- Affirms the right of consumers to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time.
- Creates a one-strike rule for reassigned numbers, requiring companies to stop calling a reassigned number after one call.
- Clarifies that a consumer whose name is in the contacts list of an acquaintance’s phone does not consent to receive robocalls from third-party applications downloaded by the acquaintance.
- Affirmed that consumers are entitled to the same consent-based protections for texts as they are for voice calls to wireless numbers.
The press release also indicates that the FCC adopted “very limited and specific exemptions for urgent circumstances,” such as free calls or texts to alert consumers to possible fraud on their bank accounts or remind them of important medication refills, among other financial alerts or healthcare messages, but provided that consumers have the right to opt out from these permitted calls and texts at any time.
Because the FCC’s modifications to the robocall restrictions are in the form of a declaratory ruling and order, many aspects may be effective immediately upon release of the document; therefore, our clients that utilize robocalling for a variety of legitimate reasons will want to evaluate their practices IMMEDIATELY under the new requirements, and make adjustments as necessary to avoid liability.
Law & Regulation
Time Warner Cable to be First Net Neutrality Suit
The Washington Post is reporting that Time Warner Cable will be the first to face a complaint under the recently-effective Net Neutrality rules. According to the article, Commercial Network Services (CNS) plans to accuse Time Warner Cable of charging it unreasonable rates to deliver its streaming videos to Time Warner’s customers.
CNS operates a site called SunDiegoLive, which hosts a number of webcams streaming live video over the internet. It is reportedly popular for showing the coming and going of U.S. Navy vessels, for example.
Time Warner Cable said in a statement to The Washington Post that it is willing to enter into agreements in which no money changes hands if the content partner exchanges “large amounts of traffic at multiple locations,” an arrangement known as “settlement-free peering.”
“TWC’s interconnection practices are not only 'just and reasonable' as required by the FCC, but consistent with the practices of all major ISPs and well-established industry standards,” the company said. “We are confident that the FCC will reject any complaint that is premised on the notion that every edge provider around the globe is entitled to enter into a settlement-free peering arrangement.”
The Post further reports that the complaint will ask the FCC to decide that Time Warner should pass on the company’s content without charging CNS a fee and that all ISPs be required to enter into settlement-free deals with web site operators at so-called “public exchanges,” which reportedly house physical networking equipment for online businesses.
FCC Adopts Protective Order for Form 481 ETC Financial Data
On June 17, 2015 the Wireline Competition Bureau issued a new Protective Order covering ETCs filing certain financial data in their annual Form 481 reports pursuant to section 54.313(f)(2). This Order adopts procedures that are identical to the procedures adopted in the previous Protective Order, with the exception that it now incorporates the new docket number, WC Docket No. 14-58, and supersedes the 2012 Protective Order.
Deutsche Telekom Reportedly in Talks with Comcast About T-Mobile US Sale
Reuters, by way of German publication Manager Magazin, is reporting that Deutsche Telekom is in talks with Comcast about a potential sale of T-Mobile US. According to Manager Magazin, Deutsche Telekom is apparently in talks with several parties, including satellite provider Dish, but Comcast is viewed as a more attractive buyer.
Little else is known at the moment, given that Deutsche Telekom declined to comment and Comcast was reportedly not immediately reachable for comment.
Sprint Reportedly Stops Throttling Data Due to Net Neutrality Rules
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sprint stopped its practice of throttling data speeds for its heaviest mobile data users during periods of high network congestion. In a statement, Sprint said it believes its policy would have been allowed under the rules, but dropped it just in case. “Sprint doesn’t expect users to notice any significant difference in their services now that we no longer engage in the process,” a Sprint spokesman said.
As we reported in last week’s edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, AT&T was recently fined $100,000,000 for throttling data speeds for users exceeding a certain amount of data despite referring to those plans as “unlimited.” It is important to note, however, that AT&T was found to have apparently violated the FCC’s transparency requirements, which require carriers to adequately disclose their network management practices.
JULY 1: FCC FORM 481 (CARRIER ANNUAL REPORTING DATA COLLECTION FORM). All eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) must report the information required by Section 54.313, which includes outage, unfulfilled service request, and complaint data, broken out separately for voice and broadband services, information on the ETC’s holding company, operating companies, ETC affiliates and any branding in response to section 54.313(a)(8); its CAF-ICC certification, if applicable; its financial information, if a privately held rate-of-return carrier; and its satellite backhaul certification, if applicable. Form 481 must not only be filed with USAC, but also with the FCC and the relevant state commission and tribal authority, as appropriate.
Although USAC treats the filing as confidential, filers must seek confidential treatment separately with the FCC and the relevant state commission and tribal authority if confidential treatment is desired.
JULY 1: MOBILITY FUND PHASE I ANNUAL REPORT. Winning bidders in Auction 901 that are authorized to receive Mobility Fund Phase I support are required to submit to the Commission an annual report each year on July 1 for the five years following authorization. Each annual report must be submitted to the Office of the Secretary of the Commission, clearly referencing WT Docket No. 10-208; the Universal Service Administrator; and the relevant state commissions, relevant authority in a U.S. Territory, or Tribal governments, as appropriate. The information and certifications required to be included in the annual report are described in Section 54.1009 of the Commission’s rules.
JULY 31: FCC FORM 507, UNIVERSAL SERVICE QUARTERLY LINE COUNT UPDATE. Line count updates are required to recalculate a carrier's per line universal service support, and is filed with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). This information must be submitted on July 31 each year by all rate-of-return incumbent carriers, and on a quarterly basis if a competitive eligible telecommunications carrier (CETC) has initiated service in the rate-of-return incumbent carrier’s service area and reported line count data to USAC in the rate-of-return incumbent carrier’s service area, in order for the incumbent carrier to be eligible to receive Interstate Common Line Support (ICLS). This quarterly filing is due July 31 and covers lines served as of December 31, 2014. Incumbent carriers filing on a quarterly basis must also file on September 30 (for lines served as of March 31, 2015); December 30 (for lines served as of June 30, 2015), and March 31, 2016 , for lines served as of September 30, 2015).
JULY 31: CARRIER IDENTIFICATION CODE (CIC) REPORTS. Carrier Identification Code (CIC) Reports must be filed by the last business day of July (this year, July 31). These reports are required of all carriers who have been assigned a CIC code by NANPA. Failure to file could result in an effort by NANPA to reclaim it, although according to the Guidelines this process is initiated with a letter from NANPA regarding the apparent non-use of the CIC code. The assignee can then respond with an explanation. (Guidelines Section 6.2). The CIC Reporting Requirement is included in the CIC Assignment Guidelines, produced by ATIS. According to section 1.4 of that document: At the direction of the NANPA, the access providers and the entities who are assigned CICs will be requested to provide access and usage information to the NANPA, on a semi-annual basis to ensure effective management of the CIC resource. (Holders of codes may respond to the request at their own election). Access provider and entity reports shall be submitted to NANPA no later than January 31 for the period ending December 31, and no later than July 31 for the period ending June 30. It is also referenced in the NANPA Technical Requirements Document, which states at 7.18.6: CIC holders shall provide a usage report to the NANPA per the industry CIC guidelines … The NAS shall be capable of accepting CIC usage reports per guideline requirements on January 31 for the period ending December 31 and no later than July 31 for the period ending June 30. These reports may also be mailed and accepted by the NANPA in paper form. Finally, according to the NANPA website, if no local exchange carrier reports access or usage for a given CIC, NANPA is obliged to reclaim it. The semi-annual utilization and access reporting mechanism is described at length in the guidelines.
AUGUST 1: FCC FORM 499-Q, TELECOMMUNICATIONS REPORTING WORKSHEET. All telecommunications common carriers that expect to contribute more than $10,000 to federal Universal Service Fund (USF) support mechanisms must file this quarterly form. The FCC has modified this form in light of its recent decision to establish interim measures for USF contribution assessments. The form contains revenue information from the prior quarter plus projections for the next quarter. Form 499-Q relates only to USF contributions. It does not relate to the cost recovery mechanisms for the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA), and the shared costs of local number portability (LNP), which are covered in the annual form (Form 499-A) that was due April 1.
AUGUST 1: FCC FORM 502, NUMBER UTILIZATION AND FORECAST REPORT: Any wireless or wireline carrier (including paging companies) that have received number blocks—including 100, 1,000, or 10,000 number blocks—from the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA), a Pooling Administrator, or from another carrier, must file Form 502 by August 1. Carriers porting numbers for the purpose of transferring an established customer’s service to another service provider must also report, but the carrier receiving numbers through porting does not. Resold services should also be treated like ported numbers, meaning the carrier transferring the resold service to another carrier is required to report those numbers but the carrier receiving such numbers should not report them. Reporting carriers file utilization and forecast reports semiannually on or before February 1 for the preceding six-month reporting period ending December 31, and on or before August 1 for the preceding six-month reporting period ending June 30.
AUGUST 29: COPYRIGHT STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS. The Copyright Statement of Accounts form plus royalty payment for the first half of calendar year 2014 is due to be filed August 29 at the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office by cable TV service providers.
Calendar At A Glance
Jun. 26 – Replies to Petitions to Suspend or Reject Tariffs filed on 15 days’ notice are due.
Jun. 26 – Petitions to Suspend or Reject Tariffs filed on 7 days’ notice are due by noon Eastern Time.
Jun. 29 – Replies to Petitions to Suspend or Reject Tariffs filed on 7 days’ notice due by noon Eastern Time.
Jun. 29 – Comments are due on the FCC’s Mobile Competition Report.
Jul. 1 – FCC Form 481 (Carrier Annual Reporting Data Collection Form) is due.
Jul. 1 – FCC Form 690 (Mobility Fund Phase I Auction Winner Annual Report) is due.
Jul. 6 – Reply comments are due on the 9-1-1 Non-Service Initialized Device NPRM.
Jul. 6 – Reply comments are due on Eligible Services List for E-Rate 2016.
Jul. 9 – Deadline to Certify Accuracy of Authorization and Database Technical Information for Full Power and Class A Stations.
Jul. 9 – Deadline for Petitions for Eligible Entity Status for Full Power and Class A Stations.
Jul. 14 – Reply comments are due on the FCC’s Mobile Competition Report.
Jul. 16 – Comments are due on Part 4 Outage Reporting NPRM.
Jul. 20 – PRA comments are due on the Open Internet Order.
Jul. 27 – Comments are due on FirstNet Draft RFP.
Jul. 31 – Reply comments are due on Part 4 Outage Reporting NPRM.
Jul. 31 – FCC Form 507 (Universal Service Quarterly Line Count Update) is due.
Jul. 31 – Carrier Identification Code (CIC) Report is due.
Aug. 1 – FCC Form 502 due (North American Numbering Plan Utilization and Forecast Report).
Aug. 1 – FCC Form 499-Q (Quarterly Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet) is due.
Aug. 29 – Copyright Statement of Accounts is due.