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. 45||November 18, 2015|
BloostonLaw wishes our clients a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday.
Our offices will be closed Thursday, November 26,
and Friday, November 27.
FCC Expands Scope of HAC Rules for Wireless IP-based Services; Proposes Pathway to 100% Compliance of Wireless Devices
The FCC last week adopted a Fourth Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which expanded the scope of the Commission’s hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules to cover IP-based communications services like Wi-Fi Calling and Voice-over-LTE. In addition, the new rules will require that future technologies will also comply with current and future HAC rules, which the FCC believes will encourage manufacturers to consider hearing aid compatibility at the earliest stages of the product design process as well as ensure that emerging voice services will be covered regardless of their classification for other regulatory purposes and without restriction to a particular network architecture.
Specifically, the HAC rules now extend to “handsets” ( i.e., those mobile devices that contain a built-in speaker and are typically held to the ear in any of their ordinary uses) used with any terrestrial mobile service that enables two-way real-time voice communications among members of the public (or a “substantial portion” of the public), including through the use of pre-installed software applications. The HAC requirements will apply to newly covered handsets and air interfaces as of January 1, 2018, with an additional period until April 1, 2018 , for handsets offered by non-Tier I service providers. This extended implementation deadline for small and rural carriers was adopted in response to comments and reply comments that were filed in the proceeding by the Blooston Rural Carriers and other rural advocates.
In the NPRM portion of the item, the FCC seeks comment on a variety of issues, including whether it should transition towards a 100 percent compatibility requirement for wireless handsets. Comments of the Blooston Rural Carriers earlier in this proceeding supported such a move, provided it applied only at the manufacturer level and if this eliminated the need for service providers to file annual hearing aid compatibility reports. Comments on the item are due by January 14, 2016 with reply comments due by January 29, 2016.
In particular, the FCC seeks comment on a Joint Consensus Proposal which provides that within two years of the effective date of new rules adopted, 66 percent of wireless handsets offered to consumers should be compliant with the FCC’s acoustic coupling radio frequency interference (M rating) and inductive coupling (T rating) requirements. The proposal further provides that this benchmark should apply directly to manufacturers and carriers that offer six or more digital wireless handset models in an air interface, with additional compliance periods for Tier I and Non-Tier I carriers of six months and eighteen months, respectively, to account for limits on handset availability and inventory turn-over rates. The proposal also recommends that the existing de minimis exception to the benchmarks should continue to apply to manufacturers and carriers that offer three or fewer handset models in an air interface.
We are reviewing the fine print of the Commission’s Fourth R&O and NPRM and expect to circulate draft comments to the firm’s CMRS and mobile wireless clients in January. As a related matter, CMRS service providers that are currently subject to the Commission’s HAC Rules (see Deadlines item below) are reminded that the deadline for filing HAC Reports for the 2015 Reporting Period is Friday, January 15, 2015.
FCC Proposes Enhancements to Wireless Emergency Alerts
On November 19, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which it proposed changes to improve Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) message content, ensure that the messages reach only those persons for whom the alert is relevant, and establish a WEA testing program that will improve the effectiveness of the system for public safety officials and the public. Specifically, the NPRM includes proposals to:
- Increase the maximum length of WEA messages (from 90 to 360 characters) in order to convey more information;
- Enable alerts to contain embedded phone numbers and URLs to improve message quality and accessibility;
- Create a new class of WEA alerts (“Emergency Government Information”) as a means of sending action-oriented public safety advisories (such as “boil water” messages or information on shelter locations during weather emergencies) to communities;
- Require participating wireless providers to deliver the alerts to more granular geographic areas; and
- Make it easier for state and local authorities to test WEA service and train personnel.
The Commission is also seeking comment on a variety of other potential improvements, including the technical feasibility of implementing multilingual and multimedia alerting. In addition, the Commission is seeking comment on steps it can take to promote Americans’ participation in WEA, including options for personalizing the display and receipt of WEA messages.
Republicans Support Transparency Exemption for Small Providers
On November 20, a group of Republican members of the House of Representatives, including every Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, sent a letter to the FCC urging it to adopt a permanent exemption from the Open Internet Order’s enhanced transparency requirements for small businesses. This would make a temporary exemption that the Commission adopted earlier this year permanent.
“During the Open Internet proceeding, the FCC heard from small businesses regarding the impact of the FCC’s enhanced transparency requirements. In its Order, the Commission rightly recognized that small businesses are uniquely situated and granted small businesses a temporary exemption from the requirements. We applaud the Commission’s action in granting this temporary exemption and urge you to make it permanent,” wrote the members.
They continued, “Small businesses serve as the backbone of the United States economy. In fact, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States, create 63 percent of net new private-sector jobs, and create more than half of private, non-farm gross domestic product. These companies are the true ‘job creators,’ consistently responsible for 60% to 80% of net new jobs in each of the past 10 years. … Given the stakes for America’s small businesses, the FCC was right to exercise caution and grant the temporary exemption. Now is the time to recognize the disproportionate impact that the requirements would have on these ISPs and their customers and make the exemption permanent. Additionally, the commission should grant the exemption to all small businesses that meet the definitions previously set by the [Small Business Administration].”
The exemption applies to carriers with 100,000 or fewer broadband connections. It is important to note, however, that the exemption only covers the enhanced transparency requirements that were adopted in 2015, and not the original transparency requirements adopted in 2010.
FCC Re-Redesigned Website to Launch December 9
On November 23, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that on December 9 it will be launching a new, redesigned version of its website, www.fcc.gov . The current page is expected to be taken down at 8:00 p.m., and the new page is expected to be available by midnight. Importantly, while the text on most FCC webpages is being updated, reformatted, and migrated to the new site, there may be some specific pages that will need format, content, or functional improvements after the change-over date.
According to the Public Notice, “The new website is designed to provide better functionality, an improved design, and better searchability and navigability … [and] is responsively designed and improves interoperability with tablet and mobile device browsers …” As part of this transition, the current website will no longer be available. Webpages and files that are on transition.fcc.gov that have not already been migrated to the new site will remain available. Existing bookmarks will be redirected to the appropriate content on the new site.
T-Mobile Seeks to Limit Verizon's Eligibility for 600 MHz Reserve Even in Smaller Markets
T-Mobile submitted an ex parte filing from Monday that is seeking to have Verizon disqualified from bidding for 600 MHz "reserve" spectrum on a market-by-market basis. Included with the filing was a 150+ page attachment of supporting analysis. The filing (minus the attachment) can be viewed at: ( http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=60001343275 )
First, T-Mobile says the reserve-eligibility list sometimes appears to omit attributable spectrum interests that the dominant carriers hold. T-Mobile identified two markets where it says Verizon holds an attributable interest in certain licenses, but the reserve-eligibility list excludes Verizon’s population-weighted spectrum holdings for those licenses. Two PEA markets they specifically mention as being impacted are Galesville, IL and Springfield MA.
Second, T-Mobile asserts that inconsistent "rounding" on the reserve-eligibility list can identify a dominant carrier as reserve eligible, even though it holds more than one-third of the suitable and available low-band spectrum in a market. They identify Brownsville TX as a PEA subject to this error.
Third, T-Mobile alleges that the reserve-eligibility list adopts an across-the-board increase to the reserve-eligibility threshold in markets if there is any spectrum-leasing activity in that market. A market where T-Mobile says Verizon is exploiting this lease "loophole" is PEA303, where Verizon would evidently gain reserve-eligibility upon FCC approval of a lease of low-band spectrum pursuant to one of Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) agreements.
Fourth, the reserve-eligibility list sometimes relies on a calculation of cellular geographic service area (“CGSA”) populations that T-Mobile cannot replicate. The differences between T-Mobile’s calculations and the FCC’s calculations can be relatively small, but even small inaccuracies in the CGSA data could alter reserve eligibility under the FCC’s current methodology. In Valentine NE (PEA410), for example, the difference between T-Mobile’s calculated spectrum holdings for Verizon of 45.02 megahertz (ineligible) and the FCC’s calculation of 44.9993 megahertz (eligible) reflect a difference of 11 people in the underlying CGSA data.
This highly detailed scrutinizing shows the great lengths to which T-Mobile is going, in order to limit reserve bidding in even the smaller markets. This — along with its unsuccessful efforts to increase the size of the reserve -- strongly suggests that T-Mobile will be a very active bidder in the upcoming auction, and that it is counting on the reserve to be on more even footing with the larger carriers.
FCC Proposes $718K Fine Against M.C. Dean for Wi-Fi Blocking
The FCC has proposed a fine of $718,000 against M.C. Dean, Inc., one of the largest electrical contractors in the United States, for interfering with and blocking consumer Wi-Fi devices at the Baltimore Convention Center. This action arose out of an informal complaint alleging that M.C. Dean had been blocking Wi-Fi signals to consumer routers that had not been provided by M.C. Dean. The FCC noted that M.C. Dean provided and sold wireless Internet service to exhibitors and other attendees at the convention center for at least 10 events over a 26-day period, during which at least 43,000 exhibitors and attendees were present. The FCC noted further that M.C. Dean charged $795.00 to $1,095.00 for Wi-Fi access – depending upon whether the service order was placed in advance or on-site.
In order to investigate this matter, the FCC’s field engineers attempted to use Wi-Fi hotspots both inside and outside the convention center and found that signals were blocked inside, but not outside. As a result, the FCC field engineers were able to determine that M.C. Dean was sending “deauthorization” packets to the FCC hotspots – which prevented them from working inside the convention center. M.C. Dean admitted that it had deployed “deathentication equipment” from October until December 13, 2014 and that it sued an anti-block feature that automatically detected and indiscriminately deauthenticated any unknown AP.
In assessing the fine, the Commission concluded that the use of Wi-Fi blocking equipment violated Section 333 of the Communications Act, even though Wi-Fi hotspots are Part 15 devices that are not normally protected from harmful interference. In this case, the FCC noted that for purposes of Part 15, the term harmful interference includes a radio signal that “seriously degrades, obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radio communications service operating in accordance with . . . Part 15.” The FCC stated that “deauthentication degrades, obstructs, and interrupts the radio communications between two third-party wireless networking devices” and “Section 333 . . . not only prohibits one from causing ‘interference to’ any radio communications, but also prohibits anyone from ‘interfering with’ such communications.”
In its defense, M.C. Dean claimed that its Wi-Fi blocking was “necessary to provide a reliable and secure Wi-Fi service” at the Baltimore Convention Center. Nonetheless, the FCC noted that M.C. Dean was not authorized to block any lawful third party Wi-Fi devices under Section 333 of the Communications Act, regardless of its desire to ensure the efficient operation of its network.
The proposed $718,000 fine against M.C. Dean, in connection with prior fines against Marriott for $600,000 and Smart City for $750,000 demonstrates the FCC’s commitment to stop illegal Wi-Fi blocking — whether it be in a hotel or convention hall environment or other business settings.
FCC Fines Hilton Worldwide $25K for Failure to Respond to an Investigation
In conjunction with the FCC’s action proposing a $718,000 fine against M.C. Dean for Wi-Fi blocking, the FCC has issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing a $25,000 fine against Hilton Worldwide Holdings for its apparent obstruction of an investigation into whether Hilton blocked consumer Wi-Fi devices at its hotel property in Anaheim, California.
In order to conclude its investigation, the FCC has ordered Hilton to “immediately provide essential information and documents about its Wi-Fi management practices” and warned the Company that it could face a significantly higher fine for any continued obstruction or delay in providing the required information. In taking this action, Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau stated that “[h]otel guests deserve to have their Wi-Fi blocking complaints investigated by the Commission. To permit any company to unilaterally redefine the scope of our investigation would undermine the independent search for the truth and due administration of the law.”
The FCC received an initial consumer complaint in August 2014 alleging that the Hilton in Anaheim, California was blocking visitor Wi-Fi hotspots unless those consumers paid a $500.00 fee to access the hotel’s Wi-Fi system. In this regard, the FCC noted that it has also received complaints involving other Hilton hotel properties. In November, 2014, the Enforcement Bureau issued a letter inquiry seeking information concerning basic company information, relevant corporate policies and specifics regarding Wi-Fi management practices at Hilton-branded properties in the United States. After nearly a year, the FCC noted that Hilton had not provided the requested information for the vast majority of its properties.
The Commission takes the issue of consumer access to Wi-Fi seriously and does not condone the “malicious” blocking of Wi-Fi hotspot devices – especially since consumers have already paid for that service through their wireless carrier. In this regard, the FCC has previously found the argument that such action is necessary for the protection of the hotel or convention center’s internal Wi-Fi system to be unpersuasive. The FCC has taken significant action against major hotel chains and conference centers, and has reiterated its warning to hotels, convention centers and other commercial establishments to take steps in order to ensure that there is no unlawful blocking of Wi-Fi communications signals. The FCC has clearly demonstrated that violations will be met with severe penalties.
FCC Proposes Fines Against T-Mobile and Wirelessco for RF Radiation Violations on Rooftops
Recently, the FCC inspected an office building rooftop in Phoenix, Arizona based upon a complaint from the building owner. The inspection revealed that both Wirelessco and T-Mobile had failed to “adequately prevent public access to the areas immediately in front of the antenna for [the affected stations] where radio frequency (RF) emissions exceed what is permissible for exposure to the general population.” As a result, the FCC has proposed a fine of $25,000 against Wirelessco (who had one affected station) and $60,000 against T-Mobile (who three affected stations) for failing to comply with the RF maximum exposure (MPE) limits applicable to these types of stations that are accessible to the public and workers. In particular, the FCC found that inadequate warning signs (and in the case of Wirelessco – a lack of barriers – and in the case of T-Mobile -- broken plastic barrriers) did not comply with the FCC’s standards for restricting access to areas that present a potential public health or safety hazard.
The Commission’s rules require all licensees to comply with RF radiation exposure limits. These rules provide guidelines and procedures for licensees to evaluate the environmental effects of RF exposure from FCC regulated transmitters. These rules include maximum permissible exposure (MPE) limits for electric and magnetic field strength and power density for transmitters operating at frequencies from 300 kHz to 100 GHz.
The building’s property manager was concerned because its employees work on the rooftop and in the penthouse area from time-to-time and there was no information regarding RF radiation exposure. The building owner noted that neither it nor its employees had been given adequate training or information. As a result, because of inadequate signage and barrier devices, the property management company employees and contractors did not have the necessary information to operate safely on the rooftop or in the penthouse.
Our clients need to take care that their transmitter operations do not cause harmful exposure to individuals that may be working in and around their transmitters. Clients with questions regarding the FCC’s requirements should contact our office.
FCC Enters into $3,000 Consent Decree with Johnson Towers– Balance of $234K Fine Due on Default
On November 1, 2013, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability against Johnson Towers Corporation (JTC) for $234,000 for failing to mark and light two antenna towers and report the dismantling of a third tower. Shortly after receiving the NALF, JTC brought its towers into compliance with the FCC’s Rules by either marking and lighting the towers or lowering the overall height so that obstruction marking and lighting was no longer required.
Based upon JTC’s precarious financial condition, the FCC agreed to enter into a consent decree which is resulted the in the suspension of $231,000 of the fine, provided that JTC (a) timely pays each of its three $1,000 monthly installments, (b) does not commit any additional violations of the FCC’s Antenna Structure Rules over the next three years and (c) has not materially misstated its financial condition in documents that it produced to support its claim of inability to pay.
Even though the FCC has provided substantial relief to JTC for its violations, it is important that our clients comply with the FCC’s antenna tower rules. This is because a violation could result not only in a fine from the FCC, but also civil or criminal liability in the event of an aviation accident involving your tower. Over the years, there have been collisions between antenna towers and aircraft – particularly medevac helicopters. These accidents have resulted in significant liability for carriers going into the millions of dollars.
Any client with questions regarding antenna tower compliance should contact our office as soon as possible.
JANUARY 15: HAC REPORTING DEADLINE. The next Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) reporting deadline for digital commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) providers (including carriers that provide service using AWS-1 spectrum and resellers of cellular, broadband PCS and/or AWS services) is Friday, January 15, 2016. Non-Tier I service providers must offer to consumers at least 50 percent of the handset models per air interface, or a minimum of ten handset models per air interface, that meet or exceed the M3 rating, and at least one-third of the handset models per air interface, or a minimum of ten handset models per air interface, that meet or exceed the T3 rating. Month-to-month handset offering information provided in annual reports must be current through the end of 2015. With many of our clients adjusting their handset offerings and making new devices available to customers throughout the year, it is very easy for even the most diligent carriers to stumble unknowingly into a non-compliance situation, resulting in fines starting at $15,000 for each HAC-enabled handset they are deficient. Following the T-Mobile USA Notice of Apparent Liability (FCC 12-39), the Commission’s enforcement policy calls for multiplying the $15,000 per-handset fine by the number of months of the deficiency, creating the potential for very steep fines. It is therefore crucial that our clients pay close attention to their HAC regulatory compliance, and monthly checks are strongly recommended. In this regard, we have prepared a HAC reporting template to assist our clients in keeping track of their HAC handset offerings, and other regulatory compliance efforts. ALL SERVICE PROVIDERS SUBJECT TO THE COMMISSION’S HAC RULES – INCLUDING COMPANIES THAT QUALIFY FOR THE DE MINIMIS EXCEPTION – MUST PARTICIPATE IN ANNUAL HAC REPORTING. To the extent that your company is a provider of broadband PCS, cellular and/or interconnected SMR services, if you are a CMRS reseller and/or if you have plans to provide CMRS using newly licensed (or partitioned) AWS or 700 MHz spectrum, you and your company will need to be familiar with the Commission’s revised rules.
FEBRUARY 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 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 499-A that is due April 1.
FEBRUARY 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 February 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 are required to include their FCC Registration Number (FRN). 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.
Nov. 30 – Comments are due on RUS New Equipment Contract process.
Dec. 1 – Comments are due on the “Totality of the Circumstances” test.
Dec. 7 – Reply comments are due on Regulatory Fees FNPRM.
Dec. 8 – Reverse Auction Application Workshop.
Dec. 18 – Comments are due on Sumotext Petition for Declaratory Ruling on Automated Text Messaging Consent.
Dec. 20 – Form 323 (Biennial Ownership Report) is due.
Dec. 21 – Reply comments are due on Regulatory Status of Mobile Messaging.
Dec. 31 – Reply comments are due on the “Totality of the Circumstances” test.
Jan. 8 – Reply Comments are due on Sumotext Petition for Declaratory Ruling on Automated Text Messaging Consent.
Jan. 15 – Annual Hearing Aid Compatibility Report is due.
Jan. 26 – Comments are due on Wireless Broadband Above 24 GHz.
Jan. 31 – FCC Form 555 (Annual Lifeline ETC Certification Form) is due.
Feb. 1 – FCC Form 499-Q (Quarterly Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet) is due.
Feb. 1 – FCC Form 502 (Number Utilization and Forecast Report) is due.
Feb. 9 – Forward Applications for 600MHz PEA licenses due. (6 PM EST).
Feb. 23 – Reply comments are due on Wireless Broadband Above 24 GHz.
|BloostonLaw Private Users Update||Vol. 16, No. 11||November 2015|
LMCC Asks FCC to Crack Down on Licensees that Failed to Narrowband or Forgot to Modify Their License.
On November 4, the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC) requested that the FCC address the continuing failure of some licensees to modify their licenses in accordance with the narrowbanding requirements. The letter states in part:
During the FCC panel at the 2015 annual LMCC meeting, the FCC specifically clarified that, pursuant to that rule, FACs [frequency coordinators] could ignore systems still licensed exclusively for non-compliant wideband channels when processing applications seeking FB8 frequencies, provided the incumbent did not meet the efficiency equivalency standard or have a waiver extended its time to narrowband . . . It is our understanding that such a wideband-only license is not an affected licensee under § 90.187(d)(1)(ii)(D), has no spectrum rights, and would be obligated to vacate the channel in order to address the interference it might receive and/or cause. The LMCC hereby requests FCC confirmation of this interpretation of that rule.
The above request reflects growing frustration among coordinators that must try to coordinate new stations in the face of non-compliant licensees still showing up in the ULS database. The next ask, however, may create problems for otherwise compliant licensees, who installed narrowband equipment and added the narrowband emission designator to their license, but left the wideband designator on as well (perhaps because they were not sure of the date on which the narrowband equipment would be in place). LMCC also asks the Commission to eliminate the ULS tool developed by the FCC to facilitate the removal of non-compliant emission designators from licenses that also reflect compliant narrowband emissions prior to license renewal.
LMCC argues that if a licensee has both the wide band and narrowband designator on the license, it cannot remove the wideband designator, and renew the license, without prior frequency coordination. This could mean that any straggler licensees that have narrowbanded but not removed the old wideband designator from their license may be forced to go through full blown frequency coordination to do so
FCC Seeks Comment on FirstNet Incumbent Relocation Proposal
On November 5, the FCC’s Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) issued a public notice seeking comment on an ex parte proposal made by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to facilitate the relocation of incumbent public safety communications systems operating in the 758-769/788-799 MHz spectrum band (Band 14) in advance of the deployment and operation of FirstNet’s nationwide broadband public safety network. Comments will be due 14 days after the Public Notice appears in the Federal Register.
In its ex parte filing, FirstNet stated that its Board recently approved a Spectrum Relocation Grant Program designed to facilitate the relocation of Band 14 incumbents, and that it expects a Federal Funding Opportunity for the grant program to be released in early 2016. As such, FirstNet requested “that the continuation of Commission licenses or other authorizations under Band 14 by any incumbent be conditioned upon the requirement that no operation on Band 14 be permitted without the express consent of FirstNet after July 31, 2017.”
FirstNet also requested that “[i]n addition or in the alternative, . . . the Commission consider conditioning any continued operation on Band 14 on the cessation of all operations on Band 14 within 90 days written notice to the Band 14 incumbent(s) from FirstNet that deployment of the [nationwide broadband public safety network] is to begin in its State.”
In 2013, the FCC sought comment on “the appropriate mechanism to transition incumbent narrowband operators out of [Band 14] and on the timeframe by which such a transition should be accomplished,” asking whether it could require FirstNet to manage this transition process, or to provide funds for the process, and whether it should establish a hard deadline by which relocation should be accomplished. Through the instant Public Notice, the Bureau seeks comment on FirstNet’s request in light of this existing proceeding.
FCC and FTC Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Consumer Protection
On November 16, the FCC announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “further the agencies’ ongoing cooperation on consumer protection matters.” This is important to our private radio clients to the extent that their activities include sales of goods and services to consumers. The memorandum outlines how the FCC and FTC will coordinate consumer protection efforts, including the methods by which the agencies will coordinate and share information and recognizes the agencies’ expertise in their respective jurisdictions. In addition, the memorandum recognizes the two agencies’ complementary authorities with regard to practices by common carriers.
Specific prescriptions include:
- Coordination on agency initiatives where one agency’s action will have a significant effect on the other agency’s authority or programs;
- Consultation on investigations or actions that implicate the jurisdiction of the other agency;
- Regular coordination meetings to review current marketplace practices and each agency’s work on matters of common interest that impact consumers;
- Regular meetings at which the agencies will exchange their respective learning about the evolution of communications markets;
- Sharing of relevant investigative techniques and tools, intelligence, technical and legal expertise, and best practices in response to reasonable requests for such assistance; and
- • Collaboration on consumer and industry outreach efforts, as appropriate.
The memorandum further indicates that the agencies will engage in joint enforcement actions where appropriate.
House Approves FCC Process Reform Act
On November 16, the House of Representatives approved legislation to increase transparency, efficiency, and accountability at the Federal Communications Commission. H.R. 2583, the FCC Process Reform Act of 2015, authored by Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), passed the House by a voice vote according to a press release issued today.
The bill requires the FCC to:
- Seek comment and adopt rules that set minimum comment periods for rulemaking proceedings; allow time for public comment by eliminating the practice of placing large amounts of information
into the record on the last day of the public comment period; increase public transparency of items before the commissioners; require publication of the text of proposed rules; and, set timelines for FCC action on certain types of proceedings.
- Conduct an inquiry into reform of more complex issues, such as commission review and voting procedures and whether it is feasible to publish final text of items to be adopted before the commission votes on them; and
- Publish certain documents on the FCC website and provide a searchable online database for consumer complaints.
The bill also makes changes to the Government in the Sunshine Act to allow more than two commissioners to meet privately when certain safeguards for transparency are met, and requires a report on actions the Commission can take to improve the participation of small businesses in FCC proceedings, publication on the FCC’s website of the status of a quarterly progress report, and publication of any internal policies established or changed by the chairman. “This bill is the product of a multi-year, bipartisan legislative process, bringing us to a place where we can at least begin to create a framework for more transparent and predictable rulemakings at the FCC,” said Walden. “By requiring the FCC to be more transparent in its rulemakings, and adopt procedures that create certainty, this legislation helps promote jobs, investment, and innovation in Michigan and across the country,” added full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). The bill must be adopted by the Senate before it can be sent to the President’s desk for signature.