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Drew Svor is a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and a member of the firm’s TelecomTeam.

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road” – Stewart Brand

Last week, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing guidelines and procedures designed to “breathe life” into Section 7 of the Communications Act. A somewhat obscure part – or, as Chairman Ajit Pai prefers, the “neglected stepchild” – of the Communications Act, Section 7 requires the FCC to make a public interest determination on proposals for new technologies or services within one year. Although a one-year timeframe may seem like quite a lengthy period for regulatory approval, it represents an increase to warp speed for an FCC that sometimes can take many years to approve challenging new technologies.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes Expedited Treatment For New Technologies

On April 13, 2017, the Texas Public Utilities Commission will hear oral arguments on the issue whether companies with certificates of public convenience and necessity from the Commission may place their facilities in local rights-of-way and provide wireline backhaul and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) service without additional local authority or the obligation to pay fees.   DAS providers say “yes” while local governments contend that such companies must negotiate separate license agreements and fees with individual cities to access their rights of way.  The Commission will be considering the recommendation of two Texas administrative law judges to side with the companies.
Continue Reading ExteNet v City of Houston: Who pays for access to Texas rights-of-way?

On September 30, 2016, the FCC adopted an order designed to liberalize and streamline the foreign ownership review process for broadcast licensees (the “Broadcast Liberalization Order”).  Section 310(b) of the Communications Act caps at 25 percent the amount of indirect foreign investment permissible in a U.S. broadcast, common carrier, or aeronautical fixed or en route radio licensee without obtaining FCC approval.  Prior to 2013, the long-standing presumption among FCC practitioners was that the FCC simply would not allow indirect foreign ownership of a U.S. broadcast licensee in excess of the 25% benchmark in the Communications Act, even though the Act expressly contemplated such investments so long as they were blessed by the FCC.  The Commission issued an Order in 2013 clarifying that the 25% foreign investment mark served only as a trigger requiring the FCC to review applications on a case-by-case basis, not an automatic bar to such investment.  Foreign investment in broadcast licensees above 25% required prior express consent, based on an evaluation of public interest and national security considerations.  Also in 2013, the FCC streamlined the process for reviewing foreign ownership amounts in excess of 25% for common carrier and aeronautical radio licensees.  The recent Broadcast Liberalization Order largely extended these same rules and procedures to broadcast licensees, with certain exceptions and modifications.
Continue Reading FCC Liberalizes Rules for Foreign Investment in U.S. Broadcast Licensees

In a move that will support the development of 5G networks, the FCC issued an Order last week in the “Spectrum Frontiers” proceeding that should open up large amounts of high-band spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use.  The Commission adopted a new framework for flexible-use licensing in several spectrum bands above 24 GHz, permitting mobile operations in those bands and instituting rules to ensure shared access with incumbent licensees. The Commission also noted that the new licensing framework may serve as a template for rulemaking in additional high-frequency bands in the future, and issued an NPRM seeking feedback on proposals that would open nearly 18 GHz more to mobile use.
Continue Reading Hailing on All Frequencies: The FCC Releases the Spectrum Frontiers Order

Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge recently filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) challenging a multi-system operator’s (“MSO”) online video service as violative of conditions imposed as part of a 2011 merger and the agency’s Open Internet rules. The service allows the MSO’s customers to stream its licensed video content to computers, tablets, and mobile devices without incurring additional data usage charges.  The MSO maintains the content of this service does not touch the public Internet – and thus is not subject to the Open Internet rules – because it is delivered on the same private, managed network as its cable services.
Continue Reading Patient Zero – Public Knowledge Seeks FCC Review of A New “Zero Rated” Service

Last week, Congress reauthorized the Export-Import Bank of the United States as part of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act,” a law funding new transportation infrastructure.  The bill was signed into law on Dec. 4.  EXIM Bank has been unable to lend to new projects since its charter expired on June 30 this year.  The FAST Act reauthorizes it for four years – through Sept. 30, 2019 – and enables it to begin lending again.
Continue Reading EXIM Bank Back in Business

Although it could be said that the FCC’s recent focus has been firmly fixed on the future, in particular IP-based communications (see, e.g., high-visibility proceedings involving the Open Internet, possible merger conditions in the Time Warner Cable-Comcast merger, the ongoing TDM to IP transitions, and the $44 billion (and counting) of bidding in the AWS-3 auction), in November the FCC proposed regulations to ensure that the transition to this IP-based world does not betray core values of the Communications Act:  public safety, consumer protection, and competition.[1]
Continue Reading Headin’ Down the Copperhead Road – the FCC Proposes New Rules for Legacy Infrastructure

Courts that have confronted the application of the “prior express consent” requirement of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, see 47 U.S.C. § 227 – a.k.a., the TCPA – have in the main taken their cues from and adhered to the policy set by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) – the federal agency charged with implementing the statute.  Recently, however, two federal district courts departed from the FCC’s guidance and injected new uncertainty into TCPA enforcement and confusion over the process for review of TCPA interpretations.  In Mais v. Gulf Coast Collection Bureau, Inc., and Zyburo v. NCSPlus, Inc., the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District of New York respectively overrode jurisdictional challenges to adopt statutory constructions in conflict with settled FCC policy that the voluntary provision of a telephone number constituted sufficient prior express consent under the TCPA for contacting consumers through prerecorded calls.[1]  These courts declined to follow a 2008 declaratory ruling from the FCC holding that “prior express consent” is manifest where a consumer provided a telephone number as part of a transaction.[2]  Both decisions pose substantial challenges to the FCC’s authority and ability to coordinate national communications policy under the statute that it is charged with administering with the predictable result of creating a cloud of uncertainty for those who must comply with the TCPA across multiple jurisdictions.
Continue Reading The Eleventh Circuit Reaffirms FCC’s Authority To Coordinate National TCPA Policy And Ensure Uniformity Of Enforcement in Mais v. Gulf Coast Collection Bureau

As federal courts continue to grapple with the explosion of litigation brought by plaintiffs under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is increasingly being called upon to address complex questions arising from the application of this analog statute to the digital world.  The latest example is a brief amicus curiae filed by the FCC in Nigro v. Mercantile Adjustment Bureau, LLC.  In that case, Albert Nigro contacted a power company in New York to discontinue the service of his recently deceased mother-in-law and provided the company with his cell phone number in doing so.  Thereafter, a debt collector (acting on behalf of the power company) called Nigro 72 times over a nine month period to collect on a $67 delinquency that remained on his mother-in-law’s account.
Continue Reading Call Me Maybe?: The New TCPA Position Announced by The Federal Communications Commission in Nigro v. Mercantile Adjustment Bureau