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Dave Thomas is a partner in the Business Trial Practice Group and Office Managing Partner of the firm's Washington, D.C. office.

After kicking open a door to potential annual pole attachment rental increases in the hundreds of millions of dollars when it adopted its February 2015 Net Neutrality order, the Federal Communications Commission yesterday released an order unanimously granting a four-year-old petition for reconsideration.  A number of cable, broadband, and telecommunications industry players filed the petition to eliminate pole-attachment rate disparities and complexities between “rural” and “urban” areas and between and among various defined classes of electronic communication providers.  Yesterday’s ruling eliminates remaining loopholes that could have dramatically raised cable operator pole rentals and electric-utility windfalls resulting from the FCC’s February 2015 Net Neutrality order (which we analyzed here) that defined “Broadband Internet Access Service” as a “telecommunications service.”
Continue Reading FCC Slams Door on Higher Pole Attachment Rates

The FCC voted yesterday 3-2 along party lines to promulgate new rules necessary to protect the “Open Internet.”  At the core of the Commission’s action lies its decision to reclassify Internet services as a “telecommunications” instead of “information” services and regulate the services under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.  This reclassification, led by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, expands the FCC’s regulation of fixed wireline and mobile broadband Internet services as “common carriers.”  This move is grounded in the notion that control of the Internet is too important not to be regulated, and it marks a dramatic reversal in the way Internet services have historically been regulated.  The FCC has not yet released the Order, but the FCC’s statement, remarks made by the Commissioners, and the Fact Sheet distributed by the Chairman’s office on February 4th reveal what appear to be the core elements of the Commission’s action.
Continue Reading Cyberspace Oddity: The FCC Regulates Internet Services as Common Carrier Telecommunications Services, “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet”

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

Cuba Map

Historic changes in relations between the United States and Cuba (that touch nerves in Hip-Hop and on Capitol Hill) and new U.S. sanctions against Venezuela may provide increased opportunities for U.S. business generally, and electronic communications technologies and infrastructure providers in particular.  This week’s Cuba and Venezuela headlines, combined with recent and historic shifts in telecommunications and broadcasting markets in Mexico, on which we reported here, herald historic changes in Latin American electronic communications and infrastructure markets.


Continue Reading Turnin’ Havana to Atlanta: The White House Opens Doors for U.S. Telecommunications Investment in Cuba and Latin America

In recent separate actions, the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (“PUCO”) and the Louisiana Public Service Commission (“LPSC”) adopted comprehensive pole attachment regulatory regimes intended to facilitate the deployment of broadband communications infrastructure, and level the competitive playing field for broadband providers.  Each stressed the need for reasonable and non-discriminatory access, clear access processes and timelines, a single unified pole attachment rate and efficient dispute resolution procedures.  And each made clear that its rules apply to “wireless” attachments as well as traditional wire-based attachments.
Continue Reading Of Buckeyes and Batons Rouges: Ohio and Louisiana Adopt Comprehensive Pole Access and Attachment Rules

On April 1, the FCC took steps to remedy a small but growing annoyance of modern life:  poor Wi-Fi connectivity.  Removing restrictions that had been in place to protect the mobile satellite service uplinks of Globalstar, and by unanimous vote, the FCC’s First Report and Order on U-NII will free devices for both (i) outdoor operations; and (ii) operation at higher power levels in the 5.15 – 5.25 GHz band (also called the U-NII-1 band).[1]  The Report and Order also requires manufacturers to take steps to prevent unauthorized software changes to equipment in the U-NII bands, as well as to impose measures protecting weather and other radar systems in the band.
Continue Reading Is Wheeler Gaga for Gigabit? The FCC Liberates 100 MHz of Spectrum for Unlicensed Wi-Fi

As policymakers and regulators struggle to keep pace with corporate deal makers (read Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and Comcast-Netflix deal) and address the structures undergirding our Nation’s electronic communications laws, no two aspects of that undertaking (with the possible exception of cybersecurity) are more fundamental to economic vitality, competitiveness and “the pursuit of happiness” than spectrum and infrastructure.  Spectrum without the infrastructure – and, conversely, infrastructure without the spectrum – does little good.  We cannot use one without the other; they are two sides of the same coin. And while the focus on spectrum battles at times has been blinding, until recently at least, infrastructure has made few headlines.
Continue Reading Sleeper “Small” Cells: The Battle Over The FCC’s Wireless Infrastructure Proceeding