The FCC received thousands of comments last week in response to its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding the appropriate regulatory classification for broadband Internet service. At issue is the hotly-debated topic of whether and how broadband services should be regulated after the DC Circuit’s recent Comcast decision, which held that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate a broadband service provider’s network management practicesSee FCC Law Blog Post  (Apr. 7, 2010).
Continue Reading Comments Received In FCC Reclassification Proceeding

A Note by Christopher Huther and Megan Troy of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP and Christian Dippon of NERA Economic Consulting

On April 21, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seek the public’s input on the FCC’s effort to replace the legacy high-cost universal service fund (USF) with a broadband “Connect America” fund (CAF).  In effect, the FCC seeks to implement cost-cutting measures for existing voice support and create a new fund to support the provision of broadband communications in areas that would be unserved without such support or that depend on universal service support for the maintenance of existing broadband service.


Continue Reading Replacement of the Legacy High-Cost Universal Support Fund with a Connect America Fund: Key Economic and Legal Considerations

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC lacks the authority to regulate Internet service providers’ network management practices.  The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel immediately throws into question the FCC’s ability to require Internet providers to treat all network traffic equally (a concept known as "net neutrality"). The ruling may also hinder the FCC’s efforts to move forward with key aspects of its National Broadband Plan for expanding high-speed Internet service nationwide. 


Continue Reading FCC Loses Net Neutrality Suit

The Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") released its long-awaited National Broadband Plan (the "Plan") on March 16, 2010. The Plan emphasizes that encouraging and facilitating access to infrastructure, such as utility poles, is critical to the continued deployment and enhancement of broadband facilities in America. The Plan states that, "[c]ollectively, the expense of obtaining permits and leasing pole attachments and rights-of-way can amount to 20% of the cost of fiber optic deployment." Plan at 109. The Plan notes that "[t]hese costs can be reduced directly by cutting fees" and "can also be lowered indirectly by expediting processes and decreasing the risks and complexities that companies face as they deploy broadband network infrastructure." Plan at 110.


Continue Reading National Broadband Plan Recommends Lower, Uniform Pole Attachment Rates

In its latest move in the "net neutrality" debate, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in late October 2009 that breaks from the FCC’s historically restrained approach to Internet regulation and proposes a host of new prohibitions and requirements on broadband providers. While some have praised the move as a necessary means to ensure continuing investment in innovative content and competition in the Internet access market, others have argued that formal regulation will discourage broadband providers from investing in infrastructure, stifle broadband-related job creation, and lead to congested, slow-moving networks. In addition, some opponents of the move have questioned whether the FCC even possesses the legal authority to regulate Internet network management.
 


Continue Reading FCC Initiates Net Neutrality Rulemaking

A broad coalition of telecommunications companies and organizations has called upon President-elect Barack Obama to prioritize broadband deployment and stimulate investment in broadband services.  This large coalition – which includes AT&T, Verizon, Google, Alcatel-Lucent, organizations representing the cable and wireless industries, organizations representing state and local governments, as well as consumer groups – emphasizes both infrastructure deployment and demand stimulation to foster broadband investment, adoption and utilization.  Specifically, the coalition advocates, among other things, expanding the coverage of broadband networks to areas where there are currently none, obtaining higher speed connections in areas where networks already exist, and providing subsidies to low-income individuals to purchase a computer or pay for a broadband connection.  To achieve these objectives, the group favors tax incentives, grants, low-cost loans and loan guarantees, and universal service subsidies.


Continue Reading Increased Prospects for Broadband Deployment under Obama

The Senate recently voted 69-28 in favor of a bill (H.R. 6304) that will provide retroactive legal immunity to telephone companies that participated in the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program.  The bill’s passage ended more than a year of legislative debate over whether to immunize phone companies from lawsuits filed by subscribers alleging that the companies violated their civil rights by participating in the program.


Continue Reading Senate Passes FISA Bill With Telecom Immunity

The FCC’s recent DTV enforcement actions made one thing clear – the Commission is being vigilant in the enforcement of its digital television (or “DTV”) regulations.  On April 9, 2008, the FCC adopted notices of apparent liability (“NALs”) against eleven companies for mislabeling analog-only television sets with no digital tuners, leaving full V-chip functionality out of DTV sets, and shipping analog-only sets with no digital tuners.  The proposed fines total $6.6 million.  The FCC also issued consent decrees against seven companies that collectively agreed to pay $3,445,000 for V-chip violations.


Continue Reading FCC Steps Up DTV Enforcement

The FCC recently announced the results of auctions for newly available 700 MHz radio spectrum.  Altogether, 1090 licenses were sold to 101 different bidders.  Over $19 billion was raised by the auction – an amount that far exceeds the sum raised in any single spectrum previously conducted and went beyond Congressional estimates by about $9 billion.
Continue Reading Incumbents Big Winners in 700 MHz Auction