Bennet & Bennet, PLLC

Prefer more in-depth coverage?

Subscribe to the Informational Memos
Rural Spectrum Scanner

Market Modifications Proposed for Satellite Delivered Broadcasts

Posted on March 26, 2015

The FCC has proposed new rules to allow direct to home satellite video programming distributors (e.g., DIRECTV and DISH Network) to seek market modifications that would allow them to offer in-state television stations to customers located in orphan counties.  Orphan counties are those counties that are part of a Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) that is centered in a neighboring state.  The FCC is adopting this proposal pursuant to the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR).  The proposed rules are intended to enable satellite subscribers to gain access to in-state news and other programming that they currently are unable to receive and to create regulatory parity with cable systems who have long been able to seek market modifications from the Commission.

 

 

For additional information, please contact Howard Shapiro.

Bipartisan Wireless Device Unlocking Bill Introduced in House

Posted on March 26, 2015

Congressmen Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), and Jared Polis (D-CO)  have introduced the Unlocking Technology Act of 2015 (H.R. 1587) in the U. S. House of Representatives. This bill would allow consumers to permanently unlock their cellphones, tablets, and other electronic communications devices in order to switch carriers.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) currently prohibits consumers from sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works – such as jailbreaking a tablet to run third party applications, bypassing digital rights management for archiving or disability access purposes, or unlocking a cell phone – regardless of whether there is any actual copyright infringement. Every three years, the DMCA requires the Librarian of Congress (Librarian) to determine whether there are any classes of copyrighted works for which noninfringing uses are, or in the next three years are likely to be, adversely affected by the prohibition. Historically, the Librarian has provided an exemption to allow the “unlocking” of handset software to allow consumers to use their wireless handsets on alternative wireless networks. However, in 2012, the Librarian revoked the exemption, finding the exemptions were intended to be temporary, not permanent, and that it was up to Congress to adopt a permanent exemption to the DMCA. Congress enacted legislation last year to address this issue, but the law merely reinstated a temporary exemption and still relies on the Library of Congress to renew it every three years.  The Unlocking Technology Act would make this cell phone exemption permanent and extend unlocking protections to all mobile devices.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Westelcom Network seeks “Rural CLEC” Definition Waiver

Posted on March 25, 2015

Westelcom Network, Inc. has filed a petition for limited and expedited waiver of section 61.26(a)(6) of the Commission’s rules. Specifically, Westelcom seeks waiver of the definition of “Rural CLEC” so that it can continue to charge the “rural exemption” rate for its interstate switched access services. The U.S. Census Bureau reclassified one of the communities in its service area from an “urban cluster” to an “urbanized cluster” in 2012, which resulted in Westelcom no longer qualifying as a Rural CLEC.  The Wireline Competition Bureau is seeking comment on Westelcom’s petition. Comments are due April 24, 2015, and replies are due May 11, 2015.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

White House Creates Broadband Opportunity Council and Declares Victory Over Mobile Broadband; RUS Provides $35 Million in Broadband Loans

Posted on March 25, 2015

The White House has made two key announcements related to U.S. broadband policy. First, President Obama has created the Broadband Opportunity Council which will focus on increasing broadband investment and adoption.  The council will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture, and will include over 25 different government agencies and components. Second, the President has declared that 98 percent of Americas have access to 4th Generation (4G) mobile broadband service. This conclusion is based on newly released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Concurrent with the White House announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that its Rural Utilities Service is providing $35 million in broadband infrastructure loans for broadband projects in Arkansas, Iowa, and New Mexico. The funding breaks out as follows:

  • Southwest Arkansas Telephone will receive a $25 million loan to upgrade its network to fiber.
  • Mescalero Apache Telecom in New Mexico will receive a $5.4 million loan to upgrade its network and deploy fiber to approximately 50 percent of its service territory.
  • Iowa’s Minburn Communications will receive a $4.7 million loan to upgrade its copper network to fiber.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

The Commpliance Group Seeks Declaratory Ruling on USF Contributions

Posted on March 25, 2015

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau is seeking comment on a petition for declaratory ruling filed by The Commpliance Group, Inc. which seeks a clarification of the FCC’s universal service fund (USF) contribution rules. The Commpliance Group describes itself as a regulatory, tax and corporate compliance consulting firm catering to a diverse range of service providers, including systems integrators serving consumers of enterprise class communications and information technology services. In its petition, The Commpliance Group requests that the FCC clarify that the systems integrators exemption to USF contribution obligations applies to the resale or provision of interconnected VoIP services when resold or provisioned by a systems integrator. Comments on the petition are due on or before April 24, 2015, and reply comments are due May 11, 2015.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Senate Bill Introduced to Address Rural Call Completion Issues

Posted on March 24, 2015

Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tester (D-MT) have introduced the “Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2015″ (S. 827). S. 827 would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish basic quality standards for providers that transmit voice calls to help ensure businesses, families, and emergency responders can count on phone calls being completed.  These standards must: (1) ensure the integrity of the transmission of covered voice communications to all customers throughout the U.S.; and (2) prevent unjust or unreasonable discrimination among areas of the U.S. in the delivery of covered voice communications. The legislation also directs the FCC to require these providers to register with the agency. S. 827 has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee for consideration.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Senator Ayotte Re-Introduces “USF Fairness” Bill

Posted on March 24, 2015

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has introduced the “USF Equitable Distribution Act of 2015″ (S. 734).  The bill would require that at least 75% of the USF contributions collected by interstate telecommunications service providers from a rural state’s consumers be allocated to provide universal service to consumers in that state.  S. 734 defines “rural state” as a state in which the total population density is 200 people or less per square mile, as determined by the latest census.  Senator Ayotte has expressed her support for USF funding formula reform in the past, and has noted her concern that New Hampshire ranks last out of all fifty states in return on E-Rate funding.  S. 734 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for consideration.  Senator Ayotte introduced similar legislation in the 113th Congress.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

House Bill Would Restore FCC Authority to Restore 2010 Net Neutrality Rules

Posted on March 24, 2015

Scott Peters (D-CA) has introduced the “Open Internet Act of 2015” (H.R.1409) to give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) authority to restore its 2010 Network Neutrality  rules vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January 2014.  The bill further directs the Commission to take all actions necessary to restore the vacated portions of such rules.  H.R. 1409 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

CSRIC Report Recommends Cybersecurity Best Practices

Posted on March 21, 2015

Working Group 4 of the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council IV (CSRIC) has released a final report on “Cybersecurity Risk Management and Best Practices.” The report fulfills the FCC’s directive to CSRIC IV that it develop recommendations on how to provide demonstrable assurances that communications providers are reducing cybersecurity risks through the application of the voluntary National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, or an equivalent construct. Over 100 cybersecurity experts from the communications sector, federal and state government, the equipment manufacturer industry, and the financial and energy sectors helped contribute to the creation of the report. Via Public Notice, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has requested public comment on the report. Comment is sought generally on the cybersecurity risk management recommendations and alternatives to those recommendations. Comments are due on or before May 29, 2015, and reply comments are due June 26, 2015.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Senate Intelligence Committee Introduces Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act

Posted on March 21, 2015

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has introduced the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (S. 754) in the United States Senate. The 54-page bill, which was approved by the Committee on a 14-1 vote, includes a number of significant modifications from previous versions. It “creates additional incentives to increase sharing of cybersecurity threat information while protecting individual privacy and civil liberties interests and offering liability protection to the private sector.” Among other things, the bill provides liability protection for private sector companies that voluntarily share cyber threat indicators through a Department of Homeland Security portal. The bill has been placed on the Senate legislative calendar under general orders.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.