Bennet & Bennet, PLLC

Prefer more in-depth coverage?

Subscribe to the Informational Memos
Rural Spectrum Scanner

FCC Enforcement Bureau proposes $9M Penalty for Slamming and Cramming

Posted on March 2, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) has proposed a $9 million penalty against GPSPS, Inc., a Georgia telephone company. The proposed penalty is for switching consumers’ preferred long distance carriers without their authorization (commonly known as “slamming”), billing unauthorized or “crammed” charges for long distance on consumers’ telephone bills, and submitting falsified evidence to government regulatory officials as “proof” that consumers had authorized the company to switch their long distance providers. The Commission has taken nearly 30 enforcement actions for cramming or slamming in the past five years which amounted to more than $90 million in penalties.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.

Comment Sought For STELA Reauthorization Report

Posted on February 27, 2015

The FCC’s Media Bureau has requested data and comment in connection with the preparation of a report to Congress required by the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR). STELAR requires the Commission to submit a report on designated market areas (DMAs) that are used to define television markets and make recommendations on how to foster increased localism in counties served by out-of-state DMAs. The Commission is asked to report on whether there exist any technologically and economically feasible alternatives that would provide consumers with more programming options than the use of DMAs to define television markets and that would increase localism. The Commission believes that its analysis should be performed on a county-by-county basis and indicates that it has access to comprehensive data for analysis of DBS carriage and off-air television reception of out of market stations. The Commission seeks comment on whether adequate data exists for cable television and telephone MVPD carriage of out-of-market broadcast stations and, if so, what methodology could be used to analyze the available data. Comments on the issues raised in the Commission’s public notice are due on or before May 12, 2015 and reply comments are due on or before June 11, 2015.

For additional information, please contact Howard Shapiro.

FCC Adopts Landmark Broadband Orders

Posted on February 26, 2015

In a dramatic open meeting that featured guest speakers from the online, technology and entertainment industries, the FCC officially adopted two orders that boldly asserted unprecedented regulatory authority over broadband Internet services. As widely anticipated and following mostly lengthy Commissioner remarks, the FCC in a 3-2 vote adopted its Open Internet (or net neutrality) order establishing strong open Internet rules specifically grounded in Title II of the Communications Act as well as other sources of the FCC’s legal authority. This move reclassifies both wireline and wireless broadband as Title II telecommunications services subject to FCC regulatory oversight, though the FCC has exercised forbearance with regard to several key provisions, including rate regulation and contributions to universal service. Additionally, the FCC in another 3-2 vote granted the petitions of two municipal broadband providers in North Carolina and Tennessee preempting State laws restricted the abilities of these community service providers to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have requested service. This action was rooted in Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which directs the FCC to encourage deployment of infrastructure for advanced telecommunications capability (including broadband). The text of these orders has not yet been released.

For additional information, please contact Bob Silverman.

Push for Delayed Net Neutrality Vote and Public Disclosure of Order Rebuffed by Chairman

Posted on February 24, 2015

Three days before the FCC’s February 26 meeting, Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly have made a last-ditch effort to delay the FCC’s net neutrality vote and to have the Open Internet (net neutrality) Order released to the public at least 30 days before the FCC’s vote. The full Commission is set to vote on an Open Internet Order as well on a State law preemption action regarding municipal broadband. Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly have stood in opposition to the Chairman’s proposed Title II reclassification of broadband and have voiced criticism of the proposed Order, which has been circulating among the Commissioners since February 5.  Chairman Wheeler rejected the request for delay, tweeting:

FCC received more than 4 million comments on #OpenInternet during past year that helped shape proposal. It’s time to act.

The #OpenInternet’s future is at stake. We cannot afford to delay finally adopting enforceable rules to protect consumers & innovators.

For additional information, please contact Bob Silverman.

February 26 FCC Meeting Officially Will Tackle Key Broadband Issues

Posted on February 20, 2015

The FCC has formalized its agenda for its February 26 open meeting, which will address two major broadband related items. First, the Commission will consider an order addressing petitions filed by two municipal broadband providers asking the FCC to preempt provisions of State laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that restrict the abilities of communities to provide their own broadband service. The Commission is expected to grant the petitions. Second, the Commission will vote on the Open Internet (or net neutrality) order adopting strong open Internet rules, grounded in Title II of the Communications Act and other sources of the FCC’s legal authority. Earlier this month Chairman Tom Wheeler released a preview of the net neutrality order, indicating that not only would the order invoke Title II authority over broadband but also that its new rules would fully apply to wireless broadband providers. The Commission is also expected to adopt the net neutrality order, which in turn is expected to generate lawsuits and counteractive legislative responses.

For additional information, please contact Bob Silverman.

NECA Revises Cost Accounting and Procedures Manual

Posted on February 20, 2015

The National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc. (NECA) has revised its cost accounting and procedures manual (CAM) to reflect industry changes that occurred during the 2014 calendar year. NECA made changes to Section I by adding Account 51700, Board of Directors, and Account 56901, Board Meeting Costs, to the Chart of Accounts. Interested parties may file comments on the revised CAM on or before March 20, 2015, and reply comments on or before April 6, 2015. Comments must refer to internal WCB/Pricing File No. 15-1. Comments may not be filed using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), but instead must be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Nominations For CSRIC Due No Later Than March 31, 2015

Posted on February 17, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that it intends to recharter the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) for a fifth two-year term. CSRIC is a federal advisory committee whose mission is to provide recommendations to the FCC to ensure, among other things, optimal security and reliability of communications systems, including telecommunications, media, and public safety. Nominations and expressions of interest for membership in the fifth CSRIC must be submitted to the FCC no later than March 31, 2015. CSRIC members will be appointed from among federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies and organizations; organizations representing users of communications systems, including the Internet; and other private-sector organizations. Procedures for submitting nominations and expressions of interest are set forth in the FCC’s Public Notice. The fifth CSRIC is expected to commence in March 2015 after the current CSRIC charter expires on March 18, 2015.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

FCC Clarifies Rural Call Completion Requirements

Posted on February 16, 2015

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has issued a declaratory ruling that provides additional guidance regarding how providers that are subject to the FCC’s rural call completion rules must record, retain, and report call completion information. Specifically, the Bureau clarifies that covered providers must abide by the definitions of call attempt categories specified in the text of the Rural Call Completion Order, and may not count “unanswered” call attempts as “answered” calls under the Commission’s data retention and reporting rules. The Bureau determined a clarification was needed after a number of parties raised concern over the way Appendix C of the Rural Call Completion Order characterized certain call attempts.

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Census Blocks Removed From CAF Phase II Eligibility

Posted on February 16, 2015

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has announced that certain census blocks that were a part of the FCC’s rural broadband experiment proceeding are no longer eligible to receive support from Phase II of the Connect America Fund (CAF). A number of entities applied for rural broadband experiment category one funding, but were not selected. Nevertheless, some of these non-winners successfully submitted post-selection review materials in hopes of being selected as next-in-line bidder. The census blocks contained in these non-winning applications where the applicant successfully submitted post-selection review materials will be removed from eligibility for CAF Phase II support. The list of census blocks that have been removed from eligibility is available at 1 Excluded

For additional information, please contact Tony Veach.

Senators Klobuchar and Fischer Re-Introduce Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act

Posted on February 12, 2015

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently introduced S. 417, the “Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act.”  The purpose of this legislation is to “encourage spectrum licensees to make unused spectrum available for use by smaller and rural carriers in order to expand wireless coverage.”  If enacted, the legislation would amend Section 307 of the Communications Act of 1934 by adding a new sub-section “(g)” pertaining to the “Extension of Licenses.”  Specifically, S. 417 would permit existing licensees the ability to partition or disaggregate portions of their license and presumably sell those disaggregated or partitioned licenses to either “small carriers” or carriers willing to build out in rural America.  Any existing licensee willing to partition or disaggregate a portion of their current license portfolio would then have the license term of the original license extended by three years beyond its current expiration date. S. 417, cosponsored by Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for consideration. Senators Klobuchar and Fischer introduced a similar bill in the 113th Congress, but it did not receive further consideration.

For additional information, please contact Erin Fitzgerald.