Arent Fox’s Telecom Deadlines and Headlines brings you the most recent legal developments affecting the telecommunications industry.
499-Qs Due February 1, 2014
- FCC Form 499-Q is due on February 1, 2014 for all filers that are not considered de minimis for Universal Service filing purposes. This filing encompasses historical revenues from the fourth quarter of 2013 and projected revenues for the second quarter of 2014. A copy of the current FCC Form 499-Q can be found here.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers who rely on traffic studies to report interstate revenues on FCC Form 499-Q must submit these studies by February 1, 2014 to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the Chief, Industry Analysis and Technology Division of the FCC.
Urban Rates Survey – Due January 17, 2014
- The Wireline Competition Bureau has begun to survey the rates for voice and broadband services in urban areas to develop benchmarks and evaluate whether rates for fixed voice services and broadband in rural areas are reasonably comparable to urban areas. The information received from this survey will also be used to establish a rate floor that Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) receiving high cost loop support must meet to receive their full support amounts. The survey is required by the Commission’s USF/ICC Transformation Order (WC Docket 10-90, 28 FCC Rcd 4242), and will encompass providers serving 500 urban Census tracts, as reported in the most recent FCC Form 477 data. The Bureau will email the designated contact person on a provider’s FCC Form 477 if the provider is required to complete a survey. Providers that operate in multiple urban Census tracts may be requested to fill out multiple surveys. The deadline for the completion of the surveys is January 17, 2014. The Public Notice announcing the survey can be found here. (DA 13-2400) More information about the survey process and log-in for those required to participate can be found here.
H Block Auction – January 22, 2014
- The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has announced that the auction of licenses in the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz bands, also known as the “H Block,” has been rescheduled and will now commence on January 22, 2014. This Public Notice also revises the schedule of pre-auction deadlines. To read the Public Notice, click here.
Comments Sought on Reducing Barriers to Deployment of Wireless Infrastructure
- On December 5, 2013, the Commission’s September 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) aimed at reducing barriers to the deployment of wireless infrastructure was published in the Federal Register. The NPRM seeks comment on expediting the Commission’s environmental review in connection with proposed deployments of certain technologies, such as small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems, which may be less likely to affect the environment. The NPRM also proposes a narrow exemption to notification requirements for certain temporary towers and seeks comments on rules that would clarify provisions concerning time periods in which local agencies are expected to act on wireless facility siting applications. Accordingly, comments must be filed by February 3, 2014, and reply comments must be filed by March 5, 2014. WT Docket Nos. 13-238 and 13-32 and WC Docket No. 11-59. A copy of the NPRM is available here.
Mobile FirstLook, January 15-16, 2014
- Arent Fox partner Michael B. Hazzard will speak on legal and privacy issues at the Mobile FirstLook conference being held in New York City on January 15-16, 2014. For more details about Mike’s panel and the event generally, click here.
Can Retailers Provide One-Time Text Responses to Consumer-Initiated Conversations Under the TCPA?
- On December 30, 2013, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) filed a petition for declaratory ruling with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the FCC to declare that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and its implementing rules requiring “prior express written consent” do not apply to one-time text messages sent in response to consumer-initiated requests for text offers, which RILA characterizes as “on demand text offers.” RILA notes that under the TCPA and the FCC’s implementing regulations, it is unlawful to “initiate, or cause to be initiated” any telemarketing or solicitation call to a wireless number using any automatic telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice without the prior express written consent of the called party. RILA argues that on demand text offers are not “initiated” by the retailer. Rather, the consumer initiates the “conversation” and retailer’s role is limited to responding to the consumer’s specific request. RILA asserts that the retailer’s responsive texts “are more akin to informational texts, which the Commission has already explicitly stated are not required to comply with the new TCPA prior express written consent rules.” The FCC has yet to issue a public notice seeking comment on RILA’s petition. A copy of RILA’s petition can be found here.
Sen. Klobuchar Pressing For Wireless Device “Kill Switch” to Deter Theft
- On December 30, 2013, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D - Minn., a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chair of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, is calling on the nation’s largest wireless carriers to do more to address cell phone theft by installing a “kill switch” that will allow the phone to be made inoperable if stolen. “Mobile devices aren’t just telephones anymore – increasingly people’s livelihoods depend on them,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why we need to do more to crack down on criminals who are stealing and reselling these devices, costing consumers billions every year.” She asked for the five companies to respond to her by January 9, 2014, with information about what the company has done or could have done to help provide consumers with better solutions to respond to theft of their mobile device. More information is available here.
Tenth Circuit Rejects Challenge to Auction 73
- On January 3, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled against Council Tree Investors, Inc., a communications investment firm, and Bethel Native Corporation, a wireless carrier, in their appeal of the FCC’s early 2008 auction of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum (“Auction 73”). This story began, in essence, in 2006, when the FCC disqualified license applicants and licensees that leased or resold more than 50% of their aggregate spectrum capacity from eligibility for “designated entity” benefits in spectrum-license auctions. In April 2007, the FCC stated that it was going to apply these same rules to Auction 73. In August 2007, the FCC issued another order in the Auction 73 proceeding that did not deal with designated entities. Then, in November 2007, the FCC issued a waiver of its 50% rule for designated entities with regard to Upper 700 MHz Band D Block licenses. Auction 73 was held in 2008 under the preceding rules, including the waiver. Petitioners, over those years, sought to eliminate the 50% rule and to ensure Auction 73 would not be considered valid if held under the rule. While Petitioners were successful in having the 50% rule overturned by the Third Circuit, they were not successful at the Tenth Circuit in their effort to nullify Auction 73. In ruling against them, the Tenth Circuit noted that Petitioners had sought review of the August 2007 and November 2007 FCC orders, but not the relevant April 2007 order – the only order in which the FCC actually considered the applicability of the 50% rule to Auction 73. Thus, the Court held it did not have jurisdiction to rule on that issue. Furthermore, the Petitioners’ challenge to the November 2007 waiver order was deemed moot because the relief they sought – the revocation of the waiver – was no longer something the FCC could grant, as the 50% rule had been declared invalid by the Third Circuit. Council Tree Investors, Inc. v. FCC, No. 12-9543 (10th Cir. Jan. 3, 2014).