BloostonLaw Telecom Update
Published by the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP
[Selected portions reproduced here with the firm's permission.]
| Vol. 11, No. 4|| January 30, 2008 |
Auction No. 73 Update
AUCTION 73 PROCEEDS, BUT TOO FAST?
The reserve price has been met for the A and B Block licenses, which will be awarded based on Economic Area (EA) and Cellular Market Area (CMA) definitions, respectively. Therefore, the high bidders in Auction No. 73 for these 700 MHz Band licenses will receive them, and a follow-up auction (No. 76) will not be held for any of the A and B Block licenses.
At the conclusion of Round 10, the provisional winning bids for the B Block licenses exceeded the aggregate reserve price of $1,374,426,000 for the block. At the end of Round 14, the provisional winning bids for the A Block licenses exceeded the aggregate reserve price of $1,807,380,000.
However, the bid increments used by the FCC have been so large (generally 20% or more each round) that many small bidders may find that they never have a chance to bid the maximum value they place on a license.
After 15 rounds, bidding in Auction No. 73 topped $10.8 billion, with 1,028 new bids.
However, at our deadline, there were no new bids on a nationwide piece of the spectrum, known as the "D" Block, which must be shared with public safety agencies under auction rules set by the FCC. Last Thursday's bid of $472 million still stood. The FCC’s reserve price on this block of spectrum is $1.3 billion.
If the reserve price is not met, the FCC will re-auction the D Block nationwide license without the current private-public safety requirements.
BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, John Prendergast, Cary Mitchell, and Bob Jackson.
Analog Cellular Sunset Will Become Effective Feb. 18
The FCC has issued a reminder that beginning February 18, 2008, cellular telephone companies will not be required to provide analog service. While most 800-900 MHz band wireless telephone users will not be affected by this transition (often called the “analog cellular sunset”), some users may be affected. In addition, the transition could affect some alarm systems and some users of OnStar in-vehicle communications service. (OnStar discontinued offering its analog service, found in older cars, on December 31, 2007.) The FCC observes that:
Wireless Telephone Service. The analog cellular sunset will not affect anyone using a digital-only handset (including subscribers to wireless service from Sprint Nextel or T-Mobile).
It might affect those using a handset that can receive analog service from a cellular telephone company, including AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Alltel, US Cellular, and Dobson (and other companies that market their services as “Cellular One”). Companies must notify their analog customers prior to discontinuing analog service.
There are several ways to tell if a handset is digital or analog. If it has advanced features such as text or instant messaging, Internet browsing, an MP3 player, or an integrated camera, it is digital. If it uses a SIM card (a small, removable card that can be found under the phone’s battery), it is digital. Some wireless phones display an icon indicating that they have digital capabilities.
Many wireless telephone companies have helpful information about their analog-to-digital transition plans on their Web sites. Dual-mode and tri-mode phones should not be affected, if one of their air interfaces is analog, because the phone will still operate on its digital air interface(s).
To determine how roaming service may be affected by the transition, customers should contact their wireless telephone company directly and inquire whether any of its roaming partners will discontinue their analog service after February 18, 2008.
Alarm Systems. The analog cellular sunset may affect services relying on analog cellular radio equipment, such as alarm systems with wireless analog radio links. The majority of alarm systems installed in homes and businesses do not use a wireless radio signal to connect to a central monitoring station. Some alarm systems, however, use analog radio equipment and send a wireless signal – provided by a wireless telephone company – using the 800 MHz spectrum.
These systems are affected by the transition. According to the alarm industry, out of a total 26 million installed alarm systems, there are approximately one million systems that use analog radio equipment. Wireless alarm systems installed before Spring 2006 generally used analog equipment. Alarm companies are in the process of contacting their customers to arrange for replacement installation of a digital alarm radio.
Consumers who believe their alarm system relies on an analog wireless radio and haven’t been contacted by their alarm company, or consumers who are unsure about what type of alarm system they have, should contact their alarm company to determine their options for maintaining service.
OnStar. Analog OnStar service was terminated on December 31, 2007. Information regarding OnStar service and the analog cellular sunset can be found on the On- Star Web site at www.onstar.com/us_english/jsp/digital_transition.jsp. Vehicles equipped with analog-only OnStar equipment cannot be upgraded and no longer receive OnStar service. OnStar subscribers with vehicles equipped with dual mode (digital and analog) OnStar equipment will continue to receive service.
VONAGE SUES NEBRASKA PSC OVER USF OBLIGATIONS: Vonage Holdings Corp. has asked a federal district court to prevent the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) from forcing it and its customers to contribute to the state universal service fund (USF). "These defendants [Nebraska and the PSC] know that Vonage's service is subject to exclusive federal regulatory jurisdiction, yet they are attempting to compel Vonage to pay a state-law surcharge for the Nebraska Service Fund in violation of the United States Constitution, the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996," Vonage’s complaint reads. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, such as Vonage, argue that they provide an information service rather than a telecommunications service, and should therefore be exempt from Communications Act Title II regulation and not be required to contribute to the USF. Traditional telephone providers have argued that VoIP services should be subject to the same oversight and fee requirements that they face. Vonage cites rulings by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding decisions that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission cannot subject Vonage to state telephone regulations. BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FEBRUARY 1: FCC FORM 502, NUMBER UTILIZATION AND FORECAST REPORT: Any wireless or wireline carrier (including paging companies) that have received number blocks--including 100, 1,000, or 10,000 number blocks--from the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA), a Pooling Administrator, or from another carrier, must file Form 502 by February 1. Carriers porting numbers for the purpose of transferring an established customer’s service to another service provider must also report, but the carrier receiving numbers through porting does not. Resold services should also be treated like ported numbers, meaning the carrier transferring the resold service to another carrier is required to report those numbers but the carrier receiving such numbers should not report them. New this year is that reporting carriers are required to include their FCC Registration Number (FRN). Reporting carriers file utilization and forecast reports semiannually on or before February 1 for the preceding six-month reporting period ending December 31, and on or before August 1 for the preceding six-month reporting period ending June 30. BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.