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. 19|| May 14, 2008 |
Clients Can Order BloostonLaw’s Updated CPNI Compliance Manuals
Clients can order BloostonLaw’s updated Model CPNI Compliance Certification, and a template for the CPNI Compliance Statement that must be attached to it, to comply with the new FCC rules, which apply to all entities that provide telecom services, wireline or wireless, including paging. The new rules became effective late last year.
Please note that the Model CPNI Compliance Certification may be completed for each telecommunications carrier, or for a group of affiliated telecommunications carriers that all follow the same CPNI procedures. Likewise, the CPNI Compliance Statement is a template that should be modified to specify the exact procedures followed by a telecommunications carrier or group of affiliated telecommunications carriers.
CLIENTS SHOULD CONTACT US FOR THESE MODELS AND USE THEM TO COMPLETE THE APPROPRIATE PAPERWORK FOR THIS YEAR, AND FOR EACH SUCCEEDING YEAR GOING FORWARD.
Please note that the completed CPNI Compliance Certification and CPNI Compliance Statement must now be filed annually (March 1) with the FCC, and also must be placed in a company file where they can be accessed if needed. We will be glad to help our clients to file the certification and obtain a proof-of-filing copy, once the deadline is announced. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has recently fined several carriers for not correctly complying with the CPNI Compliance Certification process, so it is important that this requirement be followed to the letter. BloostonLaw contacts: Gerry Duffy (202-828-5528), Mary Sisak (202-828-5554, and John Prendergast (202-828-5540).
FCC Seeks Comment On Assessment and Collection Of FY 2008 Regulatory Fees
The FCC has proposed collecting $312,000,000 in regulatory fees for fiscal year (FY) 2008. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Order issued last week, the Commission seeks comment on the development of FY 2008 regulatory fees collected pursuant to Section 9 of the Communications Act. It intends to collect these fees during the August-September 2008 time frame.
In this proceeding, the FCC is seeking comment on a variety of issues, including: (a) for CMRS Messaging – whether to change the fee from $0.08 per subscriber unit; (b) improvement of the subscriber count methodology for services subject to assessment letters; (c) whether the FCC should continue sending e-mail notifications of the amounts due to CATV operators; (d) the process for notifying licensees about changes in the annual Schedule of Regulatory Fees, including any improvements that can be made to the process; (e) the most effective way to disseminate regulatory fee assessments and bills, e.g., through surface mail, e-mail, list server using Listserv, online website, or some other mechanism; (f) the fee payment process, including how the agency’s online regulatory fee filing system (Fee Filer) can be enhanced; (g) the timing of fee payments, including whether the FCC should alter the timing of the existing regulatory fee payment window (which is generally August – September); and (h) the timing of fee assessments and pre-bills.
For FY 2008, the FCC is proposing to use the same basic methodology it adopted for the collection of last year’s regulatory fees. Each fiscal year, the Commission proportionally allocates to fee categories the total amount that must be collected through its regulatory fees. Consistent with past practice, the FCC has proposed to divide the FY 2008 payment amount by the number of payment units in each fee category to calculate the unit fee. For cases involving small fees, the FCC proposes to divide the resulting unit fee by the term of the license. As in prior years, these fees would be rounded consistent with the requirements of the Act. The FCC seeks comment on these proposals.
CMRS Messaging Services: This category includes all narrowband services. Since FY 2002, the FCC has maintained the CMRS Messaging Service regulatory fee at the rate that was first established in FY 2002 (i.e., $0.08 per subscriber unit), noting that the subscriber base in this industry has declined significantly. The FCC found that maintaining the CMRS Messaging regulatory fee rate at $0.08 per subscriber unit, rather than allowing it to increase, was the appropriate level of relief to be afforded to the messaging industry. For FY 2008, the FCC proposes to maintain the messaging service regulatory fee at $0.08 per subscriber unit, and seeks comment on this proposal. Commenters suggesting a different approach, i.e., a proposal other than keeping the fee at $0.08 per subscriber unit, should provide industry data to support their position.
New Lock Box Bank: Because of a change in the FCC’s lockbox bank, instructions for making payment of fees by check and electronic wire transfer will differ from prior years.
Assessment Letters: Like last year, the FCC proposes to mail assessment letters to Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers (e.g., cellular, SMR and PCS carriers) using data from the Numbering Resource Utilization Forecast (NRUF) report that is based on “assigned” number counts that have been adjusted for porting to net Type 0 ports (“in” and “out”). This letter will include a listing of the carrier’s Operating Company Numbers (OCNs) upon which the assessment is based. Consistent with existing practice, the letters will not include OCNs with their respective assigned number counts, but rather, an aggregate total of assigned numbers for each carrier. The FCC also proposes to continue the procedure of giving entities an opportunity to revise their subscriber counts by sending two rounds of assessment letters – an initial assessment and a final assessment letter. The FCC seeks comment on this proposal.
Under its proposed procedure for FY 2008, if the number of subscribers on the initial assessment letter differs from the subscriber count the service provider provided on its NRUF form, the carrier will be given an opportunity to correct its subscriber count by returning the assessment letter or by contacting the Commission and stating a reason for the change, such as the purchase or the sale of a subsidiary. If no response or correction to its initial assessment letter is received, the FCC would then expect the fee payment to be based on the number of subscribers listed on the initial assessment. Otherwise, the FCC would the responses to initial assessment letters and determine whether a change in the number of subscribers is warranted before issuing the final assessment letter.. The FCC is seeking comment on its current procedures of assessing CMRS subscriber counts (for NRUF filers) and other ways it could improve the process.
The FCC recognizes that some carriers may not be sent a letter of assessment because they had not filed the NRUF form. The FCC proposes that these carriers compute their fee payment using the standard methodology that is currently in place for CMRS Wireless services (e.g., compute their subscriber counts as of December 31, 2007), and submit their payment using an FCC Form 159. The Commission may audit the number of subscribers for which regulatory fees are paid, whether a carrier receives an assessment letter or computes the subscriber count itself. In the event that the Commission determines that the number of subscribers is inaccurate or that an insufficient reason is given for making a correction on the initial assessment letter, the Commission will assess the carrier for the difference between what was paid and what should have been paid.
The FCC, therefore, proposes to (1) obtain the subscriber count from NRUF data based on “assigned” number counts that have been adjusted for porting to net Type 0 ports (“in” and “out”); (2) provide carriers with an opportunity to revise their subscriber counts at the time when the initial assessment letter is mailed; and (3) require carriers to confirm their subscriber counts at the aggregate level using data in the NRUF report. The FCC seeks comment on these proposals.
Cable Television Operators: The FCC proposes to continue to permit cable television operators to base their regulatory fee payment on their company’s aggregate year-end subscriber count, rather than requiring them to sub-report subscriber counts on a per community unit identifier (CUID) basis. The FCC seeks comment on this proposal. The FCC said this practice has worked well for the Commission the past three fiscal years and has eased administrative burdens for the cable television industry.
Beginning in FY 2006, the FCC sent an electronic message to e-mail addresses populated in the Media Bureau’s Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS) to notify them of the amount and due date of regulatory fees for basic cable television subscribers. The FCC proposes to continue this effort for FY 2008, but it is not sure if this notification practice is effective. The FCC seeks comment on whether this practice of sending electronic e-mail notification to cable operators should be continued.
CMRS Call Signs: In FY 2006, The FCC streamlined the CMRS payment process by eliminating the requirement for CMRS providers to identify their individual calls signs when making their regulatory fee payment. Instead, the Commission required CMRS providers to pay their regulatory fees only at the aggregate subscriber level without having to identify their various call signs. The FCC proposes to continue this practice in FY 2008 and seeks comment on this proposal.
In addition, to lessen the administrative burden on licensees, FCC proposed in FY 2007 to consolidate the CMRS cellular and CMRS mobile fee categories into one fee category and as one fee code, thereby eliminating the requirement for CMRS providers to separate their subscriber counts into CMRS cellular and CMRS mobile fee categories during the regulatory fee payment process. This consolidation of fee categories enabled the Commission to process payments more quickly and accurately. For FY 2008, the FCC proposes to continue this practice of combining the CMRS cellular and CMRS mobile fee categories into one regulatory fee category. The FCC seeks comment on this proposal.
Order: Last year, the FCC sought comment on the implementation of a new regulatory fee structure for licensees in the Broadband Radio Service (BRS). The proposal used a weighted average approach based on the FCC’s 2006 Decision to establish three tiers, to be based on the BTA ranking of the license and the per MHz fee. BloostonLaw opposed the FCC’s proposal because there was insufficient data in the record to conclude that rural operators would benefit from the new fee calculation. BloostonLaw also stated that the fee should be based upon the population within the licensee’s geographic service area. Based upon BloostonLaw’s and others comments, the FCC has concluded that it will continue the current practice of charging a flat fee per license until the BRS/EBS transition to the new band plan is completed.
Comments in this MD Docket No. 08-65 proceeding are due May 30, and replies are due June 6. Clients should let us know if they are interested in participating in this proceeding.
BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, John Prendergast, Gerry Duffy, and Richard Rubino.
HOUSE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN OFFERS “NETWORK NEUTRALITY” BILL: House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has introduced “net neutrality” legislation that would bar network providers from discriminating against some Internet content. The Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (H.R. 5994) would require U.S. broadband providers to operate their networks "in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner so that all content, applications and services are treated the same and have an equal opportunity to reach consumers." According to Rep. Conyers, "If we allow companies with monopoly or duopoly power to control how the Internet operates, network providers could have the power to choose what content is available." Under the legislation, it would be unlawful for any broadband network provider: (1) to fail to provide its broadband network services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions such that any person can offer or provide content, applications, or services to or over the network in a manner that is at least equal to the manner in which the provider or its affiliates offer content, applications, and services, free of any surcharge on the basis of the content, application, or service; (2) to refuse to interconnect its facilities with the facilities of another provider of broadband network services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms or conditions; (3)(A) to block, to impair, to discriminate against, or to interfere with the ability of any person to use a broadband network service to access, to use, to send, to receive, or to offer lawful content, applications or services over the Internet; or (B) to impose an additional charge to avoid any conduct that is prohibited by this subsection; (4) to prohibit a user from attaching or using a device on the provider's network that does not physically damage or materially degrade other users' utilization of the network; or (5) to fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose to users, in plain language, accurate information concerning any terms, conditions, or limitations on the broadband network service. In a related matter, the House telecommunications subcommittee recently held a hearing on Rep. “Chip” Pickering’s (R-Miss.) Net Neutrality bill (H.R. 5353), introduced earlier this year, that would require nondiscrimination on a nationwide basis and direct the FCC to investigate whether broadband network providers adhere to that policy. The hearing met with mixed results, and no date was set for a markup of Pickering’s bill. BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
MAY 31: FCC FORM 395, EMPLOYMENT REPORT. Common carriers, including wireless carriers, with 16 or more full-time employees must file their annual Common Carrier Employment Reports (FCC Form 395) by May 31. This report tracks carrier compliance with rules requiring recruitment of minority employees. Further, the FCC requires all common carriers to report any employment discrimination complaints they received during the past year. That information is also due on May 31. (The Form 395 is newly revised this year—prior versions are obsolete.) The FCC encourages carriers to complete the discrimination report requirement by filling out Section IV of Form 395, rather than submitting a separate report. Clients who would like assistance in filing Form 395 should contact Richard Rubino and Bob Jackson.
JULY 31: REPORT OF EXTENSION OF CREDIT TO FEDERAL CANDIDATES. This report (in letter format) must be filed by January 30 and July 31 of each year, but ONLY if the carrier extended unsecured credit to a candidate for a Federal elected office during the reporting period. BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky and John Prendergast.