BloostonLaw Telecom Update
Published by the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP
[Portions reproduced here with the firm's permission.]
| Vol. 13, No. 27|| June 30, 2010 |
FCC Announces Tentative Agenda For July 15 Open Meeting
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has announced that the following items will be on the tentative agenda for the next open meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 15, 2010:
- Rural Health Care Reform NPRM: A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking initiating reforms to the Universal Service Rural Health Care Fund to expand the reach and use of broadband connectivity by health care providers throughout the nation.
- Spectrum Flexibility NPRM and NOI: A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on ways to encourage investment in terrestrial broadband services within spectrum allocated to mobile satellite services, while maintaining robust mobile satellite capability.
- Electronic Tariff Filing NPRM: A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on streamlining the tariff filing and formatting process by transitioning from paper to electronic filing to reduce industry burden and promote an open, transparent, and efficient flow of information.
Clients are reminded that the official “Sunshine Agenda” (and the deadline for ending lobbying on the items scheduled for consideration) will be published one week before the scheduled open meeting.
BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and John Prendergast.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- Obama backs unleashing 500 MHz of spectrum over next 10 years for mobile, fixed broadband services.
- FCC’s local competition report includes VoIP data.
- FCC adopts per-minute compensation rates for interstate TRS fund.
- FCC launches NOI on structuring of VRS market.
Obama Backs Unleashing 500 MHz Of Spectrum Over Next 10 Years For Mobile, Fixed Broadband Services
President Obama this Monday signed a Presidential Memorandum that essentially supports the FCC’s National Broadband Plan (NBP) recommendation to unleash 500 megahertz of spectrum within 10 years for commercial use. The Memorandum, however, provides more clarity and direction to the NBP recommendation. And it calls on federal agencies to participate in joint efforts to ensure that the recommendation is implemented.
“In order to achieve mobile wireless broadband's full potential, we need an environment where innovation thrives, and where new capabilities also are secure, trustworthy, and provide appropriate safeguards for users' privacy. These characteristics will continue to be important to the adoption of mobile wireless broadband,” the President wrote, “I therefore am hereby directing that executive departments, agencies, and offices, and strongly encourage that independent agencies, take the following steps”:
Section 1. The Secretary of Commerce, working through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall:
(a) Collaborate with the FCC to make available a total of 500 MHz of Federal and non-Federal spectrum over the next 10 years, suitable to the FCC for both mobile and fixed wireless broadband use. The spectrum must be available to be licensed by the exclusive use or made available for shared access by commercial and Government users in order to enable licensed or unlicensed wireless broadband technologies to be deployed. (We note that the FCC’s NBP recommendation to make 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for commercial broadband use within the next 10 years also proposes that 300 megahertz of that total should be made available between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz for mobile use within the next five years);
(b) Collaborate with the FCC to complete by October 1, 2010, a specific Plan and Timetable for identifying and making available 500 MHz of spectrum. For purposes of successfully implementing any repurposing of existing spectrum, the Plan and Timetable must take into account the need to ensure no loss of critical existing and planned Federal, State, local, and tribal government capabilities, the international implications, and the need for appropriate enforcement mechanisms and authorities;
(c) Convene the Policy and Plans Steering Group (PPSG) to advise NTIA on achieving the objectives. The Secretaries of Defense, the Treasury, Transportation, State, the Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Administrators of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration, the Director of National Intelligence, the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, and the head of any other executive department or agency that is currently authorized to use spectrum shall participate and cooperate fully, or in the case of independent agencies are strongly encouraged to promptly provide appropriate funding and staff resources for agency support to these efforts and the work of the PPSG; and
(d) Submit, not later than 180 days after the Plan and Timetable are completed, to the National Economic Council (NEC), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) an interim report to assess progress against the Plan and Timetable. Additional interim reports shall be submitted 180 days after the submission of the first interim report and then annually thereafter until such time as the Plan and Timetable are completed. In preparing these reports, the Secretary of Commerce shall work cooperatively with the FCC and other relevant departments, agencies, and offices.
Sections 2 through 7 provide further detailed instructions for federal agencies to cooperate and submit reports regarding the implementation of the Plan and Timetable.
Industry response: Unsaid in the Presidential Memorandum, but reported in The New York Times and elsewhere is the fact that broadcasters likely will be asked to give up some of their spectrum for auction, and cable companies that have invested heavily in wired telecommunications networks may also lose from the new plan.
Proceeds from the auctions, according to the Times, would go in part to finance the construction of improved communications systems for police, fire and other public safety agencies. Law enforcement agencies have proposed that parts of the newly available wireless spectrum be used for a dedicated broadband public safety network.
The Times says that roughly 45 percent of the spectrum to be auctioned would come from federal government agencies that will be asked to give up allocations that they are not using or could share, and the remainder would come from unused spectrum already scheduled for auction or from broadcasters and other spectrum licensees who would be offered incentives to give up or share parts of their communications airwaves. Currently, the spectrum for wireless communications is about 547 megahertz, according to NYT.
BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and John Prendergast.
FCC’s Local Competition Report Includes VoIP Data
The FCC for the first time has released comprehensive information about subscribership to interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service in its Local Telephone Competition report, which also includes information about more traditional telephone lines provided in previous reports. Because interconnected VoIP subscribers were not comprehensively included in earlier data collections, certain of the report’s summary statistics are not directly comparable to the statistics for earlier dates. However, the inclusion of the expanded statistics reflects the impact of VoIP on telephone competition, with approximately one-fifth of residential lines now being served by VoIP. This highlights the need for all VoIP providers to pay access charges.
The report summarizes data collected by FCC Form 477 as of December 31, 2008. Report highlights include:
- At year-end 2008, there were 141 million traditional switched access lines in service and 21 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions in the United States, or about 162 million wireline retail local telephone service connections in total. Of these, 97 million were residential connections and 65 million were business connections.
- Of the 162 million total connections, 48% were residential switched access lines, 39% were business switched access lines, 12% were residential VoIP subscriptions, and 1% were business VoIP subscriptions.
- Of the 162 million total connections, 45% were residential lines and 28% were business lines owned by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), while 15% provided non-ILEC residential service, and 12% provided non-ILEC business service.
- Of the 97 million wireline residential connections, 74.5% were ILEC switched access lines, 19.5% were non-ILEC interconnected VoIP subscriptions, 5.8% were non-ILEC switched access lines, and 0.3% were ILEC interconnected VoIP subscriptions.
- Of the 65 million wireline business connections, 70.1% were ILEC switched access lines, 26.8% were non-ILEC switched access lines, 2.7% were non-ILEC interconnected VoIP subscriptions, and 0.4% were ILEC interconnected VoIP subscriptions.
The report also summarizes information on: (1) subscribership to stand-alone interconnected VoIP service versus interconnected VoIP service bundles that include broadband Internet access service (81% receive service through a “broadband bundle”), (2) subscribership to interconnected VoIP service that includes, as a service feature, use of the service over any broadband connection to which the customer has access, for example, at a hotel or vacation residence (“nomadic” functionality) versus service that does not include this feature (13% subscribe to nomadic service), and (3) the type of broadband connection in the broadband bundle (92% via cable modem; 7% via FTTP, DSL or other wireline; less than 1% via fixed wireless or other connections). For switched access lines, the report presents summary statistics for the technology used in the line, and it summarizes and compares the reported data about wholesale relationships. The report also updates summary statistics for the mobile telephony subscribership information collected by Form 477.
BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FCC ADOPTS PER-MINUTE COMPENSATION RATES FOR INTERSTATE TRS FUND: The FCC has adopted per-minute compensation rates from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Fund for each form of TRS for the 2010-2011 Fund year. These rates are based in part on options proposed by the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the Interstate TRS Fund administrator, in filing its annual Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund Payment Formula and Fund Size Estimate for the period of July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. The interim rates for 2010-2011 for Video Relay Service (VRS) shall be: $6.2390 for Tier I, $6.2335 for Tier II, and $5.0668 for Tier III. VRS allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with friends and family and to conduct business in near real time. The rates for the other forms of TRS shall be: $2.256 for interstate traditional TRS; $3.1566 for Speech-to-Speech (STS); $1.6951 for Captioned Telephone Service (CTS) and Internet Protocol (IP) CTS; and $1.2985 for IP Relay. The interim VRS rates represent the average of the current tiered rates and NECA’s proposed rates based on actual, historical costs. These rates have been adopted on an interim basis and reflect a balance between the goal of ensuring that VRS providers recover from the Fund only the reasonable costs caused by their provision of VRS and the goal of ensuring quality and sufficient service during a one-year period while the FCC considers reform in this area. The FCC notes that it intends to further examine VRS rates in the near future as part of upcoming proceedings, including audits and a Notice of Inquiry (see story below). Based on the adoption of these rates and NECA’s proposals, the Commission adopts a carrier contribution factor of 0.00585, and a funding requirement of $433,990,484.98 for the 2010-2011 Fund year. BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FCC LAUNCHES NOI ON STRUCTURING OF VRS MARKET: The FCC has released a Notice of Inquiry asking fundamental questions about the ways that the market for Video Relay Service (VRS) should be structured and how companies that provide VRS should be compensated. VRS allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with friends and family and to conduct business in near real time. In the NOI, the FCC seeks to improve the VRS program by ensuring that it is available to and used by the full spectrum of eligible users, that it encourages innovation, and that it is less susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse that afflicts the current program. The Commission noted that a number of individuals associated with VRS companies have been indicted for fraud and abuse of the system; they appear to have generated extra revenue from calls that were not legitimate uses of the fund. The FCC added that recent data shows that the payments from the Fund to VRS companies were on a higher scale than the FCC intended, because they were based on cost estimates that turned out to be far higher than VRS companies’ actual costs. The Commission has now set interim levels for payments to VRS companies for the year July 2010 through June 2011. The FCC estimates that these new compensation levels, together with steps that have been taken to reduce fraud, will save the fund about $275 million over last year’s estimated costs. The FCC said it has worked with the Department of Justice to identify companies that may have acted fraudulently, and the number of questionable charges has already dropped as a result. The savings from reduced fraud and new payment levels will benefit American ratepayers, who support the fund through charges on their telephone bills. The NOI will also look at outreach, marketing, and broader economic issues. Comments in this CG Docket No. 10-51 proceeding will be due 30 days after publication of the item in the Federal Register, and replies will be due 15 days thereafter. BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FCC INDEFINITELY POSTPONES LICENSING FOR LOW POWER TV & TRANSLATOR STATIONS DUE TO NBP: The FCC’s Media Bureau has announced that the initiation of nationwide first-come, first-served, digital-only licensing for low power television and TV translator stations scheduled to begin July 26, 2010, has been postponed until further notice. On June 29, 2009, the Media Bureau announced that it would begin accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis for new digital-only low power television and TV translator stations and for major changes to existing analog and digital facilities in these services in so-called “rural areas” on August 25, 2009, and without geographic restriction on January 25, 2010. The January 25, 2010 date for initiation of nationwide first-come, first-served digital licensing was subsequently postponed to July 26, 2010. The Media Bureau believes that a postponement of the July 26, 2010, date for nationwide licensing is necessary in light of the release of the National Broadband Plan.
[We note that further licensing of LPTV/TV translator stations in those 700 MHz bands sold at auction for land mobile operations has already been restricted.]
The Broadband Plan announced an effort to identify 500 megahertz of spectrum that can be reallocated from existing uses to enable the expansion of new mobile broadband service. To aid in this endeavor, the Broadband Plan recommended, among other things, that the Commission initiate a rulemaking proceeding to reallocate 120 megahertz from the broadcast television bands, and also to consider methodologies for repacking television channels to increase the efficiency of channel use. To permit the Commission to evaluate its reallocation and repacking proposals and their impact on future licensing of low power television facilities, the Media Bureau deems it appropriate to postpone nationwide digital licensing for low power television and TV translator stations until further notice. Following the conclusion of the Commission’s broadband rulemaking proceedings, the Media Bureau will consider an appropriate date for the initiation of nationwide digital licensing. To further the digital transition for low power television, TV translator and Class A television stations, the Commission will permit existing stations in these services to file applications for digital companion channels beginning on July 26, 2010. Interested parties may also continue to submit applications for new digital-only LPTV and TV translator stations and for major changes to existing analog and digital LPTV and TV translator facilities in rural areas, as defined in the June 29 Public Notice. Furthermore, applications that are currently permitted under FCC rules will continue to be accepted, including applications for digital on-channel conversion (“flash cut”). BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, John Prendergast, and Richard Rubino.
CTIA CANCELS FUTURE WIRELESS SHOWS IN SAN FRANCISCO OVER RADIATION ORDINANCE: In response to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ recent approval of the so-called 'Cell Phone Right-to-Know' ordinance requiring specific absorption rate (SAR) labeling on handsets, CTIA has canceled all future wireless shows in that city. In a statement, CTIA said: “While we have enjoyed bringing our three-day fall show to San Francisco five times in the last seven years, which has meant we’ve brought more than 68,000 exhibitors and attendees and had an economic impact of almost $80 million to the Bay Area economy, the Board of Supervisors’ action has led us to decide to relocate our show. We are disappointed to announce that the 2010 CTIA Enterprise and Applications show in October will be the last one we have in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. We have already been contacted by several other cities that are eager to work with us and understand the tremendous benefits that wireless technology and our show can provide their area.” Rather than inform, CTIA said, the ordinance will potentially mislead consumers with point of sale requirements suggesting that some phones are 'safer' than others based on radiofrequency (RF) emissions. In fact, CTIA continued, all phones sold legally in the U.S. must comply with the FCC’s safety standards for RF emissions. According to the FCC, CTIA said, all such compliant phones are safe phones as measured by these standards. The scientific evidence does not support point of sale requirements that would suggest some compliant phones are 'safer' than other compliant phones based on RF emissions, CTIA said. BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, John Prendergast, Cary Mitchell, and Bob Jackson.
FCC ADVISES 2.3 GHz WCS LICENSEES IT WILL NOT ACCEPT “SUBSTANTIAL SERVICE PERFORMANCE” SHOWINGS: The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) has issued a Public Notice advising 2.3 GHz Wireless Communications Service (WCS) licensees that it will not accept substantial service performance showings. In its WCS Report and Order, the FCC revised certain WCS technical rules and adopted enhanced performance requirements to facilitate the provision of new broadband services in the 2.3 GHz band. The Commission declared that the enhanced “performance requirements supersede the substantial service performance requirement for all WCS licensees, including any licensee that previously filed a substantial service demonstration.” The Commission also declared that the enhanced performance requirements supplant AT&T’s heightened substantial service obligations to serve 25 percent of the population for each of its WCS licenses for mobile or point-to-multipoint services, or to construct at least five permanent links per one million people in the service area for fixed point-to-point services. Further, the Commission dismissed all pending substantial service demonstrations and pleadings filed in opposition as moot. In light of this, WTB is temporarily suspending the 2.3 GHz WCS substantial service performance requirement until the enhanced 2.3 GHz WCS performance requirements become effective. WCS licenses therefore will not automatically terminate under section 1.946(c) of the Commission’s rules for not meeting the superseded substantial service performance requirement. Accordingly, the Bureau will not accept for filing any further substantial service showings for the 2.3 GHz WCS Band, and licensees must review and implement the enhanced performance requirements instead. BloostonLaw contacts: Hal Mordkofsky, John Prendergast, and Cary Mitchell.
This newsletter is not intended to provide legal advice. Those interested in more information should contact the firm.