Selected portions of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, and/or the BloostonLaw Private Users Update — newsletters from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP are reproduced in this section with the firm's permission.
|BloostonLaw Telecom Update||Vol. 17, No. 50||December 10, 2014|
Special Access Certification Due December 15; Lifeline Verification Must Be Complete by December 31
As a final reminder, entities required only to certify that they are not required to provide data and information for the FCC’s Special Access Data Collection because they are not a covered Provider, Purchaser, or entities providing Best Efforts Business Broadband Internet Access Service must do so by December 15, 2014.
Additionally, Eligible Telecommunications Carriers participating in the Lifeline program are required to verify annually the eligibility of their Lifeline customers, which includes de-enrolling customers who fail to respond to verification efforts. Although the FCC Form 555 must be submitted to USAC, the FCC, the state utility commission, and (if applicable) the relevant Tribal authority by February 2, 2015, the verification process must be complete by December 31, 2014.
FCC Announces Bidders Provisionally Selected for Rural Broadband Experiments
On December 5, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau released the list of provisionally selected winning bidders in the Rural Broadband Experiments program. Each provisional winner will be required to submit additional information concerning their project, as well as technical, financial, and regulatory documentation demonstrating its ability to meet the program’s buildout requirements.
Collectively, provisionally winning bids were selected for 26,867 census blocks in 25 states and Puerto Rico. The FCC’s Public Notice made the following observations:
- 19 entities provisionally won support to build networks that are capable of delivering 100 Mbps downstream and 25 Mbps upstream to project census blocks in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, and Texas.
- 12 entities provisionally won support to build networks capable of delivering 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to project census blocks in Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
- 9 entities provisionally won support to build networks capable of delivering 10 Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to extremely high-cost project census blocks in California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas.
- 3 provisionally winning bidders were removed from the list because their projects were facially non-compliant with the requirements — two had proposed projects that did not meet specifications and one sought a waiver (which was not granted) of the FCC’s 100 millisecond (ms) latency standard.
Telecompetitior provided the following breakdown of the winners:
Among those chosen are 14 wireless ISPs, seven local telephone companies, four power companies and two cable companies. Other winners include competitive carriers that use landline or a mixture of wireless and landline technology, along with municipalities and organizations whose exact business type isn’t clear.
Perhaps the most unusual winner is Terastream Broadband (USA), Inc., who apparently requested $1.00 to serve 149 census blocks in New Mexico, or just a little over half a penny per block. (Conversations with FCC staff have confirmed this was not a typo.)
Bidding in AWS-3 Auction Surpasses $43 Billion
Bidding for AWS-3 licenses surged past $43 billion on the eighteenth day of bidding in FCC Auction 97. This current total more is more than double the FCC’s previous record of $19.43 billion raised in 700 MHz Auction 73 (2008), even though the 700 MHz band spectrum is generally viewed as being more valuable due to its favorable propagation characteristics.
As of Round 76 on Wednesday afternoon, the FCC had received total gross bids of $43,021,856,200 for the 1,614 licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands. This translates to an average price of more than $2.00 per MHz-POP nationwide, though prices for individual markets vary widely. Of note, the current Provisionally Winning Bid (PWB) price for the New York-Long Island EA J-Block (20 MHz) license is more than $2.7 billion, and the PWB price for the LA-Riverside EA J-Block license exceeds $2 billion.
In effort to bring the auction to a close more quickly, the FCC moved to six bidding rounds per day last Thursday, and it transitioned the auction to “Stage Two” yesterday. Stage Two auction procedures require bidders to remain active (with new bids or PWBs) for licenses representing 95% of their total bidding eligibility. Bidding in Auction 97 will continue until a round passes with no new bids or proactive waivers. Prior to the stage transition, bidding was at a low of 38 new bids in Round 67, but had picked up to more than 200 new bids in the rounds after the transition.
While details about each company’s participation, and the identity of bidders for individual licenses, is kept strictly confidential, industry analysts believe the skyrocketing prices for the AWS-3 licenses in certain larger markets is likely being driven by competition from DISH Network Corp. Some speculate that DISH may be bidding aggressively because high market valuation for AWS-3 spectrum would tend to raise the value of the satellite and terrestrial use spectrum that DISH already holds. It also makes the $1.56 billion that DISH spent for nationwide “H-Block” spectrum in Auction 96 last February look like a significant bargain.
Proceeds from the AWS-3 auction will be used to relocate incumbent Federal government operations from a portion of the AWS-3, although certain DoD operations will remain in the band indefinitely. Winning bidders will need to coordinate their AWS-3 operations with these incumbents, unless and until such operations are relocated out of the band; and winners must either coordinate with or relocate incumbent commercial licensees. Additional proceeds will be used towards funding construction of the FirstNet public safety broadband network, with a target of $7 Billion toward construction costs that could be twice as much. With well over $40 billion likely to be raised by the auction, it is safe to say that the first responder community is just as happy as the FCC about the AWS-3 auction results.
Comments Filed on USTelecom Petition for Forbearance; Replies due December 22
Comments were filed on December 5 on USTelecom’s Petition for Forbearance from a wide variety of, in their words, “outdated” regulatory requirements. Reply comments are due on December 22.
As we reported in the October 8 edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, the forbearance actions sought by USTelecom include: (a) elimination of enforcement of the remaining Section 271 and 272 separate affiliate restrictions and performance assurance plans arising out of RBOC entry into interLATA services; (b) termination of enforcement of legacy equal access requirements preserved by Section 251(g) of the Act; (c) elimination of enforcement of the FCC Rule 64.1903 requirements for structural separation of local exchange and long distance services; (d) termination of enforcement of the 2003 Triennial Review Order requirement that ILECs replacing copper loops with fiber have to provide competing carriers purchasing unbundled network elements with 64 kbps voice-grade channels over the fiber; (e) elimination of enforcement of the Section 214(e)(1) eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) requirements in areas where a price cap carrier does not receive high-cost support; (f) termination of enforcement of the remaining Computer Inquiry rules (e.g., the remaining Comparably Efficient Interconnection (“CEI”) and Open Network Architecture (“ONA”) rules); (g) elimination of enforcement of the Section 224 and 251 rules requiring ILECs to provide competitors with access to their conduits; and (h) termination of enforcement of the Part 61 and 69 rules prohibiting price cap carriers from using contract tariffs to offer business data services in all regions.
Commenters generally supporting the Petition included CenturyLink, Verizon, and ITTA, with AT&T supporting only the proposal to forbear from 214(e). These parties generally asserted that the regulations in question are outdated, create unnecessary regulatory financial burdens on the companies to which they apply, and have been rendered obsolete by the growth of competition in the relevant markets. Commenters in opposition to the Petition included COMPTEL, Sprint, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). These parties generally argued that USTelecom’s assertions about competition sufficiently ensuring consumer protection were invalid, and further that it had failed provide sufficient evidence in support of any its assertions.
FCC Issues Instructions, Web Portal Guide for Special Access Data Collection
On December 5, the FCC released instructions for the Special Access Data Collection, as well as a Special Access Web Portal System Guide. The FCC also once again updated the Special Access FAQs.
As a reminder, On November 26, the FCC issued an Order extending the deadline for responding to special access data collection for some entities. Specifically, for large businesses with more than 1,500 employees that are required to provide data, the deadline has been extended to January 29, 2015. For small businesses with 1,500 or fewer employees that are required to provide data, the deadline has been extended to February 27, 2015. For those required only to certify that they are not required to provide data and information because they are not a covered Provider, Purchaser, or entities providing Best Efforts Business Broadband Internet Access Service, the deadline remains December 15, 2014.
All Providers and Purchasers of Dedicated Service (as those terms are defined by the FCC) in areas where the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) is subject to price cap regulation must respond to the data collection unless specifically excluded. All entities required to file the FCC Form 477 on March 1, 2014, to report connections as of December 31, 2013, are required to respond. If a FCC Form 477 filer does not (i) provide a Dedicated Service in a price cap area; (ii) provide a Connection capable of providing a Dedicated Service in a price cap area; or (iii) provide a Best Efforts Business Broadband Internet Access Service, then it will only need to certify as such when responding.
Law & Regulation
FCC Issues Agenda for December 11 Open Meeting
On December 4, the FCC issued the official agenda for its December 11 Open Meeting, which will be webcast live at 10:30 at www.fcc.gov/live. At the meeting, the FCC will consider the following items:
- a Second Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration in WC Docket No. 13-184 and a Report and Order in WC Docket No. 10-90 to close the school and library connectivity gap by adjusting program rules and support levels in order to meet long-term program goals for high-speed connectivity to and within all eligible schools and libraries.
- a Report and Order finalizing decisions necessary to proceed to Phase II of the Connect America Fund.
- a Public Notice that asks for comment on the detailed procedures necessary to carry out the Broadcast Incentive Auction. The Public Notice includes specific proposals on auction design issues such as determination of the initial clearing target, opening bid prices, and the final television channel assignment process.
In addition, the FCC will consider fourteen Memorandum Opinions and Orders related to Applications for Review of decisions by the Enforcement and Media Bureaus within the Commission.
Comment Deadline on Wireless E911 Location Accuracy Requirements Extended
On December 9, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released an Order extending the deadline for its Public Notice of November 20, in which it seeks comment on the “Roadmap for Improving E911 Location Accuracy” (Roadmap) filed in the E911 Location Accuracy proceeding by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, the National Emergency Number Association, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon. Comments are now due December 15 and reply comments are now due December 24.
The Roadmap was filed in response to the Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued on February 21, in which the Commission proposed measures and timeframes to improve location accuracy for 911 calls originating indoors, including proposals related to horizontal and vertical location of callers. For example, the FCC proposed that CMRS providers would be required to provide horizontal location (x- and y-axis) information within 50 meters of the caller for 67 percent of 911 calls placed from indoor environments within two years of the effective date of adoption of rules, and for 80 percent of indoor calls within five years, and vertical location (z-axis) information within 3 meters of the caller for 67 percent of indoor 911 calls within three years of the adoption of rules, and for 80 percent of calls within five years.
The FCC indicated that although comments on the Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking were extensive, additional consideration of the Roadmap is appropriate “in light of the important public safety issues addressed in this proceeding and in order to ensure a complete and comprehensive record.” Accordingly, it seeks comment on whether the Roadmap presents a reasonable alternative, in whole or in part, to the proposals set forth in the Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
FCC Issues Warning – Signal Jammers Illegal; Warning Applies to State and Local Governments
The FCC is once again warning the public that the use of signal jammers is illegal. What is different about this warning is that the FCC has also targeted state and local governments as well as state and local law enforcement agencies and educational institutions. Simply put, if you are not an authorized Federal agency, you may not utilize signal jamming equipment.
It is well known that various state and local agencies use signal jammers to block cell signals for a variety of reasons. Frequently, these are used in the jail/correctional and educational environments. The FCC’s warning signals that even though state or local governmental agencies may have a public interest reason to block cellular signals near a particular facility, such action is illegal and could result in fines in excess of $100,000 per violation.
The use of signal jammers in the United States is not permitted because they are illegal radio frequency transmitters that are designed to block, jam or otherwise interfere with authorized radio communications — whether it be mobile two-way communications or commercial telephone two-way communications. As a result, these jammers indiscriminately block both cellular telephone communications and public safety radio communications since the signal jammer is designed to block all radio communications on any device that is within range of the signal jammer. The blocking of cellular telephone communications makes it impossible for the user to make a 911 call in the event of an emergency. Additionally, even if a call can be made, a signal jammer can also block the GPS location data from a cell phone which can make it difficult for first responders to locate the emergency.
In addition to banning the operation of signal jammers in the United States, it is also illegal to import, market or sell these devices on-line or in stores. Again, violations could result in the imposition of fines in excess of $100,000.
Federal Aviation Administration Streamlines its NOTAM System to Improve Light Outage Reporting
The FCC has announced that the Federal Aviation Administration has developed plans to streamline its processes with respect to Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). NOTAMs are critical for aviation safety and are used to notify pilots of various conditions, including light outages and other lighting defects on antenna towers. Under the FCC’s Rules, tower owners are required to notify the FAA within 30 minutes of discovering a light outage or malfunction. Currently, the NOTAM is valid for 15 days, which means that the tower owner must again contact the FAA to cancel the NOTAM and have it reissued if the repairs have not been completed. In this regard, the FCC noted that there are circumstances where it is not possible to make repairs within the 15-day NOTAM period. Additionally, because NOTAMs are now submitted electronically, the FCC and FAA were concerned that the proliferation of electronic filings could make it difficult for the FAA and FCC to track the status of antenna tower — which could then have an adverse impact on aviation safety.
The FAA expects to complete the system upgrade to its NOTAM reporting system by mid-January 2015. Once the system upgrades are complete, tower owners will be able to self-select the amount of time needed to repair a faulty tower light or tower lighting. It is important to note that even though you will be able to select the time-period for the NOTAM, it is critical that it be affirmatively canceled once repairs are complete, so that there is no pilot confusion.
The FCC believes that the new process will ease the burdens of tower owners by allowing them to determine how long the NOTAM will remain in effect. The FCC cautioned that it will continue to monitor NOTAMs and may investigate those where a tower owner selects an unusually long period to make a repair, as well as circumstances where multiple NOTAMs have been issued for the same antenna tower within a relatively short period of time or where a tower owner fails to cancel a NOTAM once repairs have been completed.
Carriers Increase Investment in Carrier-Grade WiFi
According to an article recently published on LightReading.com, a communications news outlet, Amdocs Ltd. recently released a report indicating that fixed and mobile operators are committing an increasing amount of resources in Wi-Fi hotspots, with the goal of “improving connectivity from best-effort status to carrier-grade.”
According to a press release by Amdocs, key findings of the report include:
- Carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots will grow from 14 percent today to 72 percent of overall Wi-Fi hotspots by 2018.
- As part of their Wi-Fi network strategy to enable Wi-Fi coverage on the move, by 2016, 77 percent of service providers plan to use "homespots" (where the user agrees to leave the hotspot open for use by passers-by), growing from 30 percent today.
- Almost all operators (85 percent) plan to invest in carrier-grade Wi-Fi by 2016. MSOs see carrier-grade Wi-Fi providing better positioning in mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deals, supporting quad-play offerings and wireless services, while Mobile Network Operators’ (MNOs') plan to use carrier-grade Wi-Fi to broaden their networks and offload radio access network (RAN) traffic.
- By the end of 2016, 61 percent of Multiple Service Operators’ (MSO's) Wi-Fi hotspots, and 70 percent of MNOs, will be sourced from third parties to take advantage of shared cost savings and accelerated deployment, up from 45 percent in today.
- Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents placed the lack of strong network planning and management tools in their top three risk factors for investing in carrier-grade Wi-Fi, with most stating that their existing tools will not extend well to Wi-Fi without additional investment.
A copy of the full report is available here (login required).
New York Public Library to Rent Wi-Fi Hotspots by Year’s End
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, later this month New York City residents will be able to check out portable Wi-Fi hubs at their local branch, free of charge.
The program will reportedly offer 10,000 Wi-Fi units through branches of the New York Public Library, the Queens Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library. The hubs, which are powered by Sprint, will generally be lent to library members in adult learning programs, English-language courses, and residents who don’t have home broadband.
Library officials reportedly estimate the program’s first year will cost $2.6 million for all three library systems, though it was paid for in part by a $1 million donation by Google, Inc. and approximately $500,000 from a number of non-profit entities.
The Wi-Fi hotspot program is separate from the LinkNYC plan we reported on in the previous edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, which will involve replacing the city’s pay phone system with Wi-Fi hubs. According to New York Public Library President Anthony Marx, there is room for both programs.
FEBRUARY 2: 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 2 (as February 1 falls on a Sunday this year). 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. 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. [emphasis added]
Dec. 11 – Open Meeting.
Dec. 11 – 2014 FCC Form 477 due (Local Competition and Broadband Reporting).
Dec. 15 – Deadline for Special Access Data Collection Certifications for Entities Not Required to Provide Data
Dec. 15 – Comments are due on E911 Location Accuracy “Roadmap.”
Dec. 15 – Reply comments are due on Part 32 Accounting Rules NPRM.
Dec. 17 – Comments are due on Part 22 Technical Changes.
Dec. 19 – Reply comments are due on Unauthorized EAS Alert Public Notice.
Dec. 22 – Comments due on Broadband Speed, Latency Testing Methodology.
Dec. 22 – Reply comments are due on US Telecom Petition for Forbearance from Certain Wireline ILEC Regs.
Dec. 23 – Reply comments are due on TracFone Petition for Declaratory Ruling on 911 Taxes.
Dec. 24 – Comments are due on Robocall and Call-Blocking Issues.
Dec. 24 – Reply comments are due on E911 Location Accuracy “Roadmap.”
Jan. 5 – Comments are due on Unlicensed Use of TV Band and 600 MHz Band Spectrum.
Jan. 8 – Reply comments are due on Robocall and Call-Blocking Issues.
Jan. 15 – Annual Hearing Aid Compatibility Report is due.
Jan. 19 – Reply comments on Part 22 Technical Changes are due.
Jan. 26 – Reply comments are due on Unlicensed Use of TV Band and 600 MHz Band Spectrum.
Jan. 29 – Deadline for Special Access Data Collection for large businesses with more than 1,500 employees.
Jan. 31 – FCC Form 555 (Annual Lifeline ETC Certification Form) is due.
Feb. 2 – FCC Form 499-Q (Quarterly Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet) is due.
Feb. 2 – FCC Form 502 (Number Utilization and Forecast Report) is due.
Feb. 27 – Deadline for Special Access Data Collection for small businesses with less than 1,500 employees.