Legislative Activity

FCC Nominations

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is expected to hold a confirmation hearing on Republican Michael O’Reilly’s nomination to serve as a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after Congress reconvenes in September. Tom Wheeler, President Barack Obama’s nominee to chair the FCC, has already been voted out of committee. The full Senate is not expected to vote on Wheeler’s nomination until it can consider both nominees together, although the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has the discretion to forego an O’Reilly hearing and proceed directly to a vote in order to speed confirmation of the nominees by the full Senate.

FCC Consolidated Reporting Act

The House is expected to consider the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013 (H.R. 2844) under suspension of the rules on Monday, September 9.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, September 10: The House Intellectual Property Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act.
  • Wednesday, September 11: The House Cybersecurity Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “The Threat to Americans’ Personal Information: A Look into the Security and Reliability of the Health Exchange Data Hub.”
  • Wednesday, September 11: The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing titled “Innovation Versus Regulation in the Video Marketplace.”
  • Wednesday, September 11: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will hold a hearing to examine the FCC’s proposed FY 2014 budget.

Regulatory Activity

Time Warner Cable v. FCC

Last Wednesday, September 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit released a decision overturning the FCC’s standstill rule, which permitted programmers to request a temporary standstill order from the FCC of the prices, terms and other conditions of an existing programming agreement. The Court concluded that the FCC did not follow the proper procedures before adopting such a rule. Additionally, the case included a First Amendment challenge to the FCC’s program carriage rules. The Court sided with the FCC on this point, concluding that the FCC’s program carriage rules are “content and speaker neutral,” the “mere examination of content” does not make a standard “content-based” and, therefore, the rules do not violate the First Amendment under intermediate scrutiny.

CBS, Time Warner Cable Reach Agreement

CBS and Time Warner Cable announced an agreement to end a month-long blackout of CBS programming in several markets. Time Warner had removed CBS from its cable systems in early August after the two parties failed to agree on the amount of retransmission consent fees Time Warner would pay for CBS programming. The agreement restored the CBS network and its related channels, including Showtime, to millions of cable subscribers primarily in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Verizon, Vodafone Transaction

Verizon Communications announced that it has agreed to pay $130 billion for Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, giving Verizon Communications full ownership of Verizon Wireless. Vodafone will reportedly receive $58.9 billion in cash, $60.2 billion in Verizon stock, and an additional $11 billion from smaller transactions, representing the third largest corporate transaction in history.

Interstate Inmate Calling Rates

The FCC adopted an order at its August open meeting imposing interim rate caps on interstate calling rates and other reforms. Debit card and pre-paid call rates will be capped at $0.21 per minute and collect call rates at $0.25. Under these caps, the cost of a 15-minute call would decrease from over $17 to no more than $3.75 or $3.15 a call. Safe harbor rates under those caps would bring the cost of such a call to as low as $1.80. It is our understanding that the release of the FCC’s order is imminent.

Updated Telemarketer Fees for Do Not Call Registry

The Federal Trade Commission has updated the fees for telemarketers to access phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.  For FY 2014, telemarketers will pay $59 (an increase of $1) for access to Registry phone numbers in a single area code, up to a maximum charge of $16,228 for all area codes nationwide (an increase from the previous maximum of $15,962). The new fees take effect on October 1.

Department of Commerce Releases Green Paper on Copyright Law

The Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) released a Green Paper in July entitled “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy.”  The IPTF sought input from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Through the USPTO and NTIA, comments will be sought from the public, and the Department of Commerce intends to hold a series of roundtables to address needed reforms in copyright law in the digital age.

Upcoming Deadlines and Events:

  • Wednesday, September 11: Deadline to file oppositions to American Association of Justice’s Petition for Reconsideration of FCC radio frequency exposure limits and policies.
  • Thursday, September 12: The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Special Review Committee will hold a special meeting.
  • Monday, September 16: Initial comments due in response to the FCC’s E-rate modernization Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
  • Wednesday, September 18: Comments due in response to the NTIA’s Notice of Inquiry on a common format for federal entity spectrum transition plans.
  • Friday, September 20: Deadline for payment of FY 2013 FCC Regulatory Fees.
  • Monday, September 23: Reply comments due in response to the FCC’s air-ground mobile broadband NPRM.
  • Thursday, September 26: FCC Open Meeting. The tentative agenda includes NPRMs and/or Orders on the following topics: antenna structure registration procedures, the UHF discount for multiple ownership calculations, the Bloomberg L.P. v. Comcast Cable complaint, and the opening of a Low Power FM filing window.