Legislative Activity

Sen. Cruz Blocks Confirmation of FCC Chairman

Last Wednesday, October 16, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) blocked an expected Senate vote on the nomination of Tom Wheeler to become the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Sen. Cruz held up the nomination over questions regarding Wheeler’s views on the FCC’s power to enforce disclosures of political advertising sponsorship. The Senate had been expected to confirm both Wheeler and Michael O’Rielly, who is nominated to join the FCC as a Republican commissioner. It is unclear how long Sen. Cruz will attempt to block Wheeler’s nomination. In light of the Senate recess, however, the nominations are expected to move forward no earlier than October 28.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Thursday, October 24: The House Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing on the Federal Trade Commission. All four commissioners are expected to testify, and the hearing will likely address issues including online privacy and other Internet regulatory matters.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Reopens; Announces New Filing Deadlines

The FCC reopened last Thursday, October 17, following the end of the government shutdown. As a result of the extended unavailability of FCC services and electronic databases, however, the FCC announced new deadlines for filings that were affected by the government shutdown. With certain exceptions, filings will be due as follows:

  • Filings that were due between October 1 and October 6 generally will be due this Tuesday, October 22.
  • Filings that were due between October 7 and October 16 generally will be due 16 days after the original filing date.
  • Filings that were scheduled to be due between October 17 and November 4 generally will be due November 4.

The FCC also set different deadlines for several proceedings and specific categories of filings, including the E-rate modernization proceeding. Reply comments in the E-rate proceeding are now due November 8.

Petitions Filed To Clarify And Forbear New TCPA Rules

New Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules went into effect last Wednesday, October 16, requiring prior express written consent for certain telemarketing messages. A coalition of mobile engagement providers filed a petition for a declaratory ruling last Thursday, October 17, asking the FCC to clarify that the new rules “do not nullify those written express consents already provided by consumers.” The coalition consists of 4INFO, Inc., ePrize, Genesys, Hipcricket, Mobile Commons, Mobile Marketing Association, payvia, Tatango, Tetherball, Vibes, and Waterfall. The coalition argued that clarification is necessary “given the unchecked and extraordinary growth of frivolous class action litigation in the mobile marketing industry.” Additionally, the Direct Marketing Association filed a petition asking the FCC to forbear from enforcing the portion of the new rules that requires disclosure that sales are not conditioned on executing the written agreement and that the seller will use an autodialer.

Georgia To Impose Monthly Fee For Lifeline Service

Last Tuesday, October 15, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted to require carriers to charge low-income residents a $5 monthly fee for the use of Lifeline, a federally subsidized program aimed at ensuring access to basic phone service for low-income consumers. Georgia is the first state to charge consumers for the Lifeline service, which had previously been free. While the commission adopted the fee in response to reports of abuse of the Lifeline program, opponents argue the fee will harm low-income consumers while doing little to curtail fraud. The commission’s decision is expected to be challenged in court.

E-rate And Broadband Survey Results Released

Last Wednesday, October 16, the Consortium for School Networking released the results of its E-rate and broadband survey on the challenges K-12 schools face in meeting the growing demand for digital learning. Among its key findings, the report found that 43 percent of responding school districts said that none of their schools meet the broadband goal of 100 Mbps of Internet access per 1,000 students.

This Week’s Meetings:

  • Monday, October 28: The FCC will hold its rescheduled open meeting to address (1) rural call completion; (2) interoperability in the lower 700 MHz band; and (3) technical rules for the 700 MHz broadband spectrum licensed to the First Responder Network Authority.