Legislative Activity

Senate Confirms FCC Nominees

Last Tuesday, October 29, the Senate unanimously confirmed the nominations of Tom Wheeler to become chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Michael O’Rielly to fill the empty Republican seat on the commission. The Senate vote followed Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) decision to lift his hold on Wheeler’s nomination. Sen. Cruz had blocked Wheeler’s nomination over questions regarding his views on the FCC’s power to enforce disclosures of political advertising sponsorship. Both Wheeler and O’Rielly are expected to be sworn in Monday.

Sen. Hatch Introduces Patent Litigation Reform Bill

Last Wednesday, October 30, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Patent Litigation Integrity Act (S. 1612) to curtail abusive litigation practices of “patent trolls.” The bill would require courts to award reasonable attorney fees and other expenses to a prevailing party in patent litigation cases unless the non-prevailing party’s legal position and conduct were substantially justified or special circumstances made such an award unjust. Additionally, the bill would enable courts to require plaintiffs to post a bond at the outset of litigation sufficient to cover such fees and expenses if awarded. Sen. Hatch’s bill follows on the heels of the patent litigation reform bill (H.R. 3309) introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on October 23. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also is expected to introduce his own patent reform bill soon.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Thursday, November 7: The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance will hold a hearing to examine deceptive practices by patent assertion entities.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Open Meeting

At its open meeting last Monday, October 28, the FCC adopted technical service rules to govern spectrum in the 700 MHz band allocated for the deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network by the First Responder Network Authority. The commission also adopted a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to address the problem of long-distance calls failing to reach rural homes and businesses. The FNPRM requests comments on additional proposals, including reforms with respect to autodialer traffic and reporting requirements.

FCC Adopts Order To Promote Interoperability In Lower 700 MHz Band

Last Tuesday, October 29, the FCC released a Report and Order and Order of Proposed Modification taking steps to implement an industry solution to provide interoperable Long Term Evolution service in the Lower 700 MHz band. To implement the industry solution, developed by the Competitive Carriers Association and a number of wireless providers operating in the Lower 700 MHz band, the FCC adopted various proposals, including modification of the technical requirements for the Lower 700 MHz D and E blocks to eliminate potential harmful interference.

FAA To Allow Airlines To Expand Use Of Personal Electronics

Last Thursday, October 31, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. The FAA said it would provide airlines with implementation guidance immediately. The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts, including representatives from the airlines, the mobile technology industry, pilots, and passengers.

FCC Adopts Rules Implementing Provisions Of CVAA

Last Thursday, October 31, the FCC adopted rules to implement Sections 204 and 205 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act by requiring the accessibility of user interfaces on digital apparatus and navigation devices used to view video programming. The FNPRM seeks further comment on additional proposals, including requiring that covered apparatus make appropriate built-in functions “usable by” individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Initial comments in response to the FNPRM will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Reply comments will be due 30 days later.

This Week’s Deadlines And Meetings:

  • Monday, November 4: Initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s FNPRM regarding next steps to address Internet Protocol (IP) Captioned Telephone Service practices threatening the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund.
  • Monday, November 4: Initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s FNPRM regarding rules governing the closed captioning of IP-delivered video programming.
  • Monday, November 4: Initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s public notice proposing a preliminary catalog of expenses for which broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors could be reimbursed following the planned broadcast spectrum incentive auction.
  • Friday, November 8: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s E-rate modernization Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
  • Friday, November 8: The FCC will host a workshop on unlicensed spectrum issues related to the planned broadcast spectrum incentive auction.