Legislative Activity

Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act of 2014 Introduced

Last Tuesday, June 10, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act of 2014 to extend for an additional five years certain provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA), otherwise set to expire at the end of the year. During March hearings, representatives from NAB, NCTA, DirecTV, WGA, and Public Knowledge testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the extension is approved, it will allow approximately 1.5 million satellite customers who cannot otherwise receive broadcast signals over-the-air to maintain access to their current broadcast television content.

Media Ownership in the 21st Century House Commerce Subcommittee Hearing

Last Wednesday, June 11, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on Media Ownership in the 21st Century to examine how media ownership laws may need to change to meet the demands of the digital age. Other topics included (1) new rules relating to joint sales agreements; and (2) a general discussion on whether the rules continue to be relevant. Representatives from the FCC, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Newspaper Association of America, and the National Association of Broadcasters testified.

Wireless Innovation Act Introduced

Last Thursday, June 12, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced the Wireless Innovation Act in order to move federal government spectrum to commercial wireless services and to make regulators more accountable for government spectrum use. Among other things, the bill would require NTIA to find and reallocate 200 MHz of spectrum for auction in 2018, and to expedite the FCC review period for certain license transfers. The bill is now with the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Open Meeting Friday, June 13

Last Friday, June 13, the Commission heard two presentations at its monthly open meeting. In a presentation providing an update on the efforts to transition circuit-switched networks to Internet Protocol (IP) networks, staff presented a status report on AT&T’s voluntary experiments, designed to assess how the transition to IP networks affects users. As a result of AT&T’s experiments, staff determined that there is a need for more discussion regarding: how AT&T’s new product will support priority Government Emergency Telecommunications Service; whether the faster, more expensive home phone internet product will replace DSL Internet access; and the reliability of fiber-based networks during commercial power outages.

In a presentation on the expansion of community access to radio, staff provided an update on the continuing efforts to use increased access to Low Power FM as a way to launch new and diverse voices to the American public. Specifically, staff explained that as of Friday, June 13, over 1,220 LPFM permits were issued allowing applicants to begin construction; the FCC has received an unprecedented number of petitions related to any number of applications filed during the window that require more substantial legal review to ensure that the proposed stations will serve the public interest; and finally, there is a need to resolve applications that may conflict with one another.

Modifications to Amateur Radio Service Rules

Last Monday, June 9, the FCC released a Report and Order making it easier for amateur service licensees to enter or reenter the amateur service by allowing remote exam administration and partial exam credit, and permitting amateur licensees to use technologies permitted in other services.

T-Mobile Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling on Data Roaming Obligations Put Out for Public Comment

Last Tuesday, June 10, the FCC requested comments on a T-Mobile USA, Inc. petition for an expedited declaratory ruling explaining the criteria for determining whether data roaming agreement terms are “commercially reasonable” pursuant to Section 20.12(e) of the FCC’s rules. In its petition T-Mobile asserts that the guidance is necessary to ensure the commercial reasonableness of terms offered in negotiations. Comments are due by July 10 and reply comments by August 11, 2014.

FCC Releases Fifteenth Annual Report on Privatization of Intelsat and Inmarsat

Last Wednesday, June 11, the FCC released its fifteenth annual Report to Congress on the impact of the privatization of Intelsat and Inmarsat. The Report, which concludes that policy goals regarding a fully competitive global market for satellite services are being met, is required by Section 646 of the Open-market Reorganization for the Betterment of International Telecommunications Act (the ORBIT Act). The purpose of the Act was to promote a fully competitive market for satellite services by fully privatizing Intelsat and Inmarsat. Commissioner Pai remarked by separate statement that these reports no longer appear to be necessary, but that the Commission will continue to produce them as long as Congress requires it.

New Docket Opened for AT&T’s DirecTV Acquisition

Last Wednesday, June 11, the FCC opened a docket relating to AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV in a $49 billion stock-and-cash transaction. The Commission also established that permit but disclose ex parte rules would govern the proceeding. According to the Public Notice, AT&T also plans to divest its interest in America Movil, a telco headquartered in Mexico, as part of the deal. The FCC is expecting the companies to file applications for approval of the transfer in short order. A second public notice will be issued at that time.

FCC Will Collect Nearly $340 Million in FY 2014 Regulatory Fees

Last Friday, June 13, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order requesting comments on the collection of FY 2014 regulatory fees. The NPRM proposes collecting $339,844,000 in regulatory fees to cover costs for enforcement, and policy and rulemaking activities, to name a few. The Second FNPRM seeks comments on whether more reforms might improve the fee process. Finally, the Order adopts revisions related to electronic payment of regulatory fees. Comments are due by July 7 and reply comments by July 14, 2014.

FCC Continues USF Reform

Last Tuesday, June 10, the FCC released a Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, Order, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Seventh Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) adopted in late April.  The Order is intended to further implement the universal service reforms adopted by the Commission in 2011 to modernize universal service for the 21st century. At the center of the 2011 reforms was the new Connect America Fund created to advance voice and broadband services in high-cost areas. The order released on June 10 proposes targeted adjustments to ensure that the Commission uses the funds paid into the USF in the manner most advantageous to consumers and businesses, and that the methods adopted are not outpaced by constantly evolving technology. Among other things, the Order concludes that all areas where the average cost per location equals or exceeds a specified cost benchmark are eligible for Phase II support in the competitive bidding process; allows entities to seek designation as eligible telecommunications carriers after notification that they are winning bidders for Phase II funds; and issues a declaratory ruling to clarify rate-of-return carriers’ obligations to extend broadband service upon reasonable request. Comments are due 30 days and reply comments 60 days after publication of the FNPRM in the Federal Register.