Patton Boggs TechComm Industry Update - Week of February 23, 2009

    23 February 2009

    NTIA, RUS to Issue Notice of Funds in Order to Speed-Up the Availability of Broadband Stimulus Funds

    The broadband stimulus tasked NTIA and RUS with awarding $4.7 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively, for broadband service. During the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Telecommunications, RUS Broadband Director Ken Kuchno stated that the money must be disbursed quickly. Rather than going through a rulemaking process, RUS will use the faster “notice of funds availability” process.

    NTIA Office of Telecommunications associate administrator Bernadette McGuire-Rivera said NTIA will be drafting grant application guidelines and seeking public comment at the same time in order to quickly move through the "notice of funds availability" process. NTIA is also planning to hold several town hall style meetings inside and outside of the Washington, D.C. area.

    More information about the broadband stimulus is available here and we are available to answer any questions that you may have.


    Rep. Boucher (D-VA) Encourages the FCC to Move on 700 MHz D-Block Auction

    In recent interviews, House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, (D-VA), encouraged the FCC to make the re-auction of the 700 MHz D-Block the Agency’s top priority. Boucher said the auction is an item for the Subcommittee. The FCC’s original 700 MHz band auction did not produce a winner for the D-Block because the minimum bid was not met. Attempts under former Chairman Martin to re-auction the spectrum were unsuccessful because the Commissioners were unable to agree on new rules for the D-Block.

    Boucher listed the following as other Subcommittee priorities: stronger oversight of the DTV transition, monitoring the disbursement of broadband stimulus funds, network neutrality safeguards and open access provisions, and the reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Act.

    FCC Releases Next Generation IP-Enabled 911 and E911 Services Summit Agenda; Seeks Data about 911 and E911 Collected Fees

    The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has released the agenda for its summit on February 25, 2009 on deployment and operational guidelines for next generation IP-enabled 911 and E911 services. The New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008 (NET 911 Act) requires the Commission to work with public safety organizations and others to promote consistency in the deployment and operation of IP-enabled 911 and E911 services through development of standards for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). The FCC will hear from two panels, the first on IP-Enabled and E911 network issues including diversity requirements, call handling in the event of call-overflow from network outages and PSAP certification and testing requirements. A second panel will discuss IP-Enabled and E911 data issues including determination of geographic coverage areas for PSAPs, validation procedures for inputting and updating location information, and formats for delivering address information to PSAPs. Individuals interested in attending the summit can register on the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s website.

    In a related mater, the NET 911 Act also requires the FCC to collect information regarding any fees collected by the states or other jurisdictions in connection with 911/E911 services. Pursuant to this requirement, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau seeks information on the status in each State of the collection and distribution of 911/E911 services fees or charges and on the amount of revenues obligated or expended by each State for any purpose other than the purpose for which such fees or charges are specified. The FCC plans to send inquiries to the Office of the Governor of each state and territory, and Tribal Government of each Native American Reservation, the Secretary of State, Public Utility Commission Chairmen, and 911 Director of each state and equivalent offices in the territories and reservations. The FCC hopes to determine whether collected funds have been made available or used for the purposes designated by the funding mechanism, or otherwise used to implement or support 911 or E911. The FCC also is required to submit to Congress by July 23, 2009 a report detailing its findings. State officials are required to respond to the FCC’s inquiry by March 23, 2009.


    FCC Stays 700 MHz Narrowband Relocation Deadline

    The FCC on its own motion has stayed the February 17, 2009 deadline for consolidating existing 700 MHz narrowband allocations to the new consolidated narrowband segment. In 2007, the FCC reconfigured the 700 MHz public safety band in order to establish a nationwide, interoperable, broadband public safety communications network. To do this, the Commission designated the lower half of the 700 MHz public safety band (763-768/793-798 MHz) for broadband communications, and consolidated narrowband operations in the upper half (769-775/799-805 MHz). Existing narrowband operations in the spectrum blocks corresponding to television channels 63 and 68, and in the upper one megahertz of channels 64 and 69, were required to relocate to the new consolidated narrowband segment by the DTV transition deadline of February 17, 2009. The FCC established this deadline in the hopes that Auction No. 73 would yield a national D Block licensee and negotiations for a Network Sharing Agreement (NSA) would be complete with sufficient time to relocate existing narrowband operations. Because Auction No. 73 did not produce a D Block licensee, the FCC has stayed the February 17, 2009 deadline for consolidating existing narrowband operations to the upper half of the 700 MHz public safety band until the FCC adopts a new effective date.


    368 TV Stations Received FCC Approval to Terminate Analog Service on February 17, 2009; FCC Requested More Information from 123 Additional Stations

    The FCC received 491 termination notices filed by TV stations that planned to terminate analog service on February 17, 2009. Of those 491 stations, the FCC found that 368 could proceed provided they comply with the FCC’s view notifications before termination on February 17th. Over two-thirds of all TV stations planned to remain on the air and provide analog service beyond February 17, 2009. However, the FCC found that for 123 of the 491 stations, early termination posed a significant risk of substantial public harm. These stations had to agree to certain requirements before the FCC would allow them to terminate analog operations on February 17, 2009.

    In a subsequent release, the FCC reported that of the remaining 106 stations that requested permission to cease analog operations on February 17, 2009, 53 stations certified they would comply with the conditions, 10 stations offered alternate conditions that are under review by the FCC’s Media Bureau and the remaining stations indicated that they no longer intended to discontinue analog operations on February 17, 2009.


    Early DTV Transition – Smoother than Expected

    More than 400 television stations turned off their analog signal on February 17, 2009, the original date of the DTV transition. The FCC’s call center received nearly 28,000 calls on the day stations began to turn off their analog signals. Local broadcasters are reporting receiving anywhere from no calls to a few hundred. Questions from consumers range from “how do I set up my convertor box” to “why can I no longer receive my favorite television station?” In addition to a convertor box, some consumers are finding they also need a more powerful UHF antenna. Antenna information is available from the FCC here.


    FCC Releases Order to Implement the DTV Delay Act

    The FCC released an order in response to the DTV Delay Act, to extend the DTV transition period to June 12, 2009, extend analog television license terms and to adjust DTV construction permits. The FCC concluded no rulemaking was necessary to extend the DTV transition and related licenses and permits because the DTV Delay Act provided the FCC with the ability to take whatever action necessary to implement the Act within 30 days of enactment. If the FCC followed its normal rulemaking procedures and complied with other requirements, it claims it would not have been able to meet the implementation deadline since the original DTV transition deadline was only three days from the enactment of the Act. The FCC made the following changes to television stations’ licenses and construction permits:

    • the date of termination for a station’s analog license is extended from February 17, 2009 to June 12, 2009 (11:59:59 pm local time);
    • the construction permit deadline to construct a station’s full-authorized post-transition (DTV) facility is extended from February 17, 2009 to June 12, 2009 (11:59:59 pm local time);
    • the date on which a station can commence operation of a facility authorized for post transition service without further Commission authorization is extended from 12:00 am February 18, 2009 to 12:00 am June 13, 2009 (local time).

    The FCC reminded television stations that they may complete construction before the June 12, 2009 deadline but may not begin DTV operations before June 13, 2009, without prior FCC approval. The FCC also delegated authority to the Media Bureau to review DTV waiver requests and other filings and changed the conditions for early transition to eliminate the need to provide emergency information in Spanish if the station does not offer Spanish language programming. 

    At our deadline, the FCC released a second order and notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on DTV consumer education requirements and 700 MHz band license terms and construction requirements.


    President Obama Opposes the Fairness Doctrine

    As reported during the campaign and now confirmed during a White House spokesman press conference, President Obama continues to oppose a re-introduction of the Fairness Doctrine. The long abolished Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to report both sides of a controversial issue of national importance.

    White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters, “As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated." But, Senior Advisor David Axelrod and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs were less definitive in their statements about the issue. Axelrod told reporters, "I'm going to leave that issue to Julius Genachowski, our new head of the FCC ... and the president to discuss. So I don't have an answer for you now." This is the closest the Administration has come to officially announcing Julius Genachowski as the new head of the FCC.

    Since some representatives and senators support re-instating the Fairness Doctrine, the debate will continue.


    Sirius XM Bankruptcy Avoided Thanks to Liberty Media Investment

    In a deal estimated to exceed $450 million, Liberty Media loaned Sirius XM $265 million at 15% so Sirius XM could make debt payments and is expected to make a second loan of about $200 million later this year. Liberty also took an equity position in the company, including up to three board seats, but will not control Sirius XM. Liberty is not expected to participate in the day-to-day operations of Sirius XM. Its interests in Sirius XM are most likely in the area of programming and the ability to offer bundled services. 


    Twitter Apps are Growing Fast

    Initially established as a simply, easy to use messaging service, Twitter is fast becoming an application platform. Applications are now available for Twitter to allow users to share music and videos, quit bad habits, and share computer code. Other users have figured out how to program household appliances to send status alerts using Twitter or to remotely turn out the lights. Twitter's straight forward application programming interface (API), allows even novice programmers to develop Twitter applications and is credited with the quickly growing number of available Twitter applications.


    Google Launches New iPhone and Windows Mobile Device Synching Service

    Google Synch, based on Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology, allows iPhone and Windows Mobile device users to synch their mobile device and computer in order to update the Gmail and Google Calendar information on each device. The free service is already available for Android and BlackBerry devices. A contacts-only service is available for mobile devices that support SyncML. Apple, Nokia and Microsoft also offer synching services but Microsoft’s service is still in the beta testing phase.


    BLS Seeks Confidential Carrier FCC Form 499A Revenue Data

    The FCC is seeking comment on a request by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for access to carrier 2007 revenue information collected on FCC Form 499A. Data requested on Form 499A is typically treated as confidential and exempt from public inspection. BLS requests the data to revise the Producer Price Index (PPI) for wired telecommunications carriers, which measures the monthly changes in prices received for the provision of residential and business telephone services, to incorporate changes in the North American Industry Classification System’s definition for the wired industry. BLS has promised to keep the data confidential and protect the data from release pursuant to FOIA requests. Affected parties have until February 21, 2009 to oppose the release of their Form 499A data. If the Commission does not receive opposition, it will release the data to BLS.


    Sprint Nextel Loses 1 Million Customers  and Reports $1.6 Billion Loss

    In spite of efforts to improve service and reduce costs, Sprint Nextel report large customer and dollar losses for the 4th quarter of 2008. Sprint lost more than 1 million customers during the quarter, reducing its total subscribers to 49.3 million. It also posted a $1.62 billion loss and its stock lost 57 cents per share.

    To improve earnings, Sprint has announced 8,000 layoffs, reduced some bundled services prices and entered into an exclusive partnership with Palm to launch the new Pres mobile wireless device. It also continues to take steps to improve its customer service. To further reduce costs, Sprint may outsource its network operations to Ericsson, which would cost Sprint about 25% less per year.


    Cox Begins 700 MHz Network Development Process

    Cox Communications announced the appointments of Raj Beri to VP of wireless product operations and Dane Dickie to executive director of wireless product development. Beri will be responsible for the new 3G wireless network’s product architecture, development, operation and launch. Dickie’s responsibilities will include directing and managing the development of devices and services for Cox’s wireless business division. Eventually, Bertie will also be responsible for the development of Cox’s wireless device offerings. It also announced plans to upgrade its yet to be constructed 3G network to a 4G network using LTE. Cox has not yet announced a launch date or service locations for its 3G or 4G networks.


    DirecTV to Enter Mobile Market this Year

    DirecTV’s business plan for 2009 includes courting mobile operators. The company recently announced a quadruple-play service bundle with AT&T in 22 states and is developing applications for wireless devices. Users are now able to control their DVR from their wireless mobile device. DirecTV is looking for ways to expand its relationships with wireless providers such as Verizon and AT&T.

    DirecTV’s video subscriptions increased by 150,000 and it reported that new subscribers come equally from Dish Network and cable operators. In 2009, DirecTV also plans to increase its high-definition content offerings and improve its video-on-demand offerings.


    Clearwire Funding Gap May Slow Expansion Plans

    Faced with frozen capital markets and wary investors, Clearwire may not be able to raise the $2 billion that it needs to meet its goal of reaching nearly half of the United States population with its WiMAX-based wireless network by the end of 2010. A delay will also give AT&T and Verizon Wireless time to erase Clearwire’s first to market advantage. AT&T and Verizon are building their networks using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, a WiMAX competitor, for which equipment will not be commercially available until late this year or early next year. Clearwire currently offers its WiMAX based Clear wireless Internet service in Baltimore and Portland, Oregon. Verizon Wireless plans to launch its new LTE 4G broadband network next year and selected Alcatel-Lucent and LM Ericsson as it main equipment providers.


    Satellite Collision Debris Poses Small Risk to Space Station

    NASA and the Pentagon are quickly reviewing data to determine the risks to space craft and the international space station caused by debris from the satellite collision. Current estimates indicate there is an elevated risk but little concern for worry. Orbital junk has previously crashed together but never two satellites. The international space station is sufficiently far enough from the debris field that it will not enter it. Plus, if necessary, the international space station has the ability to conduct debris-avoidance maneuvers. The military has the ability to track orbital debris as small as a baseball and currently monitors 18,000 pieces of debris. That number is expected to increase by at least 600 because of the satellite collision.


    FCC Denies D.C. Department of Corrections Request to Test Jamming Equipment

    In accordance with past FCC precedents, the Communications Act of 1934, and the FCC’s rules, the Wireless Bureau denied the D.C. Department of Correction’s (DOC) request to test jamming equipment. DOC requested permission to test jamming equipment since wireless telephones in corrections facilities present a public safety and security hazard. Section 333 of the Communications Act prohibits willful or malicious interference with “any radio communication of any station licensed or authorized by or under the Act or operated by the United States Government.” Section 302 of the Communications Act and Section 2.803 of the FCC’s rules prohibit the manufacture, importation, marketing, sale or operation of devices deliberately designed to jam or disrupt wireless communications. A similar request was granted under former Chairman Martin.


    Maryland’s Portable People Meter Deal

    Douglas Gansler, Maryland’s Attorney General, and Arbitron recently announced an agreement including recruitment and minority participant targets for Portable People Meter (PPM) panels. The agreement is similar to ones entered into by the New York and New Jersey attorneys general. The Maryland agreement applies to PPM measurements in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metro markets. Washington, D.C. PPM data is already available and will be available for the Baltimore market starting in September, 2009. Public interest groups are encouraging Arbitron to introduce a nationwide solution to combat the negative affect of the PPM on minority broadcasters.


    LG Announces Cost Cuts but No Significant Layoffs

    LG Electronics announced it will reduce overhead expenses by $2.2 billion in response to a fourth-quarter earnings loss as a result of the current economic crisis. LG is the third largest handset maker worldwide and in the United States. The reduction in overhead expenses amounts to approximately 30% of the company’s annual costs. LG’s CEO announced no major job cuts are planned yet but layoffs overseas in manufacturing plants are possible. LG has about 82,000 employees worldwide. LG also currently has no plans to reduce spending on research-and-development, marketing, branding and design. Future growth areas for the company include solar power, commercial air conditioning and business-to-business solutions.


    BearingPoint Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

    BearingPoint reports its bankruptcy filing is part of a pre-arranged refinancing package and its day-to-day operations will continue without interruption and no immediate layoffs are planned. BearingPoint is one of three companies that operate the 800 MHz rebanding Transition Administrator. Bankruptcy will allow BearingPoint to reduce its total debt from nearly $1 billion to $300 million by issuing stock to its debtors and replacing lines of credit with new funding arrangements.


    Muzak Enters Bankruptcy

    75-year old Muzak filed for bankruptcy with about $50,000 in assets and more than $438 million in debts. Muzak is hopeful that bankruptcy will allow it to “right size our capital structure and gain financial flexibility.” Muzak provides 80 channels of digital quality “elevator music” frequently heard in hotels, stores, restaurants and other places of business. The digital music service is delivered by EchoStar, the parent company of satellite provider Dish Network.


    Nortel Bankruptcy Continues

    Nortel recently won an extension of its bankruptcy protection in Canada to May 1, 2009, which provides it with needed time to develop and finalize its turnaround plan. It is considering additional layoffs and is reviewing its assets, leases and supplier contracts to determine what it can do to streamline its operations and increase revenue. Nortel has lost at least $4 billion over the last two years and cut about 1,300 jobs in November, 2008. Plans include asking the United States bankruptcy court if Nortel’s U.S. subsidiary may make a $125 million loan to its Canadian parent. The loan request will be reviewed by both U.S. and Canadian bankruptcy courts and the loan creditors are already requesting the loan be given a higher priority for repayment purposes. The loan currently ranks fifth and the creditors argue it should be second.


    Meetings and Events

    February 23-25, 2009

    • Telecom Expense Management, New York, New York
    • NCTA Winter Educational Conference, Charlotte, NC
    • WRC-11 Advisory Committee - Informal Working Group 4: Regulatory Issues

    February 25-26, 2009

    • Digital Music Forum East, New York, NY
    • FCC Summit on Next Generation IP-Enabled 911 and E911 Services

    February 25, 2009

    • Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: Ensuring Television Carriage in the Digital Age

    February 26, 2009

    • Catholic University, Columbus School of Law’s 2009 Spring Symposium presented in association with the FCBA, Washington, D.C.

    February 27, 2009

    • Greener Gadgets Conference, New York, NY

    February 27-28, 2009

    • The 4th Annual Syracuse University Communications Law & Policy Symposium presented in associated with the NY Chapter FCBA, Syracuse, NY

    March 3-5, 2009

    • Emerging Communications Conference, San Francisco Airport Marriott

    March 4, 2009

    • FCC Consumer Advisory Committee meeting, FCC 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC

    March 5, 2009

    • FCC Monthly Public Meeting

    March 19, 2009

    • Evaluating Software Patents, Silicon Flatirons, Boulder, CO

    March 22-24, 2009

    • NAB Futures Summit, Pebble Beach, CA

    March 31, 2009

    • WRC-11 Advisory Committee Meeting

    April 1-3, 2009

    • International CTIA Wireless, Las Vegas, NV
    • The Cable Show, Washington, D.C.

    April 8, 2009

    • FCC Monthly Public Meeting

    April 18-23, 2009

    • NAB Show, Las Vegas, NV

    April 22-23, 2009

    • CEA Washington Forum, Washington, D.C.

    April 27-29, 2009

    • Broadband Properties Summit 09, Dallas, TX

    May 5-6, 2009

    • WCAI’s Wireless Policy Summit, Washington, D.C.

    May 6-7, 2009

    • Radio Ink: Hispanic Radio Conference, Los Angeles, CA

    May 11-15, 2009

    • 2009 Technology and Standards Spring Forum, St. Louis, MO

    May 14, 2009

    • FCC Monthly Public Meeting

    July 19-22, 2009

    • NARUC Summer Committee Meetings, Seattle, WA

    August 5-8, 2009

    • Radio & Records: Triple A 2009 Summit, Boulder, CO

    September 15-17, 2009

    • WiMAX World 2009, Chicago, IL

    September 23-25, 2009

    • The NAB Radio Show, Philadelphia, PA

    October 7-9, 2009

    • International CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment, San Diego, CA

    October 18-21, 2009

    • 2009 Technology and Standards Fall Forum, Phoenix, AZ
    • CEA Industry Forum, Phoenix, AZ

    October 25-30, 2009

    • Cable Connection, Denver, CO

    November 3-5, 2009

    • WiMAX World Emerging Markets, Prague, Czech Republic

    November 15-18, 2009

    • NARUC Annual Convention, Chicago, UL

    December 2, 2009

    • Radio Ink: Forecast, New York, NY
    • FCC Rulemakings / Deadlines

    February 23, 2009

    • Comment Deadlines: CTIA Petition to Transition Cellular Services to Geographic Market Area Licensing
    • Comment Deadline: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Seeks Carrier Revenue Information

    February 24, 2009

    • Deadline for Action on Verizon's Request for Forbearance from Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

    February 26, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: AT&T Seeks FCC Action to Prevent 'Whipsawing' on the US-Tonga Route

    February 27, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Comment Deadlines Announced: FCC Actions on Closed Captioning Requirements for Digital Programming, Consumer Complaints
    • Comment Deadline: Fourteenth Inquiry on Competition for the Delivery of Video Programming
    • Reply Comment Deadline: NECA Proposes Changes to Average Schedule Formulas for Interstate Access Settlements

    March 2, 2009

    • Comment Deadline: FCC Launches Review of Rules Adopted in 1997 Affecting Small Entities Compliance Deadline: Annual CPNI Certifications Due
    • Annual CPNI Compliance Certifications Due

    March 5, 2009

    • Deadline for Action on Virgin Mobile's Request for Forbearance from ETC Facilities Ownership Rules

    March 9, 2009

    • Comment Deadlines: CTIA Petition to Transition Cellular Services to Geographic Market Area Licensing
    • Comment Deadline: Petitions on Treatment of Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Channels by Cable TV Operators

    March 14, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Thirteenth Annual Report on Competition in Video Programming Markets; Comments Sought on Data Collection Form for 70/70 Rule

    March 24, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Petitions on Treatment of Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Channels by Cable TV Operators

    March 27, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Fourteenth Inquiry on Competition for the Delivery of Video Programming

    March 31, 2009

    • Deadline: Interconnected VoIP Providers to Transmit 'Nomadic' 711 Calls to Relay Providers
    • Deadline: TRS Provider Delivery of 711 Calls to PSAPs

    April 11, 2009

    • Deadline for FCC Action on Embarq's Request for Forbearance from ESP Access Charge Exemption

    Public Safety

    February 24, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for New York - Metropolitan Area in Newark, New Jersey, New York regarding 700 MHz and 800 MHz

    March 10, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 19 in Kennebunkport, Maine regarding 700 MHz

    April 8, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 15 in Des Moines, Iowa regarding 700 MHz