Patton Boggs Techcomm Industry Update - Week of March 30, 2009

    30 March 2009

    Barton, Stearns Query Agencies on Oversight of Broadband Stimulus Funds

    Minority leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter this week to NTIA, RUS and FCC officials seeking answers to questions about how the broadband stimulus monies will be spent and monitored to prevent government waste.

    Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, posed six questions to agency officials:

    • Shouldn’t stimulus funds be prioritized for projects in states where broadband mapping has been completed and allocated based upon information gathered?
    • Shouldn’t unserved areas be prioritized over underserved areas?
    • If funds are allocated to underserved areas, shouldn’t they be directed to stimulating demand rather than stimulating supply?
    • Shouldn’t criteria for stimulus funds be technologically and competitively neutral?
    • Shouldn’t the allocation of stimulus funds include criteria based on sustainability of a project without additional government funding?
    • In order to fund the most cost-effective projects, shouldn’t fund allocation be based on competitive criteria, so that projects that have the most impact for the least amount of taxpayer dollars are funded before less efficient projects?

    Responses to the questions are due by March 31st.


    FCC Seeks Comments on Consultative Role with NTIA, Broadband Stimulus Definitions

    As part of its consultative role with respect to the broadband provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), the FCC is seeking verbal and written comments about its consultative role in defining unserved, underserved, and broadband and about establishing non-discrimination and interconnection obligations for broadband stimulus grantees and loan recipients. In the Recovery Act, Congress directed NTIA to work with the FCC on broadband grant issues and draft a national broadband plan within one year to achieve a national broadband plan. In a Public Notice this week, the FCC said it has “an important role to play in providing expert, technical advice to NTIA as it establishes the [Broadband Technology Opportunities (BTOP) Program,] and the Commission may also provide expert, technical advice to RUS as it proceeds with its own programs.” Congress directed NTIA to consult with the FCC to define unserved, underserved, and broadband and to develop the non-discrimination and interconnection obligations that will be “contractual conditions of the BTOP grants.” The FCC highlighted that it will not accept comments or meetings on individual projects or requests for funding because those types of comments and meetings are to be reviewed and evaluated by NTIA and RUS. Comments are due April 13, 2009, the same day comments are due to NTIA and RUS on the Request for Information.


    FCC Receives 108 Comments in Rural Broadband Strategy Proceeding

    One hundred and eight parties submitted comments in response to the FCC’s request for comment on establishing a comprehensive rural broadband strategy. The 2008 Farm Bill requires the FCC to develop a comprehensive rural broadband strategy and submit a report to Congress, in coordination with the Secretary of Agriculture, by May 22, 2009. The New America Foundation, Personal Broadband Industry Association, Connected Nation, Inc., America Cable Association, Microsoft, DigitalBridge Communications, Satellite Industry Association, Wildblue Communications, American Petroleum Institute, Open Range Communications, Alaska Communications Systems, Benton Foundation, CTIA, National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, Sprint Nextel, United States Telecom Association, National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, Cisco, National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, M2Z Networks, Inc., National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc., NY Public Service Commission, Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union and QUALCOMM were among the 108 commenters.


    Next FCC Chairman Braces for New Agenda

    On Tuesday, the White House sent its nomination paperwork to the Senate Commerce Committee for Julius Genachowski as FCC Chair. Genachowski helped shape President Obama's technology policy. Confirmation hearings will be held next week or after the spring recess. At least two more FCC nominations -- for Democratic and Republican seats -- are expected soon.

    Genachowski's agenda is largely unknown, he has declined interviews. However, policy proposals that remained dormant at the FCC during the long stretch of Republican control are hastily being dusted off, while regulatory matters that have faced perpetual gridlock could receive fresh attention.

    Timing will dictate some aspects of Genachowski's agenda. If he arrives before June 12, when television stations will cut their analog feeds in the final phase of the transition to digital signals, the transition will be his priority.

    Once the dust has settled, "his first priority is going to be job creation -- and that is broadband," an FCC source told Congress Daily. At its April meeting, the agency plans to release a Notice of Inquiry for a national broadband strategy required by the economic stimulus package.

    Political pressure already is building for swift action on another issue -- setting new 700 MHz D-block rules to re-auction spectrum that could provide police, fire and rescue squads with a national wireless broadband network that would improve their communications capabilities. The agency already is preparing revised rules that the new chairman can review when he takes charge.

    Also being readied for Genachowski is a proposal to increase levels of media ownership among women and minorities by awarding tax certificates to communications companies willing to sell properties to them. To sidestep a court decision setting a high bar for race-based incentives, the proposal would aid "disadvantaged" businesses.

    Broadcasters also are poised to face additional public-interest obligations and strengthened commitments to localism, a loosely defined requirement that stations use public airwaves to offer community-oriented content.

    Two contentious issues -- network neutrality and universal service -- appear on hold at the FCC for the moment as Congress takes the lead, but if Hill efforts falter, Genachowski could move these topics to the front burner, FCC watchers said. Sens. Byron Dorgan, (D-ND), and Olympia Snowe, (R-ME), are preparing to reintroduce network neutrality legislation that strives to preserve an openly accessible Internet, while Boucher is seeking a negotiated agreement among stakeholders. If Genachowski wants to supplement those efforts, he could seek adoption of a fifth plank to the FCC's voluntary principles detailing the online rights of consumers. The additional principle would advocate non-discriminatory behavior by broadband providers. With respect to the $7.1 billion universal service fund, which subsidizes telecom services in rural and impoverished areas, Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Lee Terry, (R-NE) are poised to introduce legislation overhauling the high-cost fund by expanding it to include broadband services.

    The FCC also could address wireless issues under contemplation in the House and Senate that reduce the regulatory role of states in exchange for consumer-friendly regulations. In addition, the FCC may tackle concerns about the effect dominant wireless carriers have over the ability of competitors to roam on their networks and complete calls.

    Genachowski is expected to have two allies at the five-member agency -- Copps, who would reassume his role as commissioner, and Adelstein's likely replacement, South Carolina regulator Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC).
    Meanwhile, the White House announced that the President intends to nominate Larry Strickling as Commerce Assistant Secretary for Telecommunications and Information Administration, otherwise known as the NTIA.


    FCC Seeks Comment on Amending its IP TRS Provider Certification Rule

    GoAmerica, Inc. filed a petition with the FCC to amend the Commission’s Internet-based telecommunications relay service (TRS) provider certification rule. GoAmerica requests the Commission to amend its rules: (1) to prohibit the practice of providing “white label” services by uncertified entities receiving compensation from the Interstate TRS Fund; and (2) to require applicants for Internet-based TRS certification to demonstrate sufficient resources and capabilities to provide an Internet-based TRS service. GoAmerica asks the FCC to amend the rule to preserve the integrity of the TRS program and to maintain the quality of Internet-based TRS service. Comments on GoAmerica’s request are due April 24, 2009.


    Sprint’s 4G Rollout Mirrors Clearwire’s Expansion Plans

    Sprint Nextel recently announced the next markets it plans to serve with its 4G service. It is no surprise that the list is very similar to the markets already announced earlier this year by Clearwire since Sprint is reselling Clearwire services under its Xohm brand. Sprint’s 4G rollout for this year includes Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle, virtually the same list announced by Clearwire.

    Sprint also announced new 4G devices for 2009 and 2010 which include a single-mode 4G data card, embedded laptops, a small-office/home-office broadband modem and a tri-mode phone.


    EU to Set Text Message Price Caps

    EU regulators proposed new price caps on mobile phone roaming fees and text messages from outside the EU. Two years ago, the EU took steps to limit excessive prices. The new price caps agreed to by the European Parliament’s industry committee and the EU’s Czech President still need to be approved by the full European Parliament and the bloc's 27 governments before the proposed July 1 effective date.

    Carriers would be required to charge customers by the second, rather than by the minute, but a flat fee could be charged for the first 30 seconds. Foreign text messages would be limited to €0.11, plus local sales tax, and foreign mobile phone calls would be capped at €0.43 per minute for the caller, and €0.19 per minute for the receiver. The new caps would be reduced further on July 1, 2010 to €0.39 per minute for outgoing roaming calls and €0.15 per minute for incoming and to €0.35 per minute for outgoing calls and €0.11 per minute for incoming as of July 1, 2011. Access to foreign Internet service providers from abroad will be limited to €1 per megabyte from July 1, 2009; €0.80 from July 1, 2010; and €0.50 in 2011.

    As an alternative, starting March 1, 2010, customers would have the option to set a maximum price for mobile Internet charges in order to avoid unexpected charges. If a limit is selected, carriers would notify users when they have reached 80% of their limit and again when they reach the limit.


    T-Mobile Announces Aggressive Expansion Plans

    In the race for wireless customers, T-Mobile is fourth behind Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Nextel. To close the gap, it announced aggressive expansion plans for 2009 that will expand its footprint and open its network to laptops with the launch of Huawei Technologies’ USB dongle. Customers are able to access T-Mobile’s 3G HSDPA network and 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi network in T-Mobile hot spots using the 8 GB storage device and dongle. The dongle also works on T-Mobile’s nationwide EDGE network and EDGE/GPRS frequency bands. The price point for the dongle is similar to Verizon’s mobile web offering. The dongle costs $50 to $100 depending on whether the customer signs a one or two year contract. The monthly fee is $60 for up to 5 gigabytes of Internet traffic.

    T-Mobile also announced plans to grow its network footprint by adding 100 cities to double the population it currently serves with its high-speed network to 200 million by the end of this year. Its high-speed network is currently available in more than 130 U.S. cities.


    INDUSTRY CALENDAR

    Meetings and Events

    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 1-3, 2009

    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit: Oral Arguments in Council Tree Communications v. FCC No. 07-1454, 700 MHz Service Rules

    April 2, 2009

    • NVTC Event – B2G – Federal, State and Local Technology Priorities in President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Bill (Jennifer Richter presenting on broadband stimulus)

    April 8, 2009

    • FCC Monthly Public Meeting

    April 17, 2009

    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit: Oral Arguments in National Cable Television Association v FCC, No. 08-1016, Exclusive Contracts Ban for Video Services to MDUs

    April 18-23, 2009

    • NAB Show, Las Vegas, NV

    April 22

    • Keeping Kids Safe in a Mobile Environment, joint conference by Family Online Safety Institute and The Wireless Foundation, Washington, DC

    April 22-23, 2009

    • CEA Washington Forum, Washington, D.C.

    April 23

    • 2009 State of the Mobile Net Conference, hosted by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, Washington, DC.

    April 24, 2009

    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit: Oral Arguments in Comcast Corporation v FCC, No 08-1114, on Nationwide Cable TV Ownership Limits

    April 27-29, 2009

    • Broadband Properties Summit 09, Dallas, TX (Jennifer Richter to speak on broadband stimulus)

    May 3, 2009

    • Pursuant to OMB Guidelines, federal agencies to make performance funding plans with respect to the stimulus bill publicly available

    • Pursuant to OMB Guidelines, federal agencies to begin reporting on their allocations for entitlement programs under the stimulus bill

    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

    May 15, 2009

    • Pursuant to OMB Guidelines, detailed agency financial reports to become available for purposes of stimulus funding

    May 20, 2009

    • Pursuant to OMB Guidelines, federal agencies to begin reporting stimulus competitive grants and contracts

    July 15, 2009

    • Pursuant to OMB Guidelines, recipients of federal funding to begin reporting on use of their stimulus funds

    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

    March 31, 2009

    • Deadline: Interconnected VoIP Providers to Transmit 'Nomadic' 711 Calls to Relay Providers

    • Deadline: TRS Provider Delivery of 711 Calls to PSAPs

    • Report Due: Carriers' International Circuit Status

    April 1, 2009

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

    April 2, 2009

    • Comment Deadline: Clarification Sought of Rules on 'Prior Express Consent' for Use of Auto-dialers to Cell Phones

    April 6, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Request for Clarification of Rules for 900 MHz Business and Industrial Land Transportation (B/ILT)

    April 13, 2009

    • Comment Deadline to NTIA and RUS: Joint Request for Information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Broadband Initiatives

    • Comment Deadline to FCC: Consultative Role for Broadband Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

    • Comment Deadline: FCC Clarification Sought of Rules on “Prior Express Consent” for Use of Auto-dialers to Cell Phones

    April 14, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Sirius-XM Merger Condition, Compliance Deadline Extended

    April 16, 2009

    • Comment Deadline: Steps to Implement the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007 (S.602)

    April 28, 2009

    • Comment Deadline: Years of Coverage Expanded: Fourteenth Inquiry on Competition for the Delivery of Video Programming

    May 15, 2009

    • FCC Action Deadline: Verizon New England's Request for Forbearance from Unbundling and Dominant Carrier Regulation in Rhode Island

    May 18, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Steps to Implement the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007 (S.602)

    May 28, 2009

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

    June 29, 2009

    • Deadline: Action on Verizon's Request for Forbearance from Unbundling and Dominant Carrier Regulation in Virginia Beach


    Public Safety

    April 8, 2009

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

    April 14, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 9 in Travares, Florida regarding 700 MHz and 800 MHz

    May 20, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 7 in Centennial, Colorado regarding 700 MHz

    June 9, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 19 in Cranston, Rhode Island regarding 700 MHz