Patton Boggs Techcomm Industry Update - Week of March 23, 2009

    23 March 2009

    Jonathan S. Adelstein, Nominated for Agriculture Department Administrator for RUS

    Last Friday, President Obama announced the nomination of FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein to be the administrator of the Rural Utilities Service in the Department of Agriculture. RUS is charged, among other things, with disbursing $2.5 billion in new broadband stimulus funds, and approximately $1.15 billion in existing funding for FY 2009 available for the Broadband, Telemedicine and Distance Learning programs. Adelstein has served as an FCC Commissioner since 2002, and was confirmed to a second term in 2004. In that post, Adelstein has led efforts to improve wireless, rural telecommunications and broadband. Previously, Adelstein served for 15 years as a staff member in the Senate, including his final seven years with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), advising him on telecommunications, financial services, housing, transportation and other key issues. He also served as special liaison to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).

     

     

    FCC To Seek More Aggressive Rollout of Rural Health Care Pilot Program

    FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Monday that the Commission will focus on accelerating the progress of participants in the Rural Health Care Pilot Program. The program “hasn’t gotten off the ground as quickly as I’d like,” Adelstein told a group of health care and wireless industry stakeholders on Capitol Hill. Of the 69 participants selected by the FCC to participate in the program, Adelstein said 37 of the projects are at various stages of selecting vendors. Of those, only one pilot project has received program funds. Adelstein focused on the Rural Health Care Pilot Program during an event by the New America Foundation and CTIA focused on the wireless future of health information technology. Adelstein, who was recently nominated to be administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, did not comment on RUS’s role in deploying $2.5 billion in stimulus money targeted at rural broadband measures.

    In other Rural Health Care Pilot Program news, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau earlier this week issued a Public Notice seeking comment on a request to merge two participants in the pilot program—Texas Healthcare Network (THN) and Texas Health Information Network Collaborative (THINC). The THN project application was filed by THN, as lead applicant and fiduciary agent for THN, Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH), Community Hospital Foundation of Texas (CHFTX), and Southeast Texas Healthy System (STHS). THN requested to withdraw from participation. TORCH, a member of the THN consortium, requested to merge and designate THINC as THN's successor. CHRISTUS Health will serve as the fiduciary agent for the merged projects. Reply comments are due March 27, 2009.


    FCC Adopts New Medical Device Rules and Releases a Notice Seeking Comment on New Medical Devices

    The FCC approved new rules allocating additional spectrum for existing wireless medical devices, such as implantable cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators that can be adjusted wirelessly. With the additional spectrum and the adoption of more flexible operating parameters, newer generations of wireless medical devices may be deployed that perform a greater variety of functions, such as implanted vagus nerve stimulators that send electric pulses to the brain to treat severe chronic depression and deep brain stimulators used to treat tremors related to Parkinson's disease.

    The Order replaces the FCC’s existing Medical Implant Communications Service (MICS) with a new Medical Device Radiocommunication Service (MedRadio Service). The MedRadio service remains under Part 95 of the Commission’s rules and maintains most of the technical rules of MICS in the spectrum previously allocated for MICS (402-405 MHz), but adds additional adjacent spectrum (401-402 MHz and 405-406 MHz) and provides greater operational flexibility to accommodate new types of devices, including body-worn devices and devices with simpler operating protocols, in the added spectrum. The rules are generally harmonized with standards in Europe and other regions of the world, providing important economies of scale to make these technologies more affordable, and providing a high level of assurance that travelers with such devices will be accommodated in most parts of the world.

    The FCC adopted a Notice proposing the allocation of up to 20 MHz of new spectrum in the MedRadio Service in Part 95 of the Commission’s rules, for the utilization of new implanted medical devices that would greatly expand the use of functional electric stimulation to restore sensation, mobility and function to paralyzed limbs and organs. These devices would function as wireless broadband medical micro-power networks within a patient and eliminate the need for wires to connect multiple implanted devices to an external power source. The devices are primarily used for patients living with brain and spinal cord injuries and neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis, polio, cerebral palsy, and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). The devices may also be used with next-generation prosthetic limbs to provide wireless sensation and to control the prostheses.

    The Notice seeks comment on the allocation of four specific segments for the new devices: 413-419 MHz, 426-432 MHz, 438-444 MHz, and 451-457 MHz and comment on the prospective service and technical rules that would govern the implanted devices’ operations, such as transmitter power, emission bandwidth, duty cycle, contention protocols, and other operating specifications which are generally within the framework of the existing MedRadio Service. Use of the devices would be limited to patient diagnostic and therapeutic purposes and only under the direction of authorized health care professionals.

    Comments and reply comments are due 90 days and 120 days, respectively, after publication of the Notice in the Federal Register. The Notice is available on the FCC’s website.

     

     

    FCC To Address Requirement to Develop a National Broadband Plan at its April Open Meeting

    The FCC released a tentative agenda for its April 8, 2009 Open Meeting and plans to release a Notice of Inquiry for a National Broadband Plan as required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The FCC must provide a report to Congress that includes an analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all Americans; a detailed strategy for achieving broadband affordability and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and service by the public; an evaluation of the status of deployment of broadband service; and a plan for use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.

    At the Open Meeting, the FCC also will consider an order and further notice of proposed rulemaking on minority and female broadcast ownership, a supplemental notice of inquiry on the FCC’s annual assessment of competition in the market for delivery of video programming, a notice of proposed rulemaking on policies to promote rural radio service and to streamline auction, allotment and assignment policies, and an order and further notice of proposed rulemaking addressing miscellaneous Part 90 public safety rules, including the 4.9 GHz band.


    Obama Taps Blumenthal as HIT National Coordinator

    The Department of Health and Human Services announced the selection of David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., as the Obama Administration’s choice for National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. As the National Coordinator, Blumenthal will lead the implementation of a nationwide interoperable, privacy-protected health information technology infrastructure. “President Obama believes we must take serious steps to modernize our health care system in order to improve the health of all Americans, bring down costs and ensure sustained long-term economic growth. Health information technology is a critical part of the President’s strategy to reform our health care system and as one of the nation’s leading health information technology experts, Dr. Blumenthal has the experience and the vision to help make this effort a reality,” said HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus. Dr. Blumenthal recently served as a physician and director of the Institute for Health Policy at The Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare System in Boston. He was also Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. There, he also served as director of the Harvard University Interfaculty Program for Health Systems Improvement.

    The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes a $19.5 billion investment in health information technology. Blumenthal will lead the effort at HHS to modernize the health care system by spearheading the adoption of interoperable health information technology by 2014, a move expected to reduce health costs for the federal government by an estimated $12 billion over 10 years.


     

    FCC Adopts DTV Transition Rules of the Road

    In a continuing effort to ease the pain of the DTV transition, the FCC released an Order with “rules of the road” to protect and prepare consumers and ensure broadcasters have the flexibility to switch to digital before the final June 12 deadline. The FCC adopted policies and procedures to further provide an analog lifeline of vital news, public affairs and emergency broadcasts to consumers who need more time for the switch. In addition to the analog lifeline, broadcasters who have not yet transitioned are required to educate consumers about possible digital television reception problems and how to solve these problems.

    The FCC’s Order establishes further procedures for stations that want to terminate analog service before June 12th. Generally, stations may not terminate analog service before April 16, 2009, and must air viewer notifications for at least 30 days before they cease analog service. Affiliates of the major networks including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC that wish to terminate analog service prior to June 12th must ensure that at least 90% of their analog viewers will receive continuing analog service from another major network affiliate through June 12th. If more than 10% of the analog viewers of a major network affiliate lose service from all major network affiliates, then that major network affiliate is responsible for assisting with walk-in help centers, consumer referral telephone numbers, and DTV education and outreach. Stations may do so either individually or collectively.

    Finally, the Commission provided broadcasters with additional flexibility by allowing stations to terminate analog service at any time of the day on their final day of analog service with notification of the approximate termination time. The FCC also eliminated the requirement for most stations to continue broadcasting DTV transition educational information after they have terminated analog service.


     

    International Facilities Use Up 11%

    The FCC released its annual U.S. facilities-based international circuit status report, which identifies activated and idle circuits as of 2007. The report reveals an 11% increase from 2006 in the use of U.S. international facilities for international calls, private line services, and other services. Of the total circuits, 9.1% were used for international switched voice traffic, 50.3% were used for international private line services, and 40.6% of total circuits were used for other services, including data services. Undersea cables account for 86.9% of the overall active transmission capacity in 2007, compared to 12.9% for terrestrial links and 0.2% for satellites. The report indicated that approximately 97% of U.S. international traffic goes to 30 countries. The top five destinations are the U.K., Canada, Japan, Denmark and Germany, and Mexico.


     

     

    2Q 2009 USF Contribution Factor Jumps to 11.3%

    The FCC proposed 11.3% as the new universal service contribution factor for the 2nd quarter of 2009. This reflects almost a 2 percent increase from the 1Q 2009 contribution factor, 9.5%. The FCC calculates the contribution factor by dividing the total projected quarterly costs of the four universal service support programs by total projected end-user interstate and international telecommunications revenues of contributing carriers, net of projected contributions. Total revenue collected covers the projected support costs for the FCC’s four universal programs for the quarter, approximately $1.88 billion for 2Q 2009, up from $1.61 billion in the previous quarter. The FCC projected the following support costs for 2Q 2009: Schools and Libraries at $537.07 million; Rural Healthcare at $67.49 million, High-Cost at $1,077.45 million, and Low Income at $200.93 million.


     

     

    FCC Seeks Comment on Prior Express Consent of Auto-dialers to Cell Phones

    The FCC is seeking comment on a petition filed by Paul D.S. Edwards for a declaratory ruling on FCC rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The petition seeks clarification of whether a creditor may place autodialed or prerecorded message calls to a telephone number associated with wireless service that was provided to the creditor initially as a telephone number associated with landline service. The FCC’s rules restrict the initiation of any telephone call, other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the “prior express consent” of the called party, using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, to any telephone number assigned to cellular telephone service. The FCC has previously clarified that autodialed and prerecorded message calls to wireless telephone numbers that are provided to a creditor by the wireless subscriber in connection with an existing debt are permissible as calls made with the “prior express consent” of the called party. The petition asks the FCC to conclude that compliance with the TCPA requires that the consumer must have provided the creditor a telephone number assigned to a wireless service, not a number that is ported to a wireless service, in order for calls to the wireless telephone number to be permissible. Comments are due April 2, 2009.


     

     

    Commerce Secretary Nominee Assures Senate of Timely DTV Transition

    Commerce Secretary-designate Gary Locke on Wednesday appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee for his confirmation hearing, assuring members of a timely transition to digital television. Locke responded to questions on a number of issues that included the DTV transition, delayed until June 12th. He said the Commerce Department will not require additional resources and that officials at the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration overseeing the coupon program expect to clear the backlog by next week. Even so, Locke cautioned that many Americans still do not realize that their analog televisions will go dark in June if they do not install a converter box. Commerce Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) promised to accelerate Locke’s move toward confirmation, requesting that the nomination be referred to the full Senate with a rolling vote Thursday morning.

    On other matters, Senate Commerce Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) pressed Locke on the unnamed Census Bureau director who will report directly to him. House Republicans opposed an initial Obama administration announcement that the Census Bureau director would report to the White House. Addressing GOP fears that the apportionment of federal resources and congressional redistricting—determined by the decennial census—would be influenced by an increase of minority and hard-to-reach populations, Locke stated that the Census Bureau will use an actual head count for apportionment not statistical sampling.


     

    EPIC Seeks FTC Investigation of Google

    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy watchdog group, urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week to launch a probe into Google's cloud computing services, including Picasa, Gmail, and Google Docs, to determine whether privacy and security safeguards are sufficient. The petition comes in the wake of a recent report of a breach of Google Docs. EPIC cited the growing dependence of American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies on cloud computing services, and urged the FTC to take "such measures as are necessary" to ensure the safety and security of information submitted to Google.

    A Google spokesperson said the company had not yet reviewed the complaint in detail but many cloud computing providers, including Google, have policies, procedures and technologies for data protection. "We are highly aware of how important our users' data is to them and take our responsibility very seriously," Google told Congress Daily. Previous EPIC complaints have led the FTC to order Microsoft to revise the security standards for one of its programs and to require Choicepoint to change its business practices and pay fines of $15 million.


     

     

    INDUSTRY CALENDAR

    Meetings and Events

     

     

     

     

     

    March 22-24, 2009

    • NAB Futures Summit, Pebble Beach, CA

    March 23, 2009

    • FCC, NTIA, USDA - Sixth Meeting on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Broadband Initiatives
    • WRC-11 Advisory Committee Meeting - Informal Working Group 3: Space Services
    • WRC-11 Advisory Committee Meeting - Informal Working Group 4: Regulatory Issues

    March 24, 2009

    • FCC, NTIA, USDA - Seventh Meeting on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Broadband Initiatives

    March 25, 2009

    • WRC-11 Advisory Committee Meeting - Informal Working Group 2: Terrestrial Services

    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 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 22-23, 2009

    • CEA Washington Forum, Washington, D.C.

    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 23, 2009

    • Reply Comment Deadline: Declaratory Ruling - Access Charges Apply to Calls Bound for ISPs Delivered via Virtual NXX Arrangements

    March 24, 2009

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

    March 25, 2009

    • Comment Deadline: Report to Congress on Comprehensive Rural Broadband Strategy

    March 27, 2009

    • Comment Deadline: Request for Clarification of Rules for 900 MHz Business and Industrial Land Transportation (B/ILT)
    • Reply Comment Deadline: Rural Health Care Pilot Program Merger Request

    March 30, 2009

    • Comments Deadline: Sirius-XM Merger Condition, Compliance Deadline Extended

    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: FCC, NTIA, Agriculture Joint Public Meeting on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Initiatives
    • Comment Deadline: 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

    March 24, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 20 in Hanover, Maryland regarding 700 MHz and 800 MHz

    March 26, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 30 in Albany, New York regarding 700 MHz and 800 MHz

    March 29, 2009

    • Regional Public Safety Planning Committee Meeting for Region 1 in Orange Beach, Alabama regarding 700 MHz and 800 MHz

    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