Patton Boggs TechComm Industry Update - August 17, 2012

    View Author 17 August 2012

    FCC Adopts Order Setting Annual Regulatory Fee Rates; Fees Due September 13

    This year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required to collect annual regulatory fees in the amount of $339,844,000. Regulatory fees are collected from most companies that receive licenses from the FCC, including wireless and broadband providers, radio and television stations, satellite operators, cable systems, and interstate telecommunications providers.

    Regulatory fees must be received by the FCC by 11:59 pm, ET, on September 13. Late payments are subject to a 25 percent penalty, along with interest and other fees. Regulatory fee bills can be accessed online via the FCC’s Fee Filer System.

    DOJ Settles with Verizon and SpectrumCo; FCC to Approve Spectrum Transaction

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement with Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications, that will pave the way for the FCC to approve their spectrum transactions and related marketing and intellectual property agreements, with some changes. The settlement includes the divestiture of certain spectrum to T-Mobile and other commitments to promote competition. Joseph Wayland, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division stated, “By limiting the scope and duration of the commercial agreements among Verizon and the cable companies while at the same time allowing Verizon and T-Mobile to proceed with their spectrum acquisitions, the department has provided the right remedy for competition and consumers.” FCC Chairman Genachowski also released a statement stating that he will circulate a draft order approving the transaction, with certain conditions and changes to the commercial agreements.

    Congress Adjourns for the August District Work Period - Strikes Deal for First 6 Months of FY 2013 Appropriations Funding

    On August 2 Congress adjourned for the August district work period and will only return for an abbreviated two week September schedule before the November election. Both chambers will reconvene on September 10, and are scheduled to adjourn again on approximately September 21. When the House and Senate return to Washington in September both chambers are expected to consider legislation that will provide funding for federal government agencies throughout the first six months of FY 2013. The legislation should largely reflect a compromise reached between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), with the approval of President Obama, to extend funding at current FY 2012 levels.

    FCC Terminates Public Safety Broadband Waivers, Adopts STAs

    The FCC recently dismissed waivers and pending waiver requests from dozens of public safety jurisdictions that sought to implement statewide and regional public safety broadband networks. The agency said the move is intended to facilitate the transition of public safety spectrum to a new independent board established under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 enacted earlier this year.

    In an Order released July 31, the FCC also adopted a new approach to allow the same public safety jurisdictions to apply for limited deployment of public safety broadband services in the existing public safety broadband spectrum (763-769 MHz/793-799 MHz) under the FCC’s Special Temporary Authority (STA) rules. The FCC will begin accepting applications for STAs immediately and expects to take quick action on such requests, within 30 days of receiving a complete application. STAs would likely be granted for 180 days and eligible for renewal.

    In May 2010 the FCC granted early deployment waivers to 21 public safety jurisdictions, seven of which later received nearly $382 million under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program for their networks. In its July 31 Order, the FCC set a termination date for these waiver authorizations, noting that it would help “facilitate the transition” of spectrum to FirstNet by “eliminating any potential confusion regarding the respective rights and interests of each party in the spectrum.” The FCC will terminate waiver authorizations on September 2, the date the majority of the Waiver Recipients’ leases are set to expire of their own terms. At the same time, the FCC dismissed dozens of pending requests to deploy either public safety broadband or narrowband networks in the public safety spectrum under FCC waiver.

    FCC Announced Comment Deadlines in 4.9 GHz Proceeding

    Comments on the Fifth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the 4.9 GHz proceeding are due by October 1 and reply comments are due by October 30. In this notice, the FCC asks for comments on improving efficiency and encouraging greater use of the 4.9 GHz band for public safety broadband communications. For example, the agency seeks comment on frequency coordination, how the spectrum is currently being used, expanding eligibility and alternative licensing approaches. The FCC also asks how this spectrum can be used to complement the nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network being developed in the 700 MHz band.

    Trimble Executive Improperly Participated in a LightSquared Proceeding

    The Inspector General (IG) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) determined that a high ranking GPS executive violated a federal conflict of interest statute by improperly participating in an advisory board action that was detrimental to LightSquared and directly beneficial to his company’s financial interest. Bradford Parkinson, the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Trimble Navigation Limited (Trimble), served as a member of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board (Advisory Board), which is supervised by NASA and advises the government on policy issues that affect the GPS system, at the same time that the Advisory Board adopted a resolution concluding that LightSquared’s proposed broadband network would interfere with GPS spectrum and that there were “no technical solutions to the interference” problem. Mr. Parkinson played an active role in the Advisory Board’s adoption of that resolution. As such, the IG concluded that Mr. Parkinson’s action was a conflict of interest under 18 USC Sec. 208, which prohibits government employees (including representatives of federal advisory boards) from participating in particular matters that affect their financial interests, because the resolution adopted by the Advisory Board had a “direct and predictable” effect on Mr. Parkinson and Trimble’s financial interests.

    Telecom Companies Accept Less than Half of Connect America Funds

    Major telecommunication companies have accepted only $115 million of the $300 million made available through the FCC’s new Connect America Fund (CAF) for broadband deployment. While Verizon and AT&T declined the funding completely, Frontier accepted its full allotment, CenturyLink accepted less than half, and Windstream accepted 1percent. The funds, offered as Phase I of CAF, were aimed at increasing broadband access in unserved areas. Many believe that the reluctance of companies to accept the funds is a harbinger of future regulatory wrangling as the FCC attempts to shift USF subsidies to broadband-oriented services.

    GAO Report and Legislation Regarding Health Effects of Mobile Phones

    The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report calling for the FCC to reassess its radio-frequency (RF) energy exposure limits and related testing of mobile phones. The report claimed that the current RF energy limit may not reflect the latest research and that testing requirements may not identify maximum exposure in all situations. Specifically, the GAO recommended that the FCC:

    • Formally reassess the current RF energy exposure limit, including its effects on human health, the costs and benefits associated with keeping the current limit, and the opinions of relevant health and safety agencies, and change the limit if determined appropriate.
    • Reassess whether mobile phone testing requirements result in the identification of maximum RF energy exposure in likely usage configurations, particularly when mobile phones are held against the body, and update testing requirements as appropriate.

    The FCC currently is considering a draft Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Notice of Inquiry that may address the GAO’s recommendations.

    Similarly, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced the Cell Phone Right to Know Act (H.R. 6358). This bill would require warning labels on cell phones, create a new national research program to study cell phones and health, and require the Environmental Protection Agency to update the “Specific Absorption Rate” (which according to the FCC is “a measure of the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone”).

    President Considers Issuing Cybersecurity Executive Order

    Before Congress adjourned for its summer recess, the Senate failed to vote on the Cybersecurity Act (S. 3414). The bill, introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), was rejected on a 52-46 vote. Sixty votes were required for the cloture vote to move forward with the legislation. It is still possible, though unlikely, that the Senate will reconsider cybersecurity legislation when Congress returns as the bill remains on the Senate calendar as a result of a motion by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

    In the absence of Congressional action, however, the President may consider issuing an executive order on cybersecurity, according to John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism. Lieberman also has urged the President to issue an executive order if Congress does not act. Republicans, and the electric utility industry among others, have voiced concerns that S. 3414 would give the Department of Homeland Security direct control over companies’ cyberoperations for critical infrastructure networks.

    FCC Largely Affirms Tennis Channel Carriage Complaint Initial Decision; Stay Denied

    The FCC upheld the Initial Decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Tennis Channel program carriage case except for the equitable channel placement remedy. The FCC concluded that Comcast both discriminated against Tennis Channel on the basis of nonaffiliation and discriminated in favor of Golf Channel and Versus, which it concluded were “similarly situated” programming channels. The FCC determined that there was significant circumstantial evidence that Comcast engaged in a general practice of favoring affiliates over nonaffiliates. Although it rejected the ALJ’s remedy of “equitable channel placement,” the FCC still ordered that Comcast must provide Tennis Channel with “equal carriage” to that given Golf Channel and Versus, which in practice will amount to placement in the same distribution tier. Finally, the FCC rejected the First Amendment claims raised by Comcast, finding that the program carriage provisions of the Communications Act and the FCC Rules regulated anticompetitive conduct not on the basis of content, but rather on the basis of affiliation, and met the U.S. Supreme Court’s First Amendment “intermediate scrutiny” test.

    The FCC’s General Counsel subsequently denied, with one minor exception, Comcast’s petition for stay of the decision to uphold the ALJ. Comcast also has filed a request for stay with the D.C. Circuit.

    FCC Releases Video Competition Report and NOI

    The FCC adopted its Fourteenth Report to Congress on the status of competition in the market for the delivery of video programming. The Report notes increased deployment of digital technology, consumers’ rising demands for access to video programming anywhere and anytime, and the evolution of online video from a niche service into a thriving industry. At the end of 2010, cable television accounted for almost 60 percent of all MVPD subscribers and DIRECTV and DISH Network counted for more than 33 percent of MVPD subscribers. Other significant changes included the entry of AT&T and Verizon and the development of the “TV Everywhere” initiative, which allows subscribers to access video programming on stationary and mobile Internet-connected devices. The Report also states that online video distributors (OVDs) have emerged as significant providers of video content.

    The FCC simultaneously released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) soliciting data, information and comment on the state of competition in the delivery of video programming for the Commission’s Fifteenth Report. Comments on that NOI are due by September 10, and reply comments are due by October 10.

    Initial Qualified Bidders for Mobility Fund Phase I Reverse Auction

    The FCC announced that only five out of 53 total short-form applications received for the Mobility Fund Phase I reverse auction (Auction 901) were complete. Those entities that have filed completed applications must keep them updated in order to be eligible to bid, and those that filed incomplete applications must file corrected applications by August 27. Entities filing incomplete applications should have received information directly from the FCC explaining what needs to be filed to complete the application. The auction is scheduled for September 27 and will be used to award up to $300 million in one-time support.

    FCC Approves Carry Forward of $1.05B for FY 2012 E-Rate Funding

    The FCC approved the carry forward of $1.05B in unused funds from prior funding years to increase disbursements to schools and libraries under the E-rate program for FY 2012. This sum will be in excess of the capped funding amount for FY 2012 of approximately $2.3B. The FCC acted on the recommendations of the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) that administers the E-rate program. Based on projections submitted in April there was then some $450 million in unused funds available from FYs 2003-2010. In preparing estimates for the fourth quarter of 2012, USAC identified an additional $650 million available to be carried forward to FY 2012. Under the FCC’s rules, “[a]ll funds collected that are unused shall be carried forward into subsequent funding years for use in the [E-rate program] in accordance with the public interest and notwithstanding the annual cap.”

    USF/ICC Transformation Order: Reconsidered and Clarified

    The Commission issued its Fourth Order on Reconsideration with respect to the Universal Service Fund/Inter-Carrier Compensation transformation. The Order comes in response to various petitions for reconsideration and, as its first item, affirms the Commission’s adoption of a reverse auction mechanism. The Order also: (a) denies requests to link funding from Mobility Fund Phase I and Phase II and to condition the use of funds by precluding the use of Mobility Fund Phase I funding for the construction of middle mile facilities; (b) denies requests seeking changes to the eligibility requirements for Mobility Fund Phase I; (c) rejects arguments that the FCC provide bidding preferences to small or rural entities and extend eligibility for the Tribal lands bidding credit to entities that are not Tribally-owned or controlled; and (d) declines to adopt a series of performance requirements concerning the upgradability of systems, roaming requirements and rates, and exclusive handset arrangements.

    Comments Sought on Proposed Urban Rate Survey

    The FCC seeks comment on a proposed survey of urban rates for fixed voice and broadband residential services. The results of the survey will be used to establish a rate floor that must be met by carriers that receive high-cost loop support and high-cost model support if they want to receive their full support amount beginning in 2014. The FCC will also use the results of the rate survey to develop reasonable comparability benchmarks for voice and broadband rates, which carriers will have to certify that their rates do not exceed beginning July 1, 2013. Comments are due by 30 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register.

    Further Comments Sought on Expanding Rural Health Care Broadband Support

    The FCC seeks to develop a more robust record regarding the potential transition of the Rural Health Care Pilot Program into a permanent Broadband Services Program. Its recent Public Notice follows up on an NPRM released in late 2010 regarding the Rule Health Care program, where the FCC proposed to replace the existing Internet Access Fund with a Health Care Broadband Access Fund and to establish a long-term Health Care Broadband Infrastructure Fund. Both goals of the NPRM originated from recommendations in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, and attempt to support construction of new broadband networks for health care service providers in rural areas where broadband service is unavailable or insufficient.

    The FCC seeks comments in five key issue areas:

    • Administrative procedures and post-selection information collection procedures from applicants that received funding under the Pilot Program;
    • Issues surrounding the FCC’s inclusion of urban health care providers in the pool of eligible Pilot Program applicants;
    • Services and equipment to be supported;
    • Use of competitive bidding processes and multi-year contracts; and
    • Broadband needs of rural health care providers.

    Comments are due by August 23, 2012, and reply comments are due by September 7, 2012.

    FCC Partially Grants Review of TRS Order and Clarifies Speed-of-Answer Policy

    A recent Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (Bureau) order granted in part a request for review of a decision by the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund Administrator filed by a TRS provider. Taking action inconsistent with past practices, the TRS Administrator had withheld the TRS provider’s requested TRS reimbursement payment for certain entire days of service, without prior notice, even on days that the TRS provider had in fact provided service but did not meet the speed-of-answer (SOA) threshold under the rules. The Bureau directed the TRS Administrator to remit a partial payment to the TRS Provider for days that the entire payment had been withheld, based on a “sliding scale” approach that had been used in the past to process reimbursement requests. However, the Bureau warned that going forward it would not apply a “sliding scale” approach, and that “the Administrator is authorized to withhold payment for the full day’s service when the provider fails to meet the minimum SOA threshold on that day.”

    FCC-Hosted Online Website Launched for TV Broadcasters’ Public Inspection Files

    In general, broadcasters have started uploading public file documents that were generated on or after August 2 and will have 6 months to upload public file documents from before August 2. Broadcasters affiliated with the top four national TV networks in the top 50 television markets also are required to upload political file documents generated on or after August 2, but all other full-power stations are not required to upload their political files until July 1, 2014.

    Timing for FCC’s Ruling on DISH’s Waiver Request

    While FCC Commissioner Pai stated in a Congressional hearing this summer that the agency should roll up its sleeves and decide on DISH’s proposal for the terrestrial use of its S-band MSS spectrum by late September, others have predicted that DISH will not receive its requested waiver until after the November election. If the waiver is granted, it would allow DISH to sell terrestrial-only devices, which DISH maintains is essential to compete with larger carriers like AT&T and Verizon. Meanwhile, DISH has moved forward on a deal with Qualcomm for chipsets and handsets that can be made to work with DISH’s spectrum regardless of how the FCC decides on its waiver request. Interestingly, DISH revealed in an SEC filing that it made close to a $400 million strategic investment in debt securities of an unnamed “single issuer.” There has been much speculation that the investment was in Clearwire, though neither company has confirmed this.

    Verizon Agrees to Pay FCC $1.25 Million for Violation of C Block Rules

    Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay a fine of $1.25 million following an investigation into whether it violated C Block open-network requirements. Verizon Wireless allegedly requested that a major application store operator block mobile “tethering” applications from their online markets, which the FCC said was in violation of the open device and application obligations that Verizon had consented to upon its purchase of the C Block spectrum.

    Wireless Backhaul Reform

    The FCC adopted rules to enable flexible use of microwave services that are used to provide backhaul services for mobile wireless networks. Service providers use microwave backhaul facilities as an alternative to traditional copper circuits or fiber links to send data between cell sites, or between cell sites and network backbones, and the new rules are meant to help accelerate the roll out of 4G broadband networks. The FCC’s decision provides for the use of smaller antenna in certain bands, updates efficiency and waiver standards, and permits the licensing of 60 and 80 MHz channels in certain bands to allow for faster data rates.

    The FCC also seeks additional comments via a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Second Notice of Inquiry on other ways to increase flexibility, capacity and cost-effectiveness of the microwave bands. Comments and reply comments are due 30 and 45 days, respectfully, after publication in the Federal Register.

    TIA Petitions FCC for Electronic Labeling of Wireless Devices

    The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC urging the agency to allow manufacturers to label wireless devices electronically instead of placing mandated labeling on the outside of the device. TIA stressed that e-labeling should be optional because there are some cases, such as non-display products and radios, where the association claims physical labels are necessary. The Petition cites limited amounts of space on devices to place markings and labels, and claims that the current process has become burdensome, expensive and outdated.

    FCC Confirms Compliance with Antenna Structure Registration Rules

    The FCC ruled that American Towers, LLC complied with its environmental obligations in connection with the construction of a 314-foot tower in Marshall, Arkansas. The FCC denied an emergency petition to compel compliance by the preparation of an environmental assessment and found that the tower did not fall within a category that routinely requires the preparation of such an assessment. It ruled that American Towers had provided the requisite public notice and there was no showing of an impact of endangered species. Further, there was no indication that the tower height, structure and location would impact migratory birds and warrant an environmental assessment. Finally, the petition lacked a showing that the tower would not be operated in accordance with the applicable radio frequency emissions standards.

    Radio Spectrum Inventory Act

    Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Mark Warner (D-VA) re-introduced the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act. The legislation directs the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to take an inventory of each spectrum band between 300 MHz and 6.5 GHz (at a minimum) in order to gain a better understanding of how this spectrum is being used. The Senators explained that the measure is meant to “complement the FCC’s National Broadband Plan in promoting more efficient use of spectrum and ensuring that the proper framework is in place to meet the future telecommunications needs of the nation.”

    Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act

    Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) also introduced the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act of 2012 in an effort to encourage the expansion of wireless broadband services in rural areas. Under the proposal, the FCC would be directed to extend the term of a wireless license by three years if the carrier makes unused spectrum available to small carriers or carriers servicing rural areas.

    NCTA Files for Reconsideration of CALM Act Rules

    The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NTCA) has filed a Petition for Partial Reconsideration of the FCC’s rules implementing the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act. The CALM Act directs the FCC to adopt rules to prevent commercials from being broadcast at a higher volume than the corresponding program material. NCTA stated that the FCC should:

    • Limit its rules to “commercial advertisements,” rather than also including promotional material;
    • Clarify that a cable operator will not be held liable in instances where, after performing spot checks of embedded network advertising, the operator has notified that network and the Commission of the network’s non-compliance; and
    • Not prohibit cable operators from contacting program networks when performing spot checks.

    Oppositions to the Petitions must be filed within 15 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register and replies must be field within 10 days after the time for filing oppositions has expired.

    Broadcasters Appeal Viewability Rules and Seek Stay Pending Review

    A group of broadcasters have asked the D.C. Circuit to review an FCC Order that allows the agency’s “viewability” rule to sunset. This rule required a cable system that offered both analog and digital service to carry digital must-carry signals in analog format. The National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement back when the FCC initially released its Order saying that the association was “concerned that today’s FCC decision has the potential to impose negative financial consequences on small local TV stations that are a source for minority, religious and independent program diversity across America.” In the Joint Petition for Review, the broadcasters claim that the FCC’s Viewability Order: (1) is in excess of the FCC’s statutory authority; (2) is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act; and (3) is otherwise contrary to law.

    On August 1, the broadcasters also filed a request with the FCC to stay the Viewability Order pending review by the D.C. Circuit. The broadcasters claim to have made a strong showing of irreparable harm and injury to the public interest if the stay is not granted.

    FCC Seeks Comments on Cable TV Technical Requirements

    The FCC issued a NPRM seeking comment on how to modernize and reform its cable TV technical rules in light of the transition from analog to digital cable systems. The FCC proposes to update its signal quality rules and signal leakage rules, as well as proposes a number of minor technical revisions. The agency further seeks general comment on technical rules that have become unworkable or ineffective as the result of developments in technology. Comments and reply comments are due 60 and 90 days, respectively, after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register.

    FCC Enforcement Advisory on Children’s Programming

    The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued an advisory reminding cable operators about the limits on commercial material aired during children’s programming. The Bureau recently initiated a review of children’s programming on selected cable and satellite systems nationwide. The inspectors found that more than one-third of the public files they reviewed contain missing or late-filed Children’s Programming Reports. The Bureau also concurrently issued multiple NOVs and one Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order (NAL) to address these apparent violations. In the NAL, the Bureau proposed to fine Time Warner $25,000 for missing children’s programming records for five quarters and for missing proof of performance test data for 2008 and 2009.

    Comment Period Extended for Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)

    The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has extended the public comment period for new gTLDs applications. The comment period “provides the public with an opportunity to have their views considered by evaluation panels as part of the application evaluations.” ICANN received 1,930 new gTLD applications. Comments should be submitted by September 26.

    SECA Petition on E-rate Eligibility of Bundled End-User Equipment

    The State E-rate Coordinators’ Alliance (SECA) filed a petition seeking clarification about whether the E-rate rules allow service providers to bundle ineligible end-user devices, such as VoIP handsets, with E-rate eligible services without having to perform a cost allocation. While end-user equipment is clearly ineligible for funding under the E-rate program, SECA contends that limited language from an FCC Order that allows cell phones provided free to the general public to also be provided free to E-rate applicants has been interpreted by some suppliers as creating a broad exemption allowing “free” sophisticated wireless devices or handsets to be bundled without cost allocation. Given that the demand for Priority 1 E-rate funding is already rapidly outpacing available funds, SECA is concerned that avoiding the usual cost allocations will further increase demand and threaten future E-rate funding ability. To avoid this, SECA asks the FCC to more carefully define the free phone exemption and to specify the conditions necessary in order for ineligible equipment to be bundled with service and exempted from cost allocation. Comments to the SECA petition are due September 10, and reply comments are due September 24.

    Lifeline Reforms to Generate $200 Million in Savings This Year

    A progress report issued by the FCC on July 31, 2012 indicates that reforms to the Lifeline program have generated $43 million in savings since January and are on track to save $200 million total for 2012. Major savings have come from eliminating most of the “Link Up” program, ending duplicative subscriptions and phasing out the “toll limitation” service. Lifeline, started in 1985, is a program that aims to connect low-income Americans to jobs and emergency services by making phone service affordable.

    GAO Releases Report on High-Cost Program

    The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the FCC’s plans for repurposing the Universal Service Fund high-cost program for broadband and addressing management challenges. GAO found that while the FCC has reformed the high-cost program, oversight and management could be improved. GAO recommended that the FCC take the following actions:

    • To determine the overall effectiveness of the CAF as well as improve the oversight and transparency of the high-cost program, establish a specific data-analysis plan for the carrier data and make the information publicly available.
    • To help minimize the universal service contribution burden on consumers and businesses, as FCC examines and revises the manner in which carrier support payments are calculated, consult with the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service and/or make appropriate referrals to determine what factors, such as carrier revenues, should be considered in the calculation.

    FCC Seeks Comment on GroupMe Petition

    The FCC seeks comment on a Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling filed by GroupMe Inc. regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Petition seeks clarification regarding the terms “automatic telephone dialing system” and “capacity” found in the TCPA and FCC’s rules, as well as clarification that callers making non-telemarketing, informational calls or sending text messages to wireless numbers “can rely on a representation from an intermediary that they have obtained the requisite consent from the called party.” Comments are due by August 30, and reply comments are due by September 10.

    FTC Seeks Comments on Additional Proposed Revisions to COPPA Rule

    The FTC seeks further comments in its ongoing proceeding to revise the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) rule. Specifically, the agency seeks comment on additional revisions to the definitions of “personal information,” “support for internal operations,” “Web site or online service directed to children” and “operator.” These proposed revisions are based on the FTC’s review of prior comments in this proceeding and its enforcement experience, and are meant to both clarify the scope of the rule and strengthen protections for children’s personal information. Comments are due by September 10.

    FCC Issues Reminder about TRS Recertification

    The FCC released a Public Notice reminding state Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) programs to seek recertification. Current certifications will expire on July 26, 2013. The FCC asks that renewal applications be submitted by October 1, so that the agency has enough time to review and rule on the applications.

    FCC Announces Revised Debt Collection Procedures

    Debts owed to the FCC by delinquent contributors to the Universal Service Fund, the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund and the North American Numbering Plan are transferred to the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service (FMS) for further collection. The FCC previously notified delinquent debtors of such transfer as a courtesy. That practice has ceased and it is left to each Fund administrator to furnish notification reminding the contributors of the consequences of failing to pay the full amount due. Debts owed will now be directly transferred to the FMS at any time after the notification is given, and the transfer must take place once the debt is delinquent 180 days. The FMS will assess additional charges for collection of the debt.

    FCC Seeks Comment on Petition for Rulemaking for Vehicular Radar Systems

    The FCC requested comment on a Petition for Rulemaking filed by Robert Bosch, LLC (Bosch) to permit operation of vehicular radar systems in the 77-81 GHZ band. Bosch manufactures vehicular radar systems and other automotive components and systems, including long-range radar (LRR) systems for vehicles that operate in the 76-77 GHz band and short range radar (SRR) systems that operate in the 77-81 GHz band (typically referred to in the automotive industry as the 79 GHz band). SRRs are prohibited in the U.S. Bosch, as a member of the 79 GHz Project, is seeking FCC approval for SRR use in the 79 GHz band in the U.S. in conjunction with a “worldwide plan to consolidate automotive radars in the 76-81 GHz band.” Opposition or support for the Petition was due by August 16.

    Second Reconsideration of Rules for Satellite Earth Stations on Vessels (ESV)

    The FCC adopted changes to its ESV rules in order to promote the deployment of broadband service, ensure flexible use of spectrum and protect incumbent operators from interference. The FCC added technical requirements for variable power ESV systems that use co-frequency transmitters operating simultaneously at varying data rates. According to the FCC, these changes will provide greater operational flexibility for variable power ESVs while continuing to ensure that Fixed-Satellite Service operations are protected from harmful interference in the C-band and Ku-band.

    If you have questions regarding any of the items discussed above, or if you are interested in filing comments or receiving copies of filed comments in any of the FCC proceedings mentioned, please contact the Patton Boggs TechComm practice group.