Patton Boggs TechComm Industry Update - February 26, 2013

    View Author 26 February 2013

    Lawmakers Push for Collection of Currently Owed Online Sales Taxation

    On February 14, 2013, a bicameral and bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 336) to provide a mechanism for the collection of sales taxes on ecommerce transactions. The streamlined sales tax project (SSTP) has been developing a single standard for states and localities to collect taxes that are already owed but not collected and technology exists to facilitate such collections. In 1992, the Supreme Court held in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, that such collection could be a burden to interstate commerce but specifically referenced Congress’ authority to create a pathway for collection. Overwhelming support exists on both sides of the aisle to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. Multichannel retailers such as Best Buy, JCPenney, Target, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Sears and all support the legislation and have formed a coalition called the Marketplace Fairness Coalition. eBay and Overstock have been the primary opponents. With states facing critical budget shortfalls, the Marketplace Fairness Act would create a mechanism to collect billions of dollars lost in owed but uncollected taxes -- $23 billion in 2012 and more in 2013 and 2014, as Internet sales are expected to rise. Governors, Mayors, state elected officials and county officials have all weighed in support of the urgency of this measure. Opponents argue that there could be complications with the more than 10,000 taxing jurisdictions, however, software companies have made it clear to Congressional leaders they do not foresee any problems with streamlined collections. A hearing and markup are expected on the legislation as statements of support have come from Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

    FCC Guidance on Wireless Infrastructure

    The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has released guidance on how the Commission will interpret Section 6409(a) of last year’s Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. That statute provides, among other things, that a state or local government “may not deny, and shall approve” certain prescribed changes to existing wireless towers or base stations. The FCC Chairman announced that the Bureau was acting as part of a comprehensive Commission effort to remove barriers to broadband build-out, including streamlining the deployment of mobile broadband infrastructure. The guidance addresses, for example, what the terms “wireless tower” and “base station” as used in the statute mean, and what it means to substantially change the physical dimensions of a tower or base station. It also makes clear that a state or local government may require the filing of an application for administrative, as opposed to substantive, approval of permitted changes. The Commission acted after receiving informal inquiries from service providers, facilities owners, and state and local governments seeking guidance on how the statute should be applied.

    Wireless Bureau Seeks Comment on CTIA Petition Regarding Temporary Wireless Towers

    CTIA-The Wireless Association (CTIA) has asked the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to add an exception to the current public notice requirements in the Commission’s Antenna Structure Registration (“ASR”) rules for temporary wireless towers that (a) will be in use for 60 days or less; (b) require the filing of a notice with the Federal Aviation Administration on Form 7460-1; (c) do not require marking and lighting under FAA regulations; and (d) will be less than 200 feet in height. CTIA asks that the Commission provide a blanket waiver so that towers meeting the foregoing criteria would be exempt from the ASR public notice requirements while any rulemaking initiated pursuant to the request is pending. CTIA claims that, emergency situations aside, there are many non-emergency situations that arise where carriers need temporary towers to address short-term capacity constraints, but have insufficient advance notice to complete the public notice process. Initial comments on the CTIA request were filed on February 25; reply comments are due by March 12.

    FCC Revises Experimental Radio Service Rules to Boost Wireless Innovation

    The FCC has merged all of the rules devoted to experimentation, including broadcast experiments and developmental operations, into a single consolidated set of rules under Part 5 Experimental Radio Service. The changes provide greater flexibility for licensees in how they conduct research and development by permitting them to modify existing experiments and conduct new experiments within a broad range of frequencies, emissions and power levels at defined geographic locations under a single license. Among other things, the changes add three new types of licenses: a program experimental license, a medical testing license and a compliance testing license. Experimentation under these new licenses must be on a non-interference basis, as with current experimental licenses. In addition, the change increases the current limit on non-certified devices that can be imported into the U.S. for the purpose of testing and evaluation, and adds flexibility by providing authority for the conduct of product demonstrations prior to equipment authorization at trade shows when there is a negligible risk of interference.

    FCC Adopts Rules to Promote In-flight Internet Services

    The FCC has adopted technical and licensing rules for Earth Stations Aboard Aircrafts (ESAA) that are meant to speed the deployment broadband service on commercial and private aircraft. ESAAs communicate with Fixed-Satellite Service geostationary-orbit space stations operating in the 10.95-11.2 GHz, 11.45-11.7 GHz, 11.7-12.2 GHz (space-to-Earth or downlink) and 14.0-14.5 GHz (Earth-to-space or uplink) frequency bands. With these rules, the FCC also seeks to reduce administrative burdens and process EASS applications up to 50 percent faster. In addition, the FCC requests comment on whether to allow ESAAs to operate in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band on a primary basis. Comments are due 75 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due 105 days after publication.

    FCC Creates Healthcare Connect Fund

    The FCC has established the Healthcare Connect Fund in an effort to reform and modernize its universal service program for health care. The Fund will expand access to high-bandwidth connections that health care providers need for telemedicine and replace the existing Internet Access and Rural Health Care Pilot Programs. The new program is meant to encourage the formation of state and regional health care networks, and will allow providers to construct their own broadband infrastructure where it is the most cost-effective option. Participants must contribute 35 percent of the costs of broadband services or facilities.

    The FCC also created a new Pilot Program to test whether to expand the Healthcare Connect Program to skilled nursing facilities. Up to $50 million will be available over a three year period for programs that propose to use broadband to improve the quality and efficiency of health care delivery for skilled nursing facility patents.

    FCC Seeks Further Comments on Implementation of the Remote Areas Fund

    The FCC seeks further comments on the implementation of the Remote Areas Fund, including how to define the areas where Remote Areas funding will be available; and how to set the consumer subsidy, consumer eligibility, budgetary measures, service provider participation, performance requirements, and accountability and oversight. The FCC established the Remote Areas Fund, with an annual budget of at least $100 million, within the Connect America Fund to ensure that consumers who live in the most remote areas of the nation have the ability to obtain service. Comments were filed on February 19, and reply comments are due by March 18.

    DC Circuit Overturns FCC’s “Plug and Play” Rules

    Holding that the FCC lacked the statutory authority to restrict the use of “encoding” technologies that block consumers from recording television programs, the DC Circuit vacated the entire Plug and Play Order as applied to all multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). “Plug and Play” stems from a 2003 agreement ratified by the FCC between television manufacturers and the cable industry that allowed consumers with digital-ready sets to receive high-definition television programming from cable companies without a high-definition set-top box. According to the court, “[a]pplying the encoding rules to cable providers may meet consumer expectations with respect to the market for cable devices, but that is no reason to impose these rules on all MVPDs.”

    FTC Releases Recommendations on Mobile Privacy Disclosures

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a staff report reviewing the benefits and privacy risks of mobile technologies and recommending ways to inform consumers about data collection and access practices. For example, the report states that mobile platforms should provide just-in-time disclosures to consumers and obtain their affirmative express consent before allowing apps to access sensitive content like geolocation. In addition, mobile platforms should consider offering a Do Not Track mechanism for smartphone users. The FTC also introduced a new business guide, Mobile App Developers: Start with Security, which provides tips intended to help app developers approach mobile data security.

    FTC Amends Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rules

    After two comment periods, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released its final amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Revisions include the expansion of the “personal information” definition to protect children’s geolocation information, persistent identifiers, photos, and videos, as well as the closure of a loophole that previously allowed kid-directed websites to permit third parties to collect information without parental consent. COPPA now extends to third parties if they knowingly operate on a child-directed site, but excludes platforms such as Google Play and the App Store. Companies are also being encouraged to create additional means to collect parental consent. The amendments were lauded by Senators Mark Pryor (R-AR) and John Rockefeller (D-WV) as well as Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Edward Markey (D-MA).

    FCC AWS-4 Rules: Full Wireless Terrestrial Authority for 2 GHz MSS Licensees

    The FCC adopted terrestrial wireless service, technical and licensing rules for 40 MHz of 2 GHz Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) spectrum, 2000-2020 MHz paired with 2180-2200 MHz (AWS-4 band). The new rules, after additional FCC action, will replace incumbent MSS licensees’ Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) authority with full flexible-use wireless terrestrial authority. The FCC also adopted performance requirements for the AWS-4 band – provision of wireless service to 40 percent and 70 percent of the population in the licensed terrestrial wireless service area within four and seven years, respectively. Penalties apply to MSS licensees that are not able to meet the wireless performance requirements, including the loss of interference protection for satellite operations.

    FCC Proposes AWS H-Block Service Rules

    The proposed AWS H-Block licensing and technical rules make available an additional 10 MHz of spectrum adjacent to Personal Communications Service (PCS) spectrum, which is widely used to provide mobile voice and broadband services. Due to possible interference to PCS downlink operations from the lower H Block, the FCC seeks comment on possible uses for the lower H Block, including unlicensed PCS operations. The proposed rules will also permit the use of mobile and lower power fixed operations in the 1015-1020 MHz portion of the H Block and base and fixed operations in the 1995-2000 MHz portion of the H Block. Reply comments are due by March 6.

    FCC Proposes a New Citizens Broadband Service in the 3.5 GHz Band

    The FCC proposes to create a new Citizens Broadband Service in the 3.5 GHz band (3550-3650 MHz) that would utilize small cells and spectrum sharing, and to apply this new regulatory regime to the existing 3.65 GHz band (3650-3700 MHz). This proposal is part of the Administration’s continued effort to free up more spectrum for wireless broadband.

    The Citizens Broadband Service would be structured in three tiers with different levels of rights and protections, and include a spectrum access system (SAS). The SAS would protect incumbent users (i.e., military and satellite operations) and manage interference between the different tiers. The FCC also proposes employing a license-by-rule regime. To facilitate the potential creation of the Citizens Broadband Service, the FCC instructed the International Bureau to stop accepting applications in the 3600-3650 MHz band for new earth stations for fixed-satellite service if the proposed earth station is more than 10 miles from a currently licensed earth station.

    Comments on these proposals were filed on February 20, and reply comments are due by March 22. In addition, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology will host a workshop on March 13 to further explore the concepts and proposals raised in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

    Senator Wyden to Pursue Data Cap Legislation

    At the end of last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), introduced legislation designed to regulate the use of data caps increasingly being imposed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on consumer data consumption (Data Cap Integrity Act). The proposal would require the FCC to establish standards for ISPs to accurately measure data usage of consumers, ensure that data caps are designed to manage network congestion rather than maximize revenue, provide consumers with tools to manage data consumption, and prohibit ISPs from discriminating against any content when measuring data. Senator Wyden has indicated that he will continue to pursue this legislation in 2013, but the legislation has not been re-introduced this Congress.

    During the FCC’s consideration of net neutrality rules in 2010, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski voiced support for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) experimenting with broadband usage caps or tiered broadband plans in an effort to explore different business models. In May of 2012 at the Cable Show, Chairman Genachowski again confirmed his support for usage-based billing. In the FCC’s Report and Order on Net Neutrality, the FCC noted: “…[t]he framework we adopt today does not prevent broadband providers from asking subscribers who use the network less to pay less, and subscribers who use the network more to pay more.” However, in early September 2012, Chairman Genachowski voiced concerns about broadband caps by stating that “[a]nything that depresses broadband usage is something that we need to be really concerned about.” He continued by saying that: “[w]e should all be concerned with anything that is incompatible with the psychology of abundance.”

    D.C. Circuit Upholds FCC Ruling on Data Roaming

    The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the FCC’s authority to issue a rule requiring mobile-data providers to offer roaming agreements to other such providers on “commercially reasonable” terms. The rule was challenged by Verizon Wireless on multiple grounds, but most significantly on the grounds that the FCC lacked statutory authority to issue the rule and that the rule treated mobile-Internet providers as common carriers. The Court found that Title III of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, plainly empowers the FCC to promulgate the data roaming rule. Although the rule bears some marks of common carriage, the Court deferred to the FCC’s determination that the rule imposes no common carrier obligations on mobile-internet providers. In addition, the Court found that the rule does not affect an unconstitutional taking and is neither arbitrary nor capricious. The decision of the three judge panel was unanimous.

    FCC February Meeting

    The FCC considered two items during its open meeting on February 20:

    • Increasing the Amount of Spectrum Available for Unlicensed Devices in the 5 GHz Band:

      The Commission approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to substantially increase the amount of unlicensed spectrum available to accelerate the growth and expansion of new Wi-Fi technology, offering consumers faster speeds and less network congestion at Wi-Fi hot spots.
    • Improving Wireless Coverage for Consumers Through the use of Signal Boosters:

      The Commission approved a Report and Order to significantly enhance wireless coverage for consumers, while protecting wireless networks from interference, by adopting new technical, operational and registration requirements for signal boosters.

    FCC Revises Spectrum Screen Rules for Wireless Transactions and Auctions

    The FCC recently revised its “spectrum screen” to include 20 MHz of Wireless Communications Service (WCS) spectrum. The FCC uses the spectrum screen when reviewing transactions and auctions to help identify markets where the acquisition of spectrum provides particular reason for further competitive analysis. The FCC declined to include the 2.5 GHz band in the spectrum screen. The FCC has opened a separate proceeding to reform the spectrum screen.

    FCC Confirms Legality of Confirmatory Text Messages

    The FCC issued a declaratory ruling agreeing with SoundBite Communications that sending a one-time text message confirming a consumer’s request that no further text messages be sent does not violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) or the FCC’s rules. These messages must: (1) merely confirm the consumer’s opt-out request and not include any marketing or promotional information; and (2) be the only additional message sent to the consumer after receipt of the opt-out request. Confirmatory text messages sent within five minutes of the consumer’s opt-out will be presumed to fall within the consumer’s prior express consent to receive text messages from the sender. Patton Boggs represented SoundBite in this proceeding.

    Bill Introduced to Prohibit Lifeline Support for Free Cell Phone Service

    Representative Tim Griffin (R-AZ) introduced the Stop Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act (H.R.176) to prohibit universal service support of commercial mobile service through the Lifeline program. The bill would end federal subsidies for free cell phone services. Representative Griffin proposed similar legislation during the 112th Congress, but it did not gain any traction.
    It has recently come to light that many of the individuals signed up by telecommunications companies to receive cell phones were not eligible for the program. Some of the federal funds may have to be returned to the government. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is currently investigating this program and we expect the Committee to send document request letters to several telecommunications companies in the near term.

    Comments Requested on Text-to-911 Service

    The FCC seeks comment on its proposal to allow consumers to send text messages to 911. The proposal builds on a voluntary commitment recently made by the four largest wireless carriers, with the support of public safety organizations, to make text-to-911 available to their customers by May 15, 2014, and to provide automatic “bounce back” messages across their networks by June 30. Comments are sought on whether to require all wireless carriers and providers of “interconnected” text messaging applications to support text-to-911 in areas where 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) can receive them. In addition, the FCC proposes to require these carriers and providers to send the automated “bounce back” messages to consumers when the service is unavailable. The comment cycle on the “bounce back” proposal and consumer education efforts has closed. Comments on other sections are due by March 11, and reply comments are due by April 9.

    Immigration Reform Provides Opportunities for TechComm Industry

    Congress has begun in earnest to address immigration reform. A bipartisan group of 14 Senators led by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 to boost high-tech innovations through reforms to the H1-B visa for highly skilled temporary workers. These types of reforms could positively impact the TechComm industry. The bill primarily aims to increase caps on the numbers of H1-B visas that the U.S. currently allows. However, because the immigration debate and reform will be much larger than the focus of this bill, now is an opportune time for industry to provide input to address specific needs.

    Comments Sought on Incentive Auction Software

    The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology released new software, TVStudy, that will be used in the upcoming incentive auctions. The software will allow the FCC to “produce television station service and interference data that . . . will serve as an input to the algorithms that will be used to select operating channels.” Comments are sought on the software generally, as well as the identification of any errors, unexpected behaviors, or the anomalous results produced in running the software. Comments are due by March 21, and reply comments are due by April 5.

    FCC Seeks Comments on Inmate Calling

    The FCC seeks comment on the reasonableness of inmate calling service (ICS) rates for interstate, long distance calling at publicly- and privately-administered correction facilities. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is a follow up to two prior rulemaking petitions on this subject (First Wright Petition and Alternative Wright Petition). The FCC seeks comment on a number of related issues, including possible caps on ICS rates, competition in the ICS market, site commissions, non-geographic numbers, disabilities access, transitioning existing contracts, and the FCC’s legal authority to regulate ICS. Comments are due by March 25 and reply comments by April 22.

    Deadline for First Benchmark of the E911 Location Accuracy Rules Has Passed

    Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers that deploy handset-based location accuracy technologies were required to meet the initial E911 benchmark for location accuracy standards at either a county-based or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP)-based geographic level by January 18. In addition, all CMRS licensees must now provide confidence and uncertainty data on a per-call basis upon the request of a PSAP, and E911 System Service Providers must implement any modifications that will enable the transmission of confidence and uncertainty data provided by wireless carriers to the PSAP.

    Representative Lofgren Posts Draft Bill to Narrow Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

    Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would amend the current computer hacking law in honor of Internet activist and co-creator of the social media site Reddit, Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in early January. Swartz was accused of stealing academic articles from computer archives from MIT and faced federal hacking charges. Swartz could have been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Lofgren posted her draft of the bill, which she hopes to call “Aaron’s Law” to Reddit on January 15. Congresswoman Lofgren claims that the government was able to levy “such disproportionate charges” against Swartz because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute. The bill would amend these measures to exclude terms of service violations.

    Deadline for First Annual CVAA Certification Approaching

    Section 717 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) establishes new recordkeeping and certification requirements applicable to any entity that is subject to Section 255, 716 or 718 of the Communications Act, including telecommunications carriers, VoIP providers and certain equipment manufacturers. Covered providers are required to maintain records of the efforts to implement the CVAA, including information about the providers’ efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities and information about the compatibility of services with peripheral devices or specialized customer premise equipment. This recordkeeping requirement began on January 30. Section 717 also requires that an officer of a provider shall certify annually to the FCC that, for the previous calendar year, records have been kept in accordance with the Commission’s rules. The first Section 717 certification must be filed with the Commission by April 1, 2013, and annually thereafter for records pertaining to the previous calendar year. Certifications are required to be submitted electronically through the newly established “Recordkeeping Compliance Certification and Contact Information Registry” located here.

    FCC Adopts Immediate Interim Rules and Issues NPRM for IP CTS

    The FCC has adopted interim rules to address practices that it believes have contributed to a spike in reimbursement requests made by providers of Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS). The FCC bypassed the typical notice and comment procedures allowing the interim rules to take effect immediately in three stages, which began on February 5. The interim rules: (1) prohibit all referrals for rewards programs and any other form of direct or indirect inducements for IP CTS subscription; (2) require each IP CTS provider to register each user, including to obtain certifications of hearing loss from the user and/or a third party professional; and (3) require providers to ensure a default setting of captions off at the beginning of each call so that users have to take an affirmative step to use IP CTS. The FCC also clarified its Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) payment rule to explicitly provide that the Fund administrator shall not be obligated to pay any request for compensation until it has been established as compensable.

    In the accompanying NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on whether to make permanent, revise or eliminate any of the interim rules. The agency also asked about other issues such as the likely reasons causing the unusually rapid growth of IP CTS and whether to adopt requirements for IP CTS equipment to have labels informing consumers that IP CTS may only be used by persons with hearing disabilities. Comments were filed on February 26, and reply comments are due by March 12.

    FCC Seeks Comments on Rural Call Completion

    The FCC seeks comment on how to address problems associated with completing long-distance telephone calls to rural customers. The FCC asks about proposed reporting and data retention requirements related to call answer rates, how to minimize compliance burdens, and why call answer rates are different in rural and non-rural areas. The FCC also proposes to prohibit both originating and intermediate providers from causing audible ringing to be sent to the caller before the terminating provider has signaled that the called party is being alerted. Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 45 days after publication.

    WCB Seeks Comment on Copper Retirement Rule

    The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau seeks comment on a request to “refresh the record” and make certain changes to copper retirement rules to “preserve and promote affordable broadband over copper.” The request was made by Mpower Communications Corp.; U.S. TelePacific Corp.; ACN Communications Services, Inc.; Level 3 Communications, LLC; TDS Metrocom, LLC and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. These parties call on the FCC to require incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECS) to provide competitive carriers with access to unbundled copper loops even when the FCC has given the ILEC permission to retire those loops. They further ask the agency to prohibit ILECS from removing copper loops without affirmative permission, and to clarify that ILECs continue to have a duty to provide unbundled access to cooper loops that remain in place. Comments are due by March 5 and reply comments are due by March 20.

    Data Collection and Analysis of Special Access Market

    The FCC will require providers and purchasers of special access service and certain other services to submit data, information and documents that will allow the agency to evaluate the state of competition in the special access market. The data collection will apply to certain providers of best efforts business broadband Internet access services, but not to rate-of-return carriers to the extent the carrier provides special access within its rate-of-return service area. The information to be collected falls within five general categories: market structure, pricing, demand (i.e., observed sales and purchases), terms and conditions, and competitive pricing decisions. The FCC delegated limited authority to the Wireline Competition Bureau to implement the data collection, including to make amendments and corrections to the collection and to set deadlines for responses.

    The FCC also issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in order to determine whether relief from special access regulation is appropriate and to update special access rules.

    • In Section IV.A of the notice, the agency seeks comment on a market analysis that it intends to undertake in the coming months to assist in evaluating the price flexibility rules.
    • In Section IV.B, the FCC further asks how pricing flexibility rules might change after the agency conducts its market analysis, and what steps the FCC should take where relief has been provided under its existing rules and where the data and its analysis demonstrates that competition is not sufficient to discipline the marketplace.
    • In section IV.C, the agency seeks data and information on the terms and conditions offered by incumbent LECs for special access services.

    Reply comments on Sections IV.A and C are due by March 12. In addition, comments on Section IV.B are due by August 19, and reply comments are due by September 30.

    Comment Sought on Petition to Declare ILECs Non-Dominant in Providing Switched Access Services

    The FCC seeks comment on a petition filed by the United States Telecom Association (USTA) requesting a declaration that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are no longer presumptively dominant when providing voice services over traditional switched access networks. According to the USTA, given the substantial shift of consumers away from the legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) to IP-based services offered over broadband networks, it no longer makes sense from an economics or public policy standpoint to continue to treat ILECs as dominant, and therefore subject to increased regulatory burdens. Comments were filed on February 25, and reply comments are due by March 12.

    FCC Seeks Comment on AT&T and NTCA Petitions Regarding Transition to IP-Based Services

    The FCC is considering comments filed in response to separate petitions filed by AT&T and the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association about the transition to IP-based voice networks. AT&T called on the agency to open a new proceeding to help facilitate the transition from legacy telephone transmission platforms and services to Internet Protocol (IP) based services. The company proposes that the FCC conduct limited “trial runs” of the transition from legacy to next-generation services. AT&T asserts that the trials will “help the Commission understand the technological and policy dimensions of the TDM-to-IP transition and, in the process, identify the regulatory reforms needed to promote consumer interests and preserve private incentives to upgrade America’s broadband infrastructure.” NCTA asked the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to promote the evolution of the public switched telephone network from TDM to IP “through targeted, thoughtful regulatory relief and the establishment of more appropriate near term economic incentives.”

    FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also formed an agency-wide Technology Transitions Policy Task Force that, among other things, will coordinate the Commission’s efforts on IP interconnection, resiliency of 21st century communications networks, business broadband competition, and consumer protection with a particular focus on voice services. The Task Force will hold its first workshop on March 18.

    Additional Guidance Released for Broadcasters Commenting Anonymously on Incentive Auction Proceedings

    The FCC Media Bureau has released additional guidance for broadcasters who wish to file anonymous comments regarding the incentive auction proceedings. If a broadcaster chooses not to disclose its identity, the FCC requests that it provide enough information so that the Commission and public can “understand and evaluate the position it takes,” including basic facts such as the market tier in which it operates and whether or not it is network-affiliated. Furthermore, broadcasters who file their anonymous comments electronically must seek a waiver of Section 1.419(e). Reply comments on the NPRM are due by March 12.