Initial Reimbursement Allocations Announced for Repack Expenses

On Oct. 16, 2017, the Incentive Auction Task Force and the FCC’s Media Bureau jointly announced the initial allocation from the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund (Relocation Fund) for the reimbursement of eligible full power and Class A television stations as well as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) (Eligible Entities) impacted by the Incentive Auction. The initial allocation of the Relocation Fund makes available $1 billion for reimbursement of Eligible Entities’ expenses related to the construction of their post-auction facilities.

As a result of the initial allocation, commercial stations and MVPDs may now access approximately 52 percent (62 percent for non-commercial stations) of their estimated and verified costs of construction of their post-auction facilities. Eligible Entities may view their individual allocations through the CORES Incentive Auction Financial Module. Eligible Entities will also receive an email from the Media Bureau detailing the results of the review of their initial reimbursement estimates made via submission of the Form 2100, Schedule 399 (Reimbursement Form) – including a description and explanation of any adjustments made. Eligible Entities should check their spam folders for this email which will be sent from email address FCCFundRepackAdministrator@fcc.gov, will have a PDF attached, and include the subject line “Cost Estimate Verification.”

Eligible Entities may obtain their initial reimbursement payment by submitting a revised Reimbursement Form through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS) including documentation and invoices of actual expenses. Submitted invoices do not have to be paid invoices. Reimbursement payments will be made to Eligible Entities by drawing down actual expenses incurred to date against their total individual allocations. Accordingly, the initial $1 billion allocation does not reflect the total estimated reimbursement for Eligible Entities’ actual costs – which is estimated to be approximately $2.139 billion. Rather, the initial allocation enables Eligible Entities to meet near-term expenditures necessary for stations and MVPDs to begin the post-auction transition process.

Subsequent reimbursement allocations will be announced when Eligible Entities collectively appear to have exhausted their initial reimbursement allocations. Accordingly, Eligible Entities seeking full reimbursement of their post-auction construction costs should timely submit invoices for reimbursement, and promptly file revisions to costs estimates, to ensure that the subsequent allocations are made on a timely basis.

Clients with questions regarding or seeking assistance with obtaining their initial reimbursement payments should contact Dan Kirkpatrick (kirkpatrick@fhhlaw.com) or Davina Sashkin (sashkin@fhhlaw.com).

Reminder: FREE Upcoming CPB Compliance Webinar

This is a reminder to not snooze on next week’s CPB compliance webinar! On Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Fletcher, Heald, & Hildreth’s CPB Compliance guru Bob Winteringham will present a FREE one-hour webinar to help you navigate the twists and turns of CPB compliance.

You can register for the webinar, for free, via this link.

Compliance has never been more important for public broadcasters. CPB now regularly issues forfeitures of up to $15,000 to public broadcasting stations when the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) finds non-compliance with the provisions of the Communications Act, the terms of the CSG General Provisions, or errant NFFS reporting. Compliance, though, is more than just checking boxes and annually filling out forms.

Compliance also encompasses building systems and processes within your organization to ensure you are consistently fulfilling CPB’s requirements and documenting your actions.

The webinar will cover common Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) audit findings and the basic steps public broadcasting stations should take to meet CPB’s minimum compliance requirements. The presentation will also include questions that stations frequently ask about CPB-related compliance matters.

Bringing his years of experience in CPB compliance to the table, Bob Winteringham, Of Counsel at Fletcher, Heald, and Hildreth, and a founder of the Public Media Consulting Group, will host this FREE one-hour webinar on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 2:00 p.m. EDT

Register online: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1098374018651427586

Limited Registration Period for .RADIO Domain Names Ends Oct.31, 2017 – The Time to Register Is Now!

Now until Oct. 31, 2017, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is offering a “Special Limited Registration Period” – a pre-launch opportunity for the registration of .RADIO domain names by radio broadcasters, radio professional, radio amateurs, Internet radios, and radio-related companies. Call letters, corporate names, on-air personality names, and even slogans can all be registered as domain names in .RADIO. If you want to join this special Internet Domain Space for the Global Radio Community, now is a good time to register.

Several things to know.

First, it won’t be cheap. While a new .COM domain names sells for about $12 per year, .RADIO domain names will run about $350 per year. Why the higher price? New Generic Top Level Domain Registries such as Donuts and EBU don’t have the same price caps as Verisign for its .COM domains. Also, in this limited launch, EBU has committed to doing special checks to limit .RADIO domain names to those in the radio industry. Continue Reading

Now Available: Online Public Inspection Files Webinar

With the March 1, 2018 Online Public Inspection File deadline for mid-sized and smaller market (and non-commercial) approaching, Fletcher, Heald, & Hildreth’s Frank Montero and Steve Lovelady recently presented a webinar to help industry professionals navigate through the online filing process.

In collaboration with Colorado Broadcasters Association, Montero and Lovelady spoke on a variety of issues related to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) from what needs to be uploaded to the consequences of not complying with the OPIF deadline.

Photo by GotCredit using the Creative Commons License

But for those of you that missed out… have no fear!!! You can now view a rerun of our webinar (lucky you!).

You can access the video and corresponding slides via this link (you will need to re-sign into GoToWebinar to access the video). You will need to fast forward to timestamp 15:24 to where the webinar begins.

If you’d like a copy of the presentation to keep in your library (online or otherwise), you can access the PDF versions of the slides here. You can download them to your computer or print them off.
Some of the highlights of the webinar include:

  • The history of the public file generally, and what the “new” OPIF is
  • The mechanics of starting an OPIF
  • The contents of what is required in an OPIF
  • Consequences of non-compliance
  • And more, including a Q&A session

If you have any specific questions about issues discussed in the webinar, or questions that we were not able to address during the webinar’s airing, feel free to contact Frank Montero at montero@fhhlaw.com or Steve Lovelady at lovelady@fhhlaw.com.

Reminder: FREE Online Public Inspection Files Refresher Course Webinar

This is a reminder that tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 12th at 12:00 p.m. EDT, Fletcher, Heald, & Hildreth’s Frank Montero and Steve Lovelady in partnership with Colorado Broadcasters Association, will present a FREE webinar entitled “Online Public Inspection Files: A Refresher Webinar.

You can register for the webinar, for FREE, via this link.

While 2017 isn’t even close to being over yet, we’re already looking ahead at next year’s deadlines. TV stations and a large first batch of commercial radio stations have already had to move their public inspection files online. But starting on March 1st of 2018, non-commercial radio stations, as well as the remaining commercial that were exempt from last year’s deadline will now have to go online with their public files.

The webinar will address these questions and many more:

  • When does my station’s public file have to go online?
  • Does this apply to noncommercial stations?
  • How do I move my public file online and what goes into the public file?
  • How will this impact my FCC license renewal that’s due in the next few years?
  • What will happen if I blow this off and go to fishing instead?
  • And for those special few (you know who you are…..), what exactly is a public file?

All of this, and more, will be covered in this webinar where attendees will be able to ask questions of Professors Lovelady and Montero. For those unable to join us, we will be recording the webinar which will be made available on our website shortly after.

Whether you’re new to the online public file game or a battle-hardened veteran, this webinar will help you with the tools to stay ahead of the curve. We look forward to having you join us.

Free registration for the webinar is available here.

The FCC Seeks Comment on 911 Access in Enterprise Communications Systems

Last week, the FCC released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comment on a variety of issues related to 911 capabilities and Enterprise Communications Systems (ECS). While you may not be familiar with the term “Enterprise Communications Systems,” you are certainly familiar with the concept. As the FCC’s NOI explains, ECS are telecommunications systems that support multiple users at individual telephone stations across a single enterprise, such as an office building, a campus, a hotel, etc. If you’re like me, you use an ECS every day by picking up your office phone or by ordering room service from your hotel room, or maybe you find a colleague’s use of your office’s ECS absolutely unbearable.

These ECS have been widely deployed for several years, although they have evolved from circuit-switched time-division multiplexing technology to Internet Protocol (IP)-based platforms, utilizing VoIP technology for internal communications and outbound calls—including calls to 911.

Regardless of technology, consumers expect to have access to usual 911 capabilities in their ECS in case of an emergency: they expect to dial 911 and immediately get routed to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point, which in turn will retain information about the caller’s location and callback phone number to ensure prompt dispatch.

However, according to the FCC, 911 capabilities on ECS appear to lag behind those of traditional wireline, wireless, and VoIP systems. Now the FCC wants to know how serious the ECS/911 issue really is and what steps should be taken going forward. Continue Reading

Autonomous Vehicles, 2.0: A Conversation with George Soodoo

The Trump Administration recently took some major steps toward providing a regulatory framework that encourages the safe development, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Several weeks ago, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao released Automated Driving Systems 2.0 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a document aimed at supporting automotive industry innovators in the safe introduction of new autonomous technologies. This document includes a Voluntary Guidance for stakeholders as they consider and design best practices for testing and deploying autonomous vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Steve Jurveston via the Creative Commons Licence

For help understanding the Voluntary Guidance, we’ve turned to our friend, George Soodoo, who runs a regulatory consulting practice that focuses on vehicle crash avoidance technologies. George is a mechanical engineer and MBA who spent 30 years at NHTSA, ultimately as chief of its Vehicle Dynamics Division.

Here’s our interview with George:

Q: As an initial question, what is an NHTSA “guidance” and what kind of controlling effect does it have on industry, if any?

SOODOO: An NHTSA guidance is a non-regulatory approach to addressing a motor vehicle safety need and which provides a framework that vehicle manufacturers and equipment suppliers may use to design their products. A guidance is entirely voluntary. It does not establish a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) and, therefore, has no compliance requirement or enforcement mechanism.

A guidance has an indirect controlling effect on industry because the elements of the guidance may be used to develop a proposal for a notice of proposed rulemaking. Therefore, manufacturers that adhere to the guidance could be in a better position than their competitors to offer compliant systems to their customers at an earlier date.

Q: What are the major elements of Automated Driving Systems 2.0?

SOODOO: The Automated Driving Systems (ADS) 2.0 is composed of two sections and focuses on vehicles that incorporate high levels of automation, specifically Levels 3, 4, and 5 – Conditional, High, and Full Automation, respectively.

Section 1, Voluntary Guidance for Automated Driving Systems, contains 12 safety design elements considered the most important design aspects for the development, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles. These 12 elements include: system safety, human machine interface, vehicle cybersecurity, validation methods, and consumer education and training, among others. For example, the guidance suggests that manufacturers may use a combination of vehicle simulation, test track, and on-road testing to demonstrate the expected performance of an ADS. These tests should demonstrate the performance of the ADS during normal operation, during crash avoidance maneuvers, and during system malfunction or in driving conditions outside of the system’s capabilities.

Section 2, Technical Assistance to States, Best Practices for Legislatures Regarding Automated Driving Systems, clarifies the federal and state roles in regulating autonomous vehicles. NHTSA remains responsible for regulating the safety-related design and performance aspects of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. However, states continue to be responsible for regulating the human driver and vehicle operations. Section 2 also lays out the framework states can use as their legislatures write laws on the use and operation of autonomous vehicles, to ensure a consistent national framework.

Continue Reading

Fletcher, Heald, & Hildreth Joins Competitive Carriers Association

October 2, 2017– Washington, D.C.-based telecommunications, and broadcasting law firm, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth (“FHH”), today announced it is a new member of Competitive Carriers Association.

FHH provides comprehensive legal services for the technology, telecommunications, and media industries, partnering with clients on transformative deals and innovative solutions to cutting-edge business issues and regulatory concerns. FHH utilizes practical know-how and broad federal policy experience to tackle challenges arising from the rapid evolution in technology, increased competition, and the demands of a global high-tech economy.

CCA is the premier advocacy organization for competitive wireless carriers and stakeholders. Founded in 1992 by nine rural and regional wireless carriers, CCA has now grown to nearly 100 carrier members that cover 95 percent of the nation and over 150 associate members that support the wireless industry. FHH is looking forward to building strong relationships with CCA leadership and its members.

Co-managing member, Don Evans, enthusiastically applauded the new membership, “Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth is delighted to become a member of Competitive Carrier Association. We have worked closely together with CCA’s members and leadership on many projects over the last decade, and we look forward to participating even more actively in CCA’s efforts to protect the interest of competitive carriers.”

“I am delighted to welcome Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth as a new member to CCA,” said Steven K. Berry, CCA’s President & CEO. “Strong support and counsel from companies like FHH help competitive carriers make sound business decisions and better serve their customers. Advocacy work is the ‘bread and butter’ of the association, and I am glad CCA members can look to FHH as a resource on important competitive policy issues. I welcome FHH to CCA; we are glad to have them on board!”

FHH is looking forward to building our network and meeting other CCA members. FHH is thrilled to, as a new member, be attending the CCA’s 2017 Annual Convention to be held in Fort Worth, TX, October 25-27.

For information about the firm, visit www.fhhlaw.com or contact Helena Okolicsanyi at okolicsanyi@fhhlaw.com.

Reminder: EAS National Test Scheduled for Wednesday, September 27

ETRS Form 2 Due Same Day (Except for Hurricane-Impacted EAS Participants)

Assuming that it is not delayed due to a real national emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FCC are still scheduled to conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Sept. 27, 2017, at 2:20 PM EDT.

As we reported previously, EAS participants should have filed their ETRS Form 1 providing information about their EAS equipment by this point.  On Sept. 27, the FCC will expect that stations to monitor their equipment and, for most stations, file a “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 by the end of the day.

Although the FCC is not delaying the national test itself,, the FCC is  extending the Form 2 filing deadline for those stations impacted Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.,.  In a Public Notice released September 22, the Media Bureau gave EAS participants located in areas of Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas impacted by the hurricanes until Nov. 13, 2017 to file their Form 2 reports.

Based on the form as currently available in ETRS (which will not be “live” for filing until the 27th), participants will simply be required to certify whether the station received and retransmitted the national test message.

Based on our experience with last year’s test, we would expect that there will be some congestion in the ETRS system after the test, so you should probably be prepared to spend some time completing your filings.

Finally, all EAS participants will also be required to file a post-test ETRS Form 3 no later than Nov. 13, 2017.  Based on the Form 3 currently available in the ETRS system, participants will be required to identify the specific times at which they received and retransmitted the test message, the source(s) from which they received the test (including which source it was received from first), the language in which the message was received and retransmitted, and any complications they experienced.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the EAS National Test or ETRS systems.

CPB Compliance: Basic Preparedness and Recent OIG Audit Activity Webinar

Compliance has never been more important for public broadcasters. CPB regularly issues forfeitures of up to $15,000 to public broadcasting stations when the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) finds non-compliance with the provisions of the Communications Act, the terms of the CSG General Provisions, or errant NFFS reporting. Compliance, though, is more than just checking boxes and filling out forms.

Compliance also encompasses building systems and processes within your organization to ensure you are consistently fulfilling CPB’s requirements and documenting your actions. To help you navigate CPB Compliance, we’re offering a FREE webinar.

The webinar will cover common Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) audit findings and basic steps public broadcasting stations should take to meet CPB’s minimum compliance requirements. The presentation will also include questions that stations frequently ask about CPB-related compliance matters.

Bringing his years of experience in CPB compliance to the table, Robert Winteringham of Fletcher, Heald, and Hildreth will host this FREE one-hour webinar on Wednesday, October 25 at 2:00 p.m. EDT

Register online: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1098374018651427586

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