A CommLawBlog Thanksgiving Tradition Begins

Thanksgiving is all about Tradition, and down here in the CommLawBlog bunker we’re on board with that – so on board that we have decided to start our own tradition for our readers. Henceforth, we plan to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving annually by providing readers easy access to one of the most Thanksgiving-ish of all Thanksgiving cultural references: the “Turkeys Away” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. (It first aired on October 30, 1978, but it seems like only yesterday.)

And lest anyone accuse us of going off-message here by veering CommLawBlog away from, like, real legal issues and over to cheap click bait tactics, let’s not forget: “Turkeys Away” was based on a for real radio promotion that went south. In other words, there’s a legitimate take-home lesson here for all our broadcast readers (or any other publicity-hungry operation with easy access to (a) a helicopter and (b) a bunch of live turkeys).

So, with our most sincere wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to our readers, here’s a link to the complete “Turkeys Away” episode. And for those of you who just want to cut to the chase, we’re embedding below a five-minute clip that includes Les Nessman’s immortal description of the events and Arthur Carlson’s equally immortal explanation: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

Update: More Citizens Broadband Radio Rules Set to Take Effect

Back in May we reported on the opening up of the 3.5 GHz (3550-3700 MHz) band for a wide variety of new uses, making it the new home of the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). While some of the new (or modified) rules governing that band took effect last July, a number didn’t, thanks to our old friend, the Paperwork Reduction Act. But now the FCC has announced that the PRA maze has been successfully navigated and, as a result, all but two of the new/revised rules will take effect on December 16, 2015. So you can get out your set of the rules and mark the following sections “effective” as of that date: §§96.17(d); 96.21(a)(3); 96.23(b); 96.33(b); 96.35(e); 96.39(a), (c)-(g); 96.41(d)(1); 96.43(b); 96.45(b); 96.45(d), 96.51; 96.57(a)-(c); 96.59(a); 96.61; 96.63; and 96.67(b)-(c).

By our count, that leaves two sections still in PRA limbo: §§96.29 and 96.49. We don’t know why those haven’t made it through yet, but we’ll keep an eye out for them and let you know if and when they do. These concern, respectively, auction procedures and requirements for equipment authorization.

Incentive Auction Homework – Long-term Assignment: How to Reap Repack Repayment

The Broadcast Incentive Auction reimbursement process begins to take shape.

Blog.form 2100 sked 399 lessonWe have reported on the FCC’s efforts to alert all would-be reverse auction participants to the ins and outs of Form 177. A less immediate, but no less important, learning opportunity involves the relocation reimbursement process. Since that won’t kick in until the auction is over, we all have a few months to get our arms around it. But now that the FCC has released its “final” form for seeking reimbursement, we may as well add “Review Schedule 399” to our to-do list.

Note that, while the Commission describes the currently available version of Schedule 399 as the “final” version, that version apparently hasn’t yet even been submitted to, much less approved by, OMB. Additionally, the FCC has indicated that it has yet to “finalize development of the on-line Form” and that it will “take into consideration the practical suggestions offered by commenters to enhance the functionality of the Form”. So there may still be some changes to come. But we can probably assume with some confidence that the main substantive portions of the form won’t be changing much, if at all. Continue Reading

Update: Effective Date Set for More Revised Wireless Mic Rules

From our Spectrum Re-pack Files: following close on the heels of the revised rules for wireless mic use, the revised rules governing Part 15 operations in the post-re-pack world are now set to take effect December 23, 2015.

As we reported last August, the Commission adopted two separate orders dealing with the new lay of the land for some 600 MHz users – namely, white space devices and wireless mics – who will be displaced by the post-Auction spectrum reallocations. One of those orders provided new spectrum allocations for licensed wireless microphones, while the other addressed Part 15 unlicensed use in the 600 MHz band. The wireless mic order showed up in the Federal Register last week. And now the second one, which modifies the rules for unlicensed use of 600 MHz by both white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones, has joined it in the Register. The rule revisions in this “Part 15” order will become effective as of December 23, 2015 – except for the revisions to §§15.713(b)(2)(iv)-(v), (j)(4), (j)(10), and (j)(11), 15.715(n)-(q), 27.1320 and 95.1111(d). Those exceptions – rules governing the operations and administration of white space databases – involve “information collections.” We all know what that means: they can’t take effect until the Office of Management and Budget has reviewed and approved them pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

As with last week’s FedReg publication, this one starts some important count-downs. Petitions for reconsideration of all or part of this Report and Order must be filed with the FCC by December 21; and petitions for judicial review must be filed (with the federal court of appeals of the petitioner’s choice) by January 19, 2016. (Note, however, that any would-be appellant with his or her heart set on being heard by a particular circuit should probably (a) file by November 30 and then (b) follow the steps necessary to get into the judicial lottery, should one be necessary.)

Update: Effective Date Set for New Wireless Mic Rules

Back in August we reported on a Report and Order (R&O) adopting a range of new rules governing wireless microphones, rules aimed at accommodating wireless mic use both during and after the upcoming re-packing of the TV spectrum. That R&O has now been published in the Federal Register. As a result, we now know that most (but not all) of the new rules will take effect on December 17, 2015. (The revisions to two sections – §§15.37(k) and 74.851(l) – will not be kicking on that date. They’re “information collections” that require further review and approval from the Office of Management and Budget, thanks to the hilariously-named Paperwork Reduction Act.)

The Federal Register publication also starts a couple of other clocks running: anyone inclined to ask the Commission to reconsider all or part of the R&O has until December 17 to get a petition for reconsideration on file; and anyone bent on seeking judicial review has until January 18, 2016, to get a petition for review on file with the federal court of appeals of their choice. (Note, however, that any would-be appellant with his or her heart set on being heard by a particular circuit should probably (a) file by November 27 and then (b) follow the steps necessary to get into the judicial lottery, should one be necessary.)

Mobile 5G? 24+ GHz, Here We Come!

With proposed rulemaking, FCC looks to open higher reaches of spectrum for services just coming into view

The FCC wants to take us higher: into higher reaches of the RF spectrum. Anticipating the eventual arrival of Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services, the FCC has proposed to open several bands above 24 GHz for 5G: 28, 37, and 39 GHz, and possibly 24, 29, 31, and 42 GHz as well. Also on the table: extending the 57-64 GHz unlicensed band up to 71 GHz, and adding mobile applications to the 71-76 and 81-86 GHz fixed service bands.

The FCC is under pressure to keep the U.S. wireless industry competitive. A 5G standard would be significantly faster than 4G and able to handle many times the volume of traffic. A year ago, the FCC began to look at the issues with a Notice of Inquiry. Now it’s released a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which aims at establishing several sets of rules for various potential users, including fixed, mobile, satellite, and “WiGig,” a high-speed unlicensed standard at 57-64 GHz modeled in some respects on Wi-Fi.

The proceeding, titled “FCC Promotes Higher Frequency Spectrum for Future Wireless Technology,” focuses on opening the “upper microwave” bands (here, 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz) for more flexible use, including 5G hotspots. The FCC hopes this will lead to deployment of small cells and Wi-Fi-like networks for data backhaul, as well as privately deployed (enterprise) networks.

The NPRM ducks the question as to whether, or how soon, these high frequencies could actually be used for mobile applications. Today, after all, the term “5G” is little more than a marketing slogan. The operating characteristics of 5G technologies are unknown. There are no agreed-upon technical standards, and none are expected for at least a few years (according to Commissioner Pai, not until at least 2020). Still, given how long it takes to allocate spectrum, adopt licensing and service rules, and conduct auctions, the FCC is wise to take a “build it and they will come” approach. Continue Reading

The Political Broadcasting Rules: A Refresher Course

The 2015 elections are now in the books, but the 2016 election season, featuring federal campaigns (Presidential, Vice Presidential, Congressional) galore, is already upon us. Now’s a good time to be sure you’ve got a handle on the rules.

The 2016 elections are a year away, but the race for presidential nominations is already heating up, and primaries themselves will begin in just a few months. With what is certain to be a contentious and hard-fought election season fast approaching, now is the time for broadcasters to review their systems to ensure that they will be in compliance with the FCC’s political advertising requirements. A little advanced planning can go a long way in making this election season run smoothly (and, ideally, profitably) for your station.

The FCC’s political broadcast rules generally cover: (1) who is entitled to access to broadcast advertising time; (2) how much they pay for that time; and (3) disclosure and recordkeeping requirements. We’ll look at each of those areas below – but we highly encourage stations with questions to contact their communications counsel. The FCC’s rules and policies are fairly complicated when it comes to political broadcasting, and the answers to many questions tend to be highly dependent on the specific facts at hand.

Central to understanding and complying with the political rules is the concept of a candidate’s “use” of a broadcast station. As we will delve into in greater detail below, the “use” of a broadcast station by a candidate triggers several potential obligations, so it is important to know, as a threshold matter, (a) when someone is a candidate and (b) when they are considered to have made a “use” of a station. Continue Reading