EAS Test Reporting System Now Open for Business

EAS participants must register and complete Form One pronto; FCC also seeks comment on new approach to the EAS Handbook

Attention, all you EAS participants. The Commission has formally opened up its new EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS), which means that you’ve got until August 26, 2016 to get into the site and complete Form One. And while you’re at it, you might also want to take a gander at the draft of a New and Improved 2016 EAS Operating Handbook that the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) has developed. It’s still a work in progress, but the FCC wants to know what you think about it.

Some explanation.

First, ETRS. As we reported last year, following up on its First-Of-A-Kind 2011 Nationwide EAS Test, the Commission decided that it needed a better mechanism for getting feedback on the effectiveness of its tests. Thus was born the ETRS. First announced back in June of last year, the new system wasn’t ready for preview until April of this year. The preview consisted of a public notice full of screen grabs showing what the ETRS site would look like if it were up and running, which it wasn’t, because the site itself didn’t go live until June 27. Continue Reading

Revised FCC Procedures for Accrediting Overseas Test Labs Take Effect July 29

Same action grants extra time for recognizing non-accredited labs.

Of course you remember our recent post about the FCC’s change to its procedures for accrediting overseas test labs, and its grant of extra time for recognizing non-accredited labs. And of course you’ve been on tenterhooks (whatever they are) waiting for these changes to take effect.

Whew! Your wait is over. Thanks to Federal Register publication  of the FCC’s Order on June 29, we now know the newly-revised rules will take effect on July 29, 2016.

Alien Ownership: FCC Seeks Comment on “Streamlined” Review Process

Proposal would put other agencies on 90-day clock to complete review of possible national security issues.

fcc building with statue of liberty-1In an effort to facilitate foreign investment in U.S. common carrier and broadcast licensees, the FCC has proposed changes in the way it processes proposals involving reportable levels of foreign ownership. Historically, a major source of delay in the processing of such proposals has been the need for various Executive Branch agencies to review them with an eye toward national security concerns, review which has tended to drag on. Now, however, the FCC is suggesting that the review process can be abbreviated by: (a) requiring proponents to provide national security-related information in their applications and (b) giving Executive Branch agencies a 90-day deadline for giving a thumbs up or thumbs down as to each proposal.

It all sounds great at first blush. But a number of pesky details could prove problematic, particularly for broadcasters and applicants that don’t propose foreign ownership. Continue Reading

Student Discount: FOIA “Educational Institution” Fee Exemption Available to Students

D.C. Circuit reverses longstanding – if illogical – policy of many agencies.

red tape-1The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and its state equivalents remain a useful tool for anyone wishing to keep an eye on our governments’ activities. FOIA requests have led to the exposure of waste, fraud and abuse in government programs. Such revelations, in turn, have effected change that has saved not only money but lives. Don’t believe me? Check out the “FOIA Files”, an amazing trove of stories – a searchable trove, at that – reflecting the power of the federal FOIA to benefit all of us. (FOIA Files was compiled by the Sunshine in Government Initiative. Full disclosure: two of my clients are among the nine members of SGI.)

But effecting change through FOIA has gotten harder and harder in the face of many impediments. These include not only the various exemptions, which provide justifications – some valid, some not so much – for withholding information, but also other, more “procedural”, impediments. For example, increasingly long wait times for even an initial response to an FOIA request, followed by equally long waits before the requested records are released or, frequently, withheld. Another example: the imposition of high “processing fees” which can deter a party from pursuing its request in full. (Some of these fees may become less of a problem now that both the House and Senate have passed S 337 – the FOIA Improvements Act of 2016 – and has been shipped over to the White House; we expect the President to sign it.)

These impediments have an especially negative impact on journalists, who may not have the time or money to fight an adverse decision. Journalists represent the third largest group of users of the federal FOIA, filing about 10% of all requests per year, despite the fact that they may not be able to wait for their request to be processed in the face of an impending deadline, or they may not even be able to pay the required processing fees. As to fees, though, the federal FOIA process does provide for partial exemption from fees for members of the news media.

And now, thanks to a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last month, it’s quite possible that similar fee exemptions will be available for even more requesters. Continue Reading

Legal 500 Kudos to Karyn Ablin, Copyright Lawyer Par Excellence

thumbs up-1A week or two ago we introduced you to Karyn Ablin, a new arrival at FHH but an old-hand in a number of practice areas, including particularly copyright law. We should have held off on the welcoming post, because no sooner had we put it up but Karyn added yet another honor that we could have included: she has been singled out by Legal 500 as one of the top U.S. copyright lawyers in its 2016 listing. Legal 500 conducts annual assessments of legal talent based on a comprehensive research program that includes feedback from some 250,000 clients, interviews with “leading private practice lawyers,” and additional research by a team of analysts with “unrivaled experience in the legal market.” Karyn was cited in particular for her work on behalf of both the National Association of Broadcasters and a noncommercial music license committee of the National Religious Broadcasters regarding a proceeding before the Copyright Royalty Judges to set royalties for the right to webcast sound recordings. In addition to her litigation skills, Legal 500 also recognized her contract negotiating chops.

This isn’t Karyn’s first Legal 500 rodeo: she also made the cut in 2015, so we know that it’s not some kind of fluke. While her previous trips to the Legal 500 winners’ circle reflected work she did before she got here, she has brought with her to FHH the same skills, savvy, and determination that Legal 500 found to be so impressive. If you need help in the copyright arena, give her a call at 703-812-0443 or email her at ablin@fhhlaw.com – we think you’ll be equally impressed.

Update: Comment Deadlines Set in Online Public File Rulemaking

Last month we reported on an FCC proposal to ditch two vestiges of the old local public inspection file requirements. On the way out the door: first, the rule requiring broadcasters to make available for public inspection correspondence from audience members concerning station operation; and second, the obligation for cable operators to include in their public files a listing disclosing the location and designation of the system’s principal headend. The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has now made it into the Federal Register, which means we now know the deadlines for comments and reply comments relative to the proposals. Comments may be filed by July 22, 2016, and replies by August 22. Comments and replies can be submitted at this FCC website; enter Proceeding Number 16-161.

More Time, More Guidance for Test Lab Accrediting Bodies Seeking FCC Recognition

Action paves way for continued equipment approvals in China, elsewhere

As we’ve reported, about 18 months ago the Commission issued new rules modifying its equipment authorization procedures. Those procedures, of course, have long relied in large measure on independent labs that test devices and certify their compliance with FCC standards. In a key change, in its 2014 decision the Commission sought to improve the reliability of its processes by requiring that test labs performing such certifications be accredited by properly authorized accrediting bodies (ABs).

This created a problem, particularly on the international front. As several parties noted in Petitions for Clarification and/or Reconsideration, a number of Asian countries to which U.S. corporations go for testing, certification, and manufacture of wireless equipment do not have Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with the U.S. That’s a problem because, without an MRA, the U.S. (and, thus, the FCC) does not automatically recognize a non-MRA’s country’s ABs. And while the new rules provide for recognizing the accreditation of a non-MRA country’s test labs, they don’t describe how this can be done. Under the rules adopted in 2014, not-yet-accredited test labs would have lost their recognition by July 13, 2016.

There were two obvious possible fixes for this. First, the U.S. could have successfully negotiated MRAs with China and other countries. The U.S. apparently tried that route, but we understand the effort did not go well. The second possibility: the FCC could simply modify and clarify its newly adopted rules to provide a clear route for recognition of ABs in countries without MRAs. FCC has chosen the latter. In an order addressing the petitions, the Commission has: Continue Reading

One Agency to Another: FTC Shares Its Views on FCC’s Internet Privacy Proposals

With the voice of experience, the FCC’s sister Commission provides support, criticism.

ftc-fcc-1As we alerted you a couple of months ago, the FCC is in the process of crafting rules intended to protect the private/propriety information (PI) of those of us accessing the Internet through Internet Service Providers (ISPs). If eventually adopted, the rules would impose significant obligations on ISPs providing broadband Internet access service (BIAS). So far, reaction from commenters has been predictably mixed. Consumer groups tend to support the Commission’s proposals as necessary protection for vulnerable privacy interests. ISPs, on the other hand, tend to oppose many elements of the proposals as unnecessary and overly burdensome.  Many ISPs also oppose the new privacy rules as unfair because, as currently proposed, those rules would target only ISPs while leaving other major players in the Internet ecosystem – edge providers such as Google and Amazon – free from equivalent constraints.

While the FCC has some, relatively limited, experience dealing with online privacy concerns, another federal agency – the Federal Trade Commission – has extensive experience. Not surprisingly, the FTC’s approach has been cited, in a number of comments to the FCC, as a positive model. But what does the FTC itself think of the FCC’s proposals? While that may sound like a rhetorical question, we now have an answer to it, because the FTC submitted its own comments to the Commission – and one FTC Commissioner – Maureen Ohlhausen – submitted her own separate comments.

If your curiosity is piqued, so was mine. Continue Reading

Update: Effective Date Set for More of the New Rules Governing Wireless Mics, White Space Devices

Effective date of a Wireless Medical Telemetry Service rule is still pending.

Last August we reported on a number of changes in the rules governing wireless mics and white space devices, and last November we reported that the effective date of some, but not all, of those rule changes had been set. The rules not covered by that latter announcement included §§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 – concerning the operations and administration of white space databases – involve “information collections” that had to run past the Office of Management and Budget before they could kick in. But now the FCC has announced that OMB has given its thumbs up to all but one of those provisions. As a result, §§15.713(b)(2)(iv)-(v), (j)(4), (j)(10), and (j)(11), 15.715(n)-(q) and 27.1320 have taken effect as of June 15, 2016.

That leaves only §95.1111(d) still hanging in OMB limbo. It reads in its entirety as follows:

(d) To receive interference protection, parties operating WMTS networks on channel 37 shall notify one of the white space database administrators of their operating location pursuant to §§15.713(j)(11) and 15.715(p) of this chapter.

WMTS is the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service, which operates at a few milliwatts in TV channel 37 – a channel not used for TV, but by radio astronomers to measure the expansion of the Universe. It’s not clear what is holding up OMB approval. We’ll keep our eyes out for any further announcements on that front.