Selected New Developments in Broadband – November

Capitol Hill

As the year’s legislative calendar winds down, a large new infrastructure spending program with dedicated funding for broadband appears dead. Attention is on smaller pieces of bi-partisan legislation addressing unwanted robocalls, narrowly targeted funding for “digital dead zones,” and mapping. Targeted infrastructure funding is partly addressed by a Senate appropriations bill that devotes $690 million in fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband loan and grant programs (presumably including the ReConnect program).   Many rural interest groups have publicly called for continued funding for the program. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for November – January

Broadcast Deadlines:

October 30, 2019

Closed Captioning – Reply Comments due in response to the FCC’s Public Notice (CG Docket 05-231, DA-19-776A1) requesting comments on a Petition for Declaratory Ruling and/or Rulemaking on Live Closed Captioning Quality Metrics and the Use of Automatic Speech Recognition Technologies by Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.

November 4, 2019

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Rules and Enforcement – Reply comments are due with regard to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) requesting comments on how to improve EEO compliance and enforcement. Continue Reading

FCC Invites Comments on Request for Greater Flexibility for TV DTS Transmitters

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has invited comments on a petition filed jointly by America’s Public Television Stations (“APTS”) and the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”), requesting a relaxation of restrictions on where digital television stations may locate Distributed Transmission System (“DTS”) antennas.

Digital television technology allows a station to broadcast from multiple transmitters on the same channel without each transmitter causing interference with the others.  It is the same concept as cellular telephone systems.  To keep the signal strength strong and even throughout the service area, phone systems have lots of transmitter sites, or “cells.”  If you have only one central transmitter site, the way most TV stations now operate, the signal will become weaker the further away you get, and terrain obstacles will also result in pockets of poor service.  Multiple transmitter sites can alleviate this poor service problem. Continue Reading

COME AND GET IT! 130 FM Channels for Sale by the FCC (But You’ll Have to Pony Up a High Bid to Get One)

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has announced that on April 28, 2020, it will offer for sale at auction 130 FM channels that are currently vacant.  These are channels formerly occupied by stations that lost or cancelled their licenses, channels sold to bidders who failed to pay their bids, channels that were offered but drew no bidders, and channels that have never been opened up to applications.

You can read the FCC’s Public Notice here and view the construction permits in Auction 106 here. They are spread throughout the country, but mostly in smaller communities.  The largest market is Sacramento, CA, where applications will be accepted for the channel formerly occupied by KDND – a station that relinquished its license as part of a settlement of an FCC investigation. Continue Reading

FCC Announces Extension of Filing Deadline for LPTV/TV Translator Reimbursement

As we wrote about in August on CommLawBlog, Low Power TV (LPTV), TV Translator Stations, and FM stations intending to request reimbursement for expenses incurred as a result of the repack of full-power and Class A television stations were required to file their Initial Reimbursement Form (Form 2100, Schedule 399) by October 15, 2019. Now the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has announced in a Public Notice that the deadline to file the reimbursement forms for LPTV and TV Translator stations is pushed back from October 15 to November 14, 2019 (11:59 PM).

Please note: this only applies to LPTV/TV Translators filing reimbursement forms, not FM stations. The 11:59 PM, October 15, 2019 deadline is still in place for FM broadcast stations.

Additional details on eligibility requirements and what to include on the initial Schedule 399 are available in our August blog post.  Continue to check CommLawBlog for any announcements or changes and contact your counsel should any specific questions arise.

New Developments in Broadband – October

Capitol Hill

As the year’s legislative calendar winds down, a large new infrastructure spending program with dedicated funding for broadband appears dead.  Attention now is on smaller but important pieces of bi-partisan broadband legislation such as the Secure and Trusted Communications Act, introduced in the House of Representatives on September 24.  The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds to purchase communications equipment or services that pose a national security risk, and appropriates $1 billion for the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) to establish a $1 billion “Secure and Trusted Communications Reimbursement Program” to assist small communications providers in removing and replacing compromised equipment (so-called “rip and replace”).  Broadband mapping also continues to be a focus with a number of bills circulating in both the House and Senate. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for October – December

Broadcast Deadlines:

October 1, 2019

License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for radio stations located in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands must be filed in the Commission’s Licensing and Management System (LMS).  These applications must be accompanied by Schedule 396, the Broadcast Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program Report, also filed in LMS, regardless of the number of full-time employees. Continue Reading

Political Broadcasting Rules Q & A: Updated for 2019

With primaries in some states happening as soon as March, and the Democratic primary contest already hotly contested by a large field of candidates, the 2020 election cycle is certain to be one of the most contentious and hard-fought in recent memory – as well as one of the longest. While far more limited in scope, 2019 elections in some states, and many localities, are also rapidly approaching.  For all stations, now is the time for broadcasters to review their systems to ensure that they will comply with the Federal Communication Commission’s (“FCC”) political advertising requirements. Now that all broadcast stations are required to place political files online, it is increasingly important for all radio and television stations to ensure compliance with the political broadcasting rules – not just the substantive rules but the recordkeeping portions as well. A little advanced planning can go a long way in making this (seemingly perpetual) election season run smoothly (and, ideally, profitably) for your station. Continue Reading

Comment Deadlines Announced for Proposed LPFM Rule Changes

On August 8, we discussed changes proposed in the technical rules for Low Power FM (LPFM) stations, in an article titled “REC ‘N’ Roll in the FM Band:  LPFM Changes Proposed, NCE-FM Changes Requested.

The LPFM Proposals have now been published in the Federal Register, and comment deadlines have been announced.  Initial Comments are due October 3, 2019, with Reply Comments due November 4, 2019.

If you have any questions regarding the preparation and filing of Comments and Replies, please contact your counsel.

FCC Announces Extension of the Biennial Broadcast Ownership Report Filing Deadline

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has announced in an order published on September 17, 2019 that it will delay the filing deadline to January 31, 2020, for broadcast ownership reports (two months later than the original deadline). This applies to licensees of commercial and noncommercial AM, FM, TV, Class A, and Low Power Television (LPTV) stations, as well as entities with attributable interests in such stations. The purpose of shifting the filing window is to allow the FCC time to make the appropriate improvements to the Form 323/323-E report as it relates to the electronic filing system.  The Order also delays the opening of the window to file biennial ownership reports from October 1, 2019 to November 1, 2019.

Filers take note, the new FCC Order does not shift the required “as-of” date of the information reported on Form 323/323-E biennial ownership reports. The information reported on this form must still reflect ownership interests existing on October 1, 2019.

This order will provide filers with additional time to prepare their forms, as has been the case for past years’ filing of biennial ownership reports. If any questions arise, remember to contact your counsel.