Now Available: 2020 Politcal Broadcasting Rules Refresher

On July 30, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth attorneys, Frank Montero and Dan Kirkpatrick, along with the FCC’s political programming experts, Bobby Baker, Gary Schonman, and Sima Nilsson, discussed the requirements and latest developments in the FCC’s political broadcasting rules, including equal time, lowest unit rates, PAC ads, BCRA, and record keeping. Continue Reading

Mobile Service Providers Will Need to Provide Z-Axis Location Data

In an Order adopted July 17th, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) took another step in its mission to make the precise location of wireless emergency calls more and more granular, to help emergency responders to determine the location of a caller who is injured or held captive and unable to communicate his or her location. There are two types of technologies for automated location – a network-based system that locates a caller by comparing signals received at multiple cell sites and a handset-based system that depends on location information transmitted by the caller’s device. While these technologies are still evolving, they have advanced enough to allow the FCC to mandate implementation. The rules now in effect require horizontal locations (the x-y axes) to be identified with considerable precision (within 50 meters 67% of the time for network-based technologies and within 150 meters 90% of the time for handset technologies). More recently the FCC has trained its sights on the thornier issue of how to locate an emergency caller in a multi-story building, where knowing only the street address is not enough to find a caller quickly (a topic we covered last year). The GPS and triangulation methods that worked fine for the x-y axes fall short when multiple stories of buildings are involved. Continue Reading

127,000 More Reasons to File Proper FCC Applications When Your Company Goes Through Bankruptcy

Recently, we published an article regarding a Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Consent Decree where a company agreed to pay a $240,000 penalty for violating the FCC’s rules by engaging in transactions where FCC wireless licenses were transferred without filing for and obtaining the prior consent of the FCC. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for August – October

Broadcast Deadlines:

 August 1, 2020

Radio Post-Filing Announcements – Radio stations licensed in Illinois and Wisconsin must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications on August 1. If the renewal application is not filed until the August 3 deadline, wait until then to begin the post-filing announcements. Either way, these announcements must continue on August 16, September 1, September 16, October 1, and October 16. Once complete, a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, must be posted to the Online Public Inspection Files (OPIF) within seven days, or by October 23. Continue Reading

Safe Harbor Order Could Help Carriers Kick Robocalls to the Curb

On July 17, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released its latest Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Order”) attempting to stop unwanted and illegal robocalls. The Order creates a “safe harbor” (i.e., legal protection from liability) to protect carriers that block calls based on reasonable analytics or other permissible criteria. It also seeks to ensure that carriers do not erroneously block wanted calls. In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission broadly asks whether it should expand the scope of permissible blocking, the safe harbor for carriers that block robocalls, or the remedies available to consumers who want to receive calls that are being blocked. Continue Reading

Getting to the Bottom of the Recent Rural Health Care Funding Announcement

Last month the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) ordered the carry-forward of $198 million in Rural Health Care (RHC) funding for use in 2020.  Seems like good news, but it depends on how you look at it.  But note this action simply makes the funding available — it does not waive or increase the RHC caps for 2020.  Unless the FCC takes further action, the caps remain: $604.8 million for the overall program; $152.7 million for upfront payments, and multi-year commitments under the Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF). Continue Reading

Comment Deadlines Set for ATSC 3.0 Implementation Proposal

On June 9, we wrote that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has tried to remove a potential barrier to the deployment of the ATSC 3.0 technical standard by TV broadcasters by ruling that a broadcaster’s lease of spectrum to a third party for provision of ancillary, non-broadcast services does not trigger attribution for the FCC’s broadcast ownership rules.  The FCC also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), seeking comments on other proposals intended to enhance implementation of ATSC 3.0.

The new rules and proposals have now been published in the Federal Register, establishing  August 17, 2020, as the effective date of the new rules and deadlines of August 17, 2020, for initial Comments and August 31, 2020, for Reply Comments.

We will be happy to provide further information on request and to assist clients in preparing Comments and Replies.

FCC Revises Cable TV Leased Access Rate Formula and Appears to Invite a First Amendment Challenge

In an Order released today, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) revised the calculation of maximum permissible rates for cable TV commercial leased access by changing from a formula that sets a uniform rate for all cable tiers to a formula that will set a separate rate for each tier. The result may reduce the regulatory burdens on cable providers of calculating such rates. It is unclear if the new formula will produce higher or lower rates for particular programmers because their rate will depend on the tier on which they are carried.   In the same Order, the FCC states that its role does not include interpreting the Constitution; but several Commissioners have their doubts about the Constitutional sustainability of the leased access rules, and they appear to give their blessing to cable operators to ask the courts to strike down the leased access rules as a violation of their First Amendment rights.  Continue Reading

The FCC Designates “988” as a 3-Digit Dialing Code to Reach Suicide Hotline

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has adopted its proposal to establish “988” as a nationwide abbreviated telephone dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis hotline. “988” will replace or supplement the existing 800 number (1-800-273-TALK). The proposal was discussed in our blog post on January 7, 2020. Continue Reading

REMINDER: The Guillotine Falls On Analog LPTV One Year From Now

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has issued a Public Notice reminding analog Low Power Television (“LPTV”) licensees that all analog transmissions must cease by July 13, 2021, and that deadline will not be extended or waived. Continue Reading