Dates Announced for Rules Mandating Vertical Location Information in 911 Calls

On November 26, 2019, we wrote about rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to help locate callers in terms of not only the street address but also a caller’s vertical location within a multi-story building, asking “Which Door Should First Responders Kick In?”

The new rules were published in the Federal Register on January 16. Except for performance and compliance reporting requirements that are subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), the new rules will become effective on March 16, 2020. Deadlines have also been set for comments and replies on when and to what extent the 3-meter vertical accuracy requirement can be tightened and how location determination will work during electric power failures if it becomes dependent on externally powered mini-cell sites and Wi-Fi access points. Initial comments will be due February 18, 2020, with replies due March 16, 2020.

Comment Deadline Announced for “988” Suicide Hotline Proposal

On January 7, 2020, we wrote about a proposal by the FCC to establish “988” as a nationwide abbreviated telephone dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis hotline.  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has now been published in the Federal Register, establishing the deadlines for comments and replies.  Initial Comments will be due on February 14 and Reply Comments will be due on March 16, 2020.  Some may find it rather appropriate that comments on a proposal to save lives will be due on Valentine’s Day.

Monitor Your Tower Lighting or be Prepared to Pay Up – Scripps Settles with FCC to the Tune of $1.13 Million

In an order released this week, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced that Scripps Broadcasting Holdings had agreed to a $1.13 Million settlement with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to resolve violations of tower lighting monitoring rules. What makes this case especially interesting is that the party who is paying the fine and instituting a years-long compliance plan wasn’t even the party responsible for the wrongdoing! Continue Reading

Davina Sashkin Recognized by LexBlog Excellence Awards

We are proud to announce that Davina Sashkin’s CommLawBlog article “Shutdown Uncertainty: What Broadcasters Should Do Now” was awarded 1st runner up for the Best Breaking News Post of 2019 by LexBlog, the leading blog platform for the legal community. This award is given “for outstanding same-day or second-day reporting of a legal news development”. Congratulations, Davina!

Radiofrequency Exposure Limits Revised: FCC Proposes Expanding Rules to Cover Higher Frequencies

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has resolved many of the issues that it has been considering since 2013 with respect to limits on exposure of human beings to radiofrequency (“RF”) energy. An important aspect of the decision is that existing exposure limits will not be tightened. However, the environmental rules dealing with RF exposure have been significantly re-written, with more uniform criteria for exemptions from environmental assessment, more flexibility in how to establish compliance, and more specificity in required mitigation techniques in exposure risk situations. Continue Reading

FCC Sets Comments Deadline for Retransmission Consent Proposal

On January 2, 2020, we wrote about an FCC proposal to modify the present requirement for cable TV systems to give 30 days’ notice to subscribers when a program channel may be removed because of failure to agree on retransmission consent terms.

The deadlines for Comments and Reply Comments have now been announced. Initial Comments will be due February 6, 2020, with Reply Comments due February 21.

FCC Wants You to Dial 988 Before It’s Too Late: Abbreviated 3-Digit Access to Suicide Help Line Proposed

The Federal Communication Commission (“FCC”) has proposed to establish “988” as a nationwide abbreviated telephone dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis hotline. An 800 number (1-800-273-TALK) already universally connects to suicide counselors, but people facing a suicide crisis might not remember such a long number. The same hotline will remain in service, but the FCC is now proposing 3-digit dialing access. Continue Reading

Welcoming Thomas F. Urban II to Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.

Washington-area based telecommunications, media, and technology law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. is pleased to announce that Thomas F. Urban II has joined the firm as Of Counsel. Tom has experience representing clients in everything from business disputes and class action cases to RICO actions and complex mortgage fraud cases.

When it comes to education, Tom has an exceptional pedigree. He received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M where he studied Aerospace Engineering and graduated magna cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center, serving as an associate editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. After graduating from Georgetown, Tom clerked for Judge Carolyn D. King, formerly the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Continue Reading

FCC Proposes to End Radio Station Program Duplication Restrictions

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has proposed to repeal Section 73.3556 of its Rules, which prohibits two commercial AM or two commercial FM radio stations from devoting more than 25% of the hours in an average broadcast week to duplicating programming if they are commonly controlled (through either common ownership or time brokerage) and the principal city contour of one station overlaps more than 50% of the principal city contour of the other station. Broadcast of the same program on two stations within 24 hours is deemed to be duplicative. Continue Reading

Who Should Say What to Whom When Cable TV Retransmission Consent Negotiations Fail?

Retransmission consent negotiations have been coming down to the wire more and more in recent years, as broadcasters have sought to recoup more of the value they feel their signals have, and cable operators have resisted increases in their expenses. Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) rules currently require cable operators to notify both subscribers and the local franchise authority (“LFA”) 30 days before a change in services or rates. Removal of a channel because of expiration of a retransmission consent agreement falls within the scope of the rule. However, when retransmission consent negotiations continue right up to the 11th hour before an existing agreement expires, or the parties agree to extend an agreement a week or even a day at a time, there are obvious practical problems with a 30-day rule that requires notice before you know whether a channel is actually going to be removed. Continue Reading