EAS and WEA National Tests Scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20; ETRS Form 1 due Aug. 27

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the FCC have announced Thursday, Sept. 20 at 2:20 p.m. EDT as the scheduled date and time for this year’s annual nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). (Note that unlike the past two years, the scheduling date is on a Thursday, not a Wednesday as some may be accustomed.)

Immediately preceding the EAS national test, FEMA this year will also conduct a test of the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, which delivers emergency alerts to cell phones and other wireless devices.  All wireless providers who have opted to participate in the WEA will be required to participate in this first national test of that system.  Although EAS participants do not need to take any additional action because of the WEA system test, users should be aware that all WEA-capable wireless devices in the nation will receive a test message at 2:18 on Sept. 20.

As with previous nationwide testing of the EAS, participants should file their ETRS Form 1 providing information about their EAS equipment, this year by Aug. 27, in advance of the national test. On Sept. 20, the FCC will expect participants to monitor their equipment and file a “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 by the end of the day on Sept. 20.  As in past years, Form 2 will simply require the EAS participant to certify whether it received and retransmitted the national test message.

Based on our previous experiences with EAS testing, we would expect that there will be some congestion in the ETRS system after the test, so you should probably be prepared to spend some time completing your filings.

Finally, all EAS participants will also be required to file a post-test ETRS Form 3 on or before Nov. 5. Form 3 will require participants to identify the specific times at which they received and retransmitted the test message, the source(s) from which they received the test message (including which source it was received from first), the language in which the message was received and retransmitted, and any complications they experienced.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the EAS or WEA National Tests or ETRS systems and filings.

FCC Streamlines Pole Attachment Rules to Promote Broadband Deployment

On Aug. 3 the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling which streamlined pole attachment procedures and preempted state and local laws regulations, and policies imposing a moratoria on telecommunications deployment. The FCC’s actions seek to speed the process and reduce costs associated with new utility pole attachments to facilitate broadband deployment across the country. So let’s break this all down for you.

Report and Order

In the Report and Order, the FCC implemented new rules streamlining the attachment of telecommunications equipment on utility poles – a process referred to as “make ready.” Specifically, for simple wireline pole attachments in the communications space of utility poles (i.e., the middle section of most poles), the FCC implemented new procedures referred to as “one-touch make ready” (OTMR), whereby new attachers move existing attachments and perform all other make ready work required for new attachments. The new procedures for OTMR attachments also speed up the approval and installation timelines for new attachments covered by the OTMR policy by: 1) reducing the approval timeframe for new OTMR attachments from 45 to 15 days; and 2) encouraging new attachers to complete all work within one trip – as opposed to the former 60-day make ready timeframe for wireline equipment in the communications space of utility poles.

The FCC’s OTMR procedures, however, do not apply to “complex” make ready work (i.e., work requiring relocation of existing equipment and work reasonably likely to lead to service outages) and new attachments to be installed above the communications space of poles – including small cell pole-top attachments necessary for 5G deployment. Nevertheless, the FCC adopted new policies for new attachments ineligible for the OTMR process that shorten the deployment timeline for affected equipment. For example, the FCC reduced the make ready timeframe for non-OTMR attachments in the communications space from 60 to 30 days, and shortened the make ready period for non-OTMR attachments above the communications space (e.g., small cell pole-top attachments) from 90 to 60 days. The new policies, however, do not appear to address directly the installation of distributed antenna systems (DAS) – which are installed in the generally unusable pole sections below the communications space – as the FCC otherwise declined to adopt a blanket ban on the installation of such devices in the “unusable spaces” of utility poles.

Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Telecom and Broadcast Deadlines August 2018

Do you know what FCC telecom and broadcast deadlines are approaching? We do. Time to mark up your calendars so you’re not late on these important deadlines. Call FHH at (703) 812-0400 if you have trouble meeting these deadlines or need assistance.

Telecom Deadlines:

August 3, 2018 – Quarterly 911 Live Call Data Reports – Nationwide CMRS providers must report aggregate live call data collected for the preceding quarter.

Biannual 911 Live Call Data Reports – Non-Nationwide CMRS providers must report aggregated live call data for the preceding quarter.

Indoor 911 Call Location Accuracy Second Progress Report – All CMRS providers must submit their first progress reports on the implementation of indoor 911 call location accuracy requirements.

NEAD Privacy and Security Plan  Nationwide CMRS providers must develop and submit a detailed NEAD Privacy and Security Plan with their Second Progress Reports.

August 14, 2018 – Quarterly PIU Reporting and Certification – Prepaid calling card providers (PCCPs) must report the percentage of interstate use (PIU) factors and associated call volumes to carriers that provide them with transport services.  Additionally, PCCPs must file traffic information and a certification signed by a company officer stating that the provider is in compliance with the FCC’s PIU and USF reporting requirements.

Broadcast Deadlines:

August 1, 2018  EEO Public File Reports – All radio and television stations with five or more full-time employees located in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin must upload the reports to the online public file. For all stations with websites, the report must be posted there as well. Per announced FCC policy, the reporting period may end ten days before the report is due, and the reporting period for the next year will begin on the following day.

EEO Mid-Term Reports – All television stations located in California with five or more full-time employees must electronically file a mid-term EEO report on FCC Form 397, with the last two EEO public file reports attached.

August 6, 2018 – FM Translator Interference Complaint Rules – Comments are due in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (MB Docket 18-119) requesting comments on a proposal to streamline the rules on interference caused by FM translators and to expedite the translator complaint resolution process.

FCC Adopts Uniform Formal Complaint Procedural Rules

After decades of handling formal complaints using no less than three different sets of rules, the FCC has finally adopted uniform procedures that generally apply to all formal complaints filed with the Commission. Alongside Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr praised the measure to get formal complaints all under one roof. However, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said that the measure was “bonkers” because in her view, the new rules impose barriers that inhibit consumers from being able to file complains about their carriers. News outlets have jumped on this bandwagon, mischaracterizing the new procedures as requiring all customers to pay a new fee just to file complaints against their carriers. Contrary to what you may have read, consumers can still file informal complaints through the FCC’s online complaint portal without paying anything, and companies must respond to informal complaints within 30 days using the FCC’s clunky web interface, which is completely intuitive and user friendly in a Rube Goldberg-esq sort of way, but without the fun and entertainment factor. The new rules only apply to formal complaints filed with the FCC, and the FCC’s informal complaint procedures remain unchanged.

But first, a little history lesson is in order before we dive into the details of the new rules: The FCC’s first complaint rules were adopted in 1978 to handle pole attachment complaints, which did not provide procedures for, among other things: joint statements, discovery, or status conferences. Then, in 1997, the FCC adopted rules for formal complaints filed under Section 208 of the Communications Act, which are generally complaints against common carriers. The FCC modified its Section 208 formal complaint rules in 2001 regarding procedures related to answers, replies, and supplemental damages complaints. Finally, in 2011, the FCC adopted rules governing formal complaints filed under Sections 255, 717, and 718 of the Act regarding violations of the FCC’s disability access rules. The FCC’s disability access complaint rules were pretty similar to the rules for Section 208 complaints, but without the ability to speed things up through the accelerated docket procedures.

The FCC decided to use its existing Section 208 complaint rules as a model for its uniform formal complaint procedural rules. Here some highlights of the new rules: Continue Reading

FCC Announces Comment Deadline for Proposed New Kid Vid Rules

We wrote on July 5 that the FCC released a Draft NPRM intended to significantly relax the Kid Vid rules. The Commission officially adopted the NPRM at its July meeting on July 12. The Commission’s Media Bureau has now announced that comments will be due for the Children’s Television Programming NPRM on Sept. 24 and reply comment will be due by Oct. 23.

D.C. Circuit Upholds FCC Reinstatement of UHF Discount

The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today dismissed challenges to the FCC’s April 2017 decision to reinstate the UHF Discount. That discount allows broadcast television station owners to count only 50 percent of households served by UHF stations when calculating a station’s compliance with the FCC’s national ownership cap, which limits the number of households that any one station owner may reach. The discount is critical to certain large ownership groups’ compliance with the national cap and their opportunities for further expansion.

In 2016, under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, the Commission eliminated the cap based largely on the fact that the original technical reasons for the discount (i.e., the technical disadvantages of analog UHF stations compared to VHF stations) had disappeared with the transition to digital television broadcasting, where most operators find UHF frequencies to be superior. When current Chairman Ajit Pai took over leadership of the Commission, he acted to reinstate the discount pending a more comprehensive review of all aspects of the national ownership cap. Appeals were quickly filed, including requests for a stay of the effectiveness of the reinstatement. Continue Reading

FCC Announces the Next Step in Licensing Next Generation TV

When the FCC released its Next Gen TV Report and Order in November 2017, we wrote about how this authorized television broadcasters to use the “Next Generation” broadcast television transmission standard (also known as ATSC 3.0) on a voluntary, market-driven basis. The rules from that Order became effective on February 2, 2018, except for the rule sections 73.3801, 73.6029, and 74.782 which required approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) because they contain information collection requirements. These rules covered core issues such as coverage and simulcasting requirements, and the FCC application process. However, yesterday the FCC announced that OMB has signed off on the rules, effective as of July 17.

For broadcasters eager to jump into Next Generation TV (not the Star Trek franchise), the FCC also announced that the Media Bureau is in the process of making changes to its Licensing and Management System (LMS) to accommodate ATSC 3.0 license applications, and that completion of such changes is expected to begin in early 2019. The Bureau is not yet accepting applications for ATSC 3.0 licenses, but it will issue a public notice announcing when it will start accepting applications for such licenses. In the meantime, the Media Bureau will continue to consider applications filed using the experimental licensing rules for ATSC 3.0 market trials and product development.

If you have questions about the Next Generation TV rules, please call us at 703-812-0400.

FCC 2018 Application Fee Schedule Announced

On July 10, the FCC released an Order on adjustments to the application fees that the Commission collects from applicants. The Commission is required to adjust these fees every two years to keep pace with the changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  This year’s application fees will go up by 3.7 percent in response to increases in the CPI from October 2015 to October 2017. The Order also reiterates the Commission’s goal of moving to electronic payments as opposed to payments by mail, and notes that it will continue to require electronic payment for additional categories of applications.

The new fees won’t kick in until 30 days after the FCC’s order shows up in the Federal Register. In other words, you’ve got some time to prepare and file applications and still take advantage of the current fee schedule. Check back here for updates about the effective date of the new fees.

Comment Deadline Announced for FM Class C4 Inquiry

Photo courtesy of the Creative Commons Licence

We wrote on June 10 that the FCC has launched a Notice of Inquiry looking toward the creation of a new “C4” class of FM broadcast station in areas outside the Northeast and Southern California, with an effective radiated power (ERP) limit of 12 kW.  These stations would have more power than Class A stations, which are limited to 6 kW, but less than Class C3 stations, which may operate with up to 25 kW.

The FCC has now announced that comments will be due Aug. 13 and reply comments will be due Sept. 10.

ETRS Form One Due Aug. 27 for All EAS Participants

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announced today that all EAS participants (which includes most broadcasters and cable and DBS operators) must complete their 2018 ETRS Form One on or before Aug. 27.

The substance of Form One in ETRS is essentially the same as last year and requests identifying information on a participant’s location, its EAS equipment and monitoring assignments, and contact information for EAS purposes. Form One requires each EAS participant to file a separate Form One for each EAS decoder, EAS encoder, or unit combining such decoder and encoder functions.  Forms can be submitted on a station-by-station basis or on a “batch filing” basis for certain commonly-owned stations. Again, all Form Ones must be filed by no later than Aug. 27.

The ETRS system, as it did last year, requires use of an FCC Username obtained from the Commission’s CORES systems. For a review of how to get such a username if you don’t have one, check in on our post from last year here.

If you have any questions about the CORES or ETRS systems, or the national EAS test, please contact us at 703-812-0400.