Selected New Developments in Broadband – January

Capitol Hill

Although President Trump criticized the final $900 billion COVID-relief legislative package (containing both COVID-relief and an omnibus spending bill that averted a government shutdown) for providing too little financial relief to Americans and too much wasteful spending, on December 27 he signed the package into law. Continue Reading

Davina Sashkin Elected Co-Managing Member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth

Washington, DC – Telecommunications, media, and technology law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. (FHH) is pleased to announce that Davina Sashkin has been elected to serve as as Co-Managing Member of the Firm effective January 1. 2021. Ms. Sashkin joins current Co-Managing Members Matthew H. McCormick and Dan A. Kirkpatrick in overseeing the Firm’s strategic vision and day-to-day operations. She will continue to serve in her role as Chair of the Firm’s Marketing Committee. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for January – March

Broadcast Deadlines:

January 30, 2021

Children’s Television Programming Reports – Each commercial TV and Class A television station must electronically file its annual Children’s Television Programming Report, on FCC Form 2100 Schedule H, to report on programming aired by the station and other efforts in 2020 that were specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children.

Commercial Compliance Certifications – Each commercial TV and Class A television station must post to its Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) a certification (or certifications) of compliance during 2020 with the statutory limits on commercial time during children’s programming. The certification(s) should cover both the primary programming stream and all subchannels aired by the station. Continue Reading

FCC Takes Step Forward to Establishment of Rip and Replace Program

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) took a significant step forward this month in concretizing its program for extirpating equipment from the country’s communications networks that poses a threat to national security. The Commission’s Order in large part implements the objectives of the Secure and Trusted Networks Act of 2019 (the “Secure Networks Act”) and fills in some of the blanks left by the statute. There are a few notable quirks, however.

Background on the “Rip and Replace” Program

In general, the Secure Networks Act and the FCC’s rules are intended to remove from America’s communications networks equipment that has been determined to constitute a threat to the security of communications. The Secure Networks Act prohibits the use of Universal Service Fund (“USF”) support to purchase “covered” communications equipment or services. It also directs the FCC to establish a reimbursement program for costs incurred by Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (“ETCs”) – carriers determined to be eligible to receive USF support – to remove and replace covered equipment and services. The determinations regarding the equipment covered by this ban are made by a group of federal security agencies including the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the National Intelligence Director. These initial determinations, to no one’s surprise, included Chinese manufacturers Huawei, ZTE, and a handful of other Chinese companies. The roster of suspect (“covered”) equipment can change over time as new threats are detected. The federal government is already removing this equipment from its own networks, but there is still a large amount of equipment being used in privately owned telecom networks. The problem affects smaller carriers disproportionally since smaller carriers were enticed by the low prices and attractive financing offered by the Chinese companies. Continue Reading

Enforcement Bureau Cracks Down on Properties Allowing Pirate Radio 

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Enforcement Bureau released three Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting to multiple New York City-based property managers for housing an unlicensed radio broadcasting operation. In conjunction with the notices, the FCC issued an Order – without the typical notice and comment procedures – implementing the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act (“PIRATE Act”) and specifying the new elements of this enforcement regime.   Continue Reading

Now Available: NETA Webinar Series

Over the last few weeks, attorneys Bob Winteringham, Dan Kirkpatrick, and Frank Montero have presented a series of compliance webinars for the National Education Telecommunications Association  as a part of their course entitled “Navigating Common Compliance Matter,” which covered important compliance topics for broadcast stations.  

Those webinar topics include:

  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting compliance
  • Navigating the Online Public File
  • Equal Employment Opportunity compliance
  • Underwriting Rules
  • How to Design a Compliance Program

These are extremely helpful educational videos for any public media organization. You can enroll for the free course and watch the webinars here.

Selected New Developments in Broadband – December

Capitol Hill

What will happen in broadband under a Biden Administration is at the top of everyone’s agenda. While we expect a large infrastructure/stimulus package (to include broadband) in the first 100 days, precise details are yet to emerge.

Turning to the lame duck session, emergency broadband funding as part of COVID relief and/or the government funding bill remains possible. Also, on November 24, 2020 two Republican Congressman introduced the Enabling Extra Time to Extend Network Deployment (EXTEND) Act that would allow unexpended CARES Act funding to be utilized by states for broadband connectivity. We have previously highlighted the bi-partisan Internet Exchange Act of 2019 (sponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)) which would create a grant program administered by NTIA to build or expand internet exchange facilities in areas where either one or none exist. The bill also would enable E-Rate and Rural Telehealth Program USF funds to be used for connection to exchange facilities. The bill was marked up in Committee on November 18. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for December – February

December 1, 2020

Radio License Renewal Applications Due – Applications for renewal of license for radio stations located in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota must be filed in the 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. Under the new public notice rules, radio stations filing renewal applications must begin broadcasts of their post-filing announcements concerning their license renewal applications between the date the application is accepted for filing and five business days thereafter and must continue for a period of four weeks. Once complete, a certification of broadcast, with a copy of the announcement’s text, must be posted to the Online Public Inspection File (OPIF) within seven days. Continue Reading

FCC Restructures Intelligent Transportation System Rules

On November 19, the FCC issued a Report and Order for which the Wi-Fi community can be justly grateful at their Thanksgiving celebrations. For some years the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) has been concerned that the potential for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in the 5.85 – 5.925 band has never panned out.  The automobile manufacturing and public safety communities had touted the ability of this band to provide inter-vehicle and vehicle-infrastructure communications which would significantly improve vehicle safety and traffic management.  The band was therefore allocated for use on a licensed basis for DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) about 20 years ago.  Despite the continued suggestions by the industry that wide-spread rollout of in-care devices that could put the technology to use was imminent, the DSRC plane has continually taxied along the runway at low speed but never taken off.  With Wi-Fi proponents clamoring, as always, for more and more midband spectrum for unlicensed use, the FCC finally decided that a change was needed. Continue Reading

31st Annual FCBA Charity Auction Begins November 10

The following is a message from the Federal Communications Bar Association (“FCBA”):

It’s that time again – on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the FCBA Young Lawyers Committee and the FCBA Foundation will hold their 31st Annual FCBA Charity Auction virtually this year. While the event is still free and open to the public, unlike prior years, this year you can attend from behind your computer screen. Below are a few quick Q&A’s to get you prepared for what to expect: Continue Reading