Assessing the Benefits of the $100 Million Connected Care Pilot Program

The Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or “Commission”) Wireline Bureau on September 3, 2020, released a Public Notice providing additional information regarding the upcoming $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program. You will recall that the Commission launched the pilot in April – joining it together in the same order approving the COVID-19 Telehealth Program (FCC 20-44). The Public Notice largely re-states the general outlines of the new pilot program: what is and is not eligible, who is eligible, and the overall purposes of the program. The Public Notice also notes the application process is not likely to begin before November 2020, but suggests interested applicants can and should begin preparing now. Thus, while the Commission awaits final Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) approval for the actual application form, the just-released Public Notice provides a good overview of what a successful application process will likely need to include. Continue Reading

FCC Releases Guidance on Filing Requests for Waiver, Reduction, Deferral, and Installment Payment Plans for 2020 Regulatory Fees – the Bar Is Still High but FCC Has Streamlined and Loosened Some Requirements

On September 4, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission released a Public Notice laying out the procedures governing the filing of requests for waiver, reduction, deferral, and installment payment plans for the 2020 regulatory fees.  As we explained yesterday in our blog post regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or the “Commission”) Report and Order announcing the 2020 regulatory fee methodologies, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic the Commission has streamlined its procedures for requests for relief due to financial hardship. Unfortunately, while filing for relief is easier, it appears that the bar remains high in order for regulatees to receive relief from their regulatory fee obligations. On the other hand, the Commission has lowered the bar for getting an installment plan and has waived the usual 10% down payment requirement. Continue Reading

Selected New Developments in Broadband

Capitol Hill

Negotiations on a second large COVID-19 relief legislation effectively broke down August 7. While the President responded with several stop-gap executive actions, both parties seem to recognize relief legislation is urgently needed and there is speculation that some kind of deal will be cut by mid-September. In the meantime, with the Senate technically still in session, new broadband-related bills continue to be introduced. Bi-partisan bills, such as this one (introduced in early August) sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), which would allocate another $400 million to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth program, have a reasonable chance of being part of a last-minute relief package. Continue Reading

FCC Announces 2020 Regulatory Fees Calculation, No Widespread Forgiveness for COVID-19 Pandemic

On August 31, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) released its Report and Order (Order) establishing new methodologies for calculating 2020 annual regulatory fees, which are due September 25, 2020. In the Order, the FCC flatly rejected arguments by the National Association of Broadcasters and others that the FCC’s new calculation methodology (which will result in a 2-4% increase for most broadcasters) was flawed. But, while the FCC did not grant any widespread relief from payment of regulatory fees, it did implement several measures to soften the economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to this year’s regulatory fee payments. Continue Reading

FCC Moves to Add New Fees (and Lower the Cost of Others)

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing the first major overhaul of FCC application fees in 30 years. Licensees (and hopeful licensees) should take heed: while certain fees are proposed to be lowered, many are proposed to increase, some by a substantial amount. Of particular interest are numerous new fees proposed for certain applications that, until now, have had no associated filing fees. Continue Reading

Upcoming FCC Broadcast and Telecom Deadlines for September – November

Broadcast Deadlines:

September 4, 2020

Improving Low Power FM Radio Rules – Comments are due in response to two petitions for reconsideration in MB Dockets 19-193 and 17-105, filed by Foundation for a Beautiful Life and Todd Urick et al.

September 14, 2020

Improving Low Power FM Radio Rules – Reply Comments are due in response to two petitions for reconsideration in MB Dockets 19-193 and 17-105, filed by Foundation for a Beautiful Life and Todd Urick et al. Continue Reading

So Much for Civility at the FCC

You thought the Republican and Democratic conventions were nasty? Long festering rancor between Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel broke out into volleys of open epithets and acid-laced sarcasm this week. Strangely, the eruption of hostilities, as in real life, originated over something relatively unimportant: an innocuous draft of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing to set FCC application fees — hardly the ideological stuff that normally pushes rule-makers to the point of verbal fisticuffs. It seems that Commissioner Rosenworcel objected to a single one of the hundreds of fees that are proposed in the NPRM, the proposal to raise the fee for filing formal consumer complaints from $235 to $540. In her dissenting statement, she characterized the Commission’s proposal as “crazy,” “shameful,” and showing “wild disregard” for financially insecure consumers who might want to file such a complaint. Wow. We’ve seen the Commission take actions that harm millions of consumers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars without so much as a whimper of outrage, much less an accusation of insanity. Continue Reading

FCC Repeals Radio Duplication Prohibitions

On Thursday, August 6, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted to repeal Section 73.3556 of its Rules and Regulations – a rule that formerly prohibited more than 25% duplication of programming by commonly owned radio stations in the same service (AM or FM) that have 50% or more overlap of their primary service contours. Continue Reading

FCC Establishes Procedures for Auction of C-Band Spectrum – Auction to Begin on December 8, 2020

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) released a Public Notice that establishes the procedures for Auction 107, which will make available spectrum in the lower portion of the C-Band, at 3.7-3.98 GHz.   The auction will be for new flexible-use overlay licenses, intended primarily to further the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other advanced spectrum-based services. The bidding for these spanking-new licenses is scheduled to commence on December 8, 2020. Short-form applications must be filed in a window between September 9 and September 22, 2020, and upfront payments will be due by November 2, 2020. Continue Reading

O’Rielly Re-nomination Dismissed

In a rare move this week, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly – a Republican – had his re-nomination to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) rescinded by President Trump. O’Rielly’s re-nomination first stalled last week when Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, put it on hold over objections to an FCC decision allowing wireless communications firm Ligado Networks access to L-band spectrum. It seems in this case that O’Rielly’s priority of advancing U.S. 5G capability, which he elaborated on in a letter to President Trump in April, was at loggerheads with the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) fear of GPS interference. Some have also speculated that O’Rielly’s questioning of the recent Executive Order to regulate social media companies’ ability to block harmful posts and accounts was a reason for his dismissal. Continue Reading