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Telecom Business Alert -- Vol VI Issue 46

Date: Nov 23, 2009

FCC Establishes "Shot Clock" for Processing Wireless Tower Applications

In a Declaratory Ruling adopted last week, the FCC established timeframes of 90 days for collocations and 150 days for all other tower siting applications reviewed by state and local governments. The Commission interpreted the "reasonable period of time" provision of Section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act as requiring the 90/150 day timeframe. If a state or local jurisdiction fails to act on a tower application within this time period, applicants may seek relief in court. The decision was hailed by the wireless industry association, which claims that tower siting delays are preventing effective broadband deployment. FCC Continues Seeking Comment on National Broadband Plan Issues Last week, the FCC continued developing the record in its National Broadband Plan proceeding as it released several Public Notices seeking comment on various issues relating to the Plan, including: data portability and its relationship to broadband, a network deployment study conducted by the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information, and recommendations for additional areas of research. To date, the FCC has released approximately two dozen Notices seeking comment on the National Broadband Plan. The FCC is required under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to develop the NBP by February 17, 2010. Twenty-Six Charged in Nationwide Scheme to Defraud the Video Relay Service Program On November 19, 2009, 26 people were charged with engaging in a scheme to steal more than $50 million from the Video Relay Service ("VRS") program. VRS is an online translation service that allows people with hearing disabilities to communicate through the use of interpreters and Web cameras, at no cost to the user. The VRS program reimburses companies that provide this service, and is funded by fees assessed by telecommunications providers to telephone customers. The arrests were the result of a joint effort by the Department of Justice, the FBI, The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FCC.

FCC Seeks Comment on Role of USF and Intercarrier Compensation to Broadband Plan

The FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on its universal service and intercarrier compensation programs and whether adjustments to those programs would further the goal of universal broadband. The Public Notice revisits ongoing USF reform questions, including whether to transition the program to a numbers or connections-based methodology from the current, cumbersome, revenue-based system. The Notice also asks whether opportunities exist to use USF to advance broadband deployment. Comments are due by December 7, 2009.

NTIA and RUS Streamline Broadband Programs

The USDA's Rural Utilities Service ("RUS") and National Telecommunications and Information Administration ("NTIA") recently announced they are streamlining the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's broadband grant and loan programs by awarding the remaining funding in just one more round, instead of two rounds, to increase efficiency and better accommodate applicants. NTIA and RUS also released a Request for Information ("RFI") seeking comment on procedural and policy aspects of the RUS's Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The RFI is available online by clicking here.