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Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. VII Issue 4

Date: Jan 25, 2010

House Subcommittee Approves Radio Spectrum Inventory Act

The House of Representatives Communications Subcommittee approved H.R. 3125 the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act ("H.R. 3125") last week. (Vol VI, Issue 27). The bill requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration ("NTIA") and FCC to identify federal and non-federal licensees of wireless spectrum from 225 MHz to 3.7 GHz and to estimate the number of repeaters, transmitters and end users operating in each band. The agencies also would be required to compile a publicly-available centralized database with this information and provide spectrum reallocation recommendations to Congress within two years. Much of the data for systems licensed under Parts 90 and 101 of the Commission's rules are currently available within the FCC's licensing database ULS. As this information is collected, the Commission may propose to reallocate certain bands, perhaps including portions of the spectrum allocated for broadcast television and previously auctioned bands that are currently unused. NTIA may recommend reallocating to or sharing with non-Federal users some of the spectrum currently available solely to the Federal Government. H.R. 3125 is awaiting approval by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Proponents of H.R. 3125 indicate the bill may receive final approval from the full House as early as next month. Similar legislation is pending before the Senate Commerce Committee.

NTIA and RUS Announce Procedure for Final Round of Broadband Funding

NTIA and the USDA's Rural Utilities Service ("RUS") recently announced the commencement of the second and final round of funding – totaling $4.8 billion in grants and loans – to support expanded broadband access and adoption throughout the country. The funds were allocated to the agencies under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. On July 1, 2009, NTIA and RUS issued a joint Notice of Funds Availability ("NOFA") soliciting applications for approximately $4 billion in funds. (Vol VI, Issue 26). Initial grant recipients were announced in December. (Vol VI, Issue 50). Each agency issued a NOFA earlier this month for the second and final round of funding. NTIA will make more than $2.3 billion available for infrastructure projects and plans to prioritize projects that provide middle mile broadband service and connect key community anchor institutions, such as libraries, hospitals, and public safety institutions. RUS plans to distribute $2.2 billion to fund last-mile projects in rural areas, including $100 million in funding for satellite broadband projects. Funding awarded by RUS will be divided between grants (approximately 75%) and loans (25%), though applicants providing service in difficult to serve areas may receive a grant for more than 75% of the project. The agencies will hold a series of workshops over the next several weeks and will accept applications for this second round of funding from February 16 through March 15, 2010.

FCC Enforcement Bureau Continues to Penalize Rule Violators

The FCC's Enforcement Bureau continues to penalize licensees and tower owners for various infractions of the Commission's rules and policies. For example, last week the Commission issued a Forfeiture Order in the amount of $4,000 to a tower owner for failing to exhibit the required medium intensity obstruction lighting and failing to immediately notify the FCC upon a change in ownership of the structure. For more information about the Commission's enforcement procedures, common enforcement actions and recommended steps to promote compliance with the Commission's rules, please see Keller and Heckman LLP's Special Enforcement Alert.

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for February 11th Open Meeting

The Commission released a tentative agenda for its February 11, 2010 Open Meeting. The agenda, available here, includes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reform the ex parte rules and improve the transparency and effectiveness of the FCC's decision-making process and an update on the status of the National Broadband Plan.

Keller and Heckman LLP Continues Twitter Service

Receive regular updates on telecommunications law and policy developments throughout the week via Keller and Heckman LLP's Twitter account at http://twitter.com/KHTelecom.