Telecom Business Alert -- Vol VII Issue 44

Date: Nov 08, 2010

GOP Victories Will Shift Congressional Priorities on Telecommunications Policy

Rick Boucher (D-Va), current Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, was defeated by Republican Morgan Griffith last week. Boucher was first elected to the House in 1982 and his defeat is seen as bad news for rural telecommunications companies who supported his efforts to overhaul the Universal Service Fund. Other issues that may suffer in light of the new GOP majority include the FCC's Net Neutrality rulemaking, as many Republicans oppose FCC regulation of the Internet. Industry analysts agree that legislation supporting net neutrality principles is unlikely. In addition, Republicans are expected to prioritize deficit reduction and may view spectrum increasingly as a revenue source. Senator Rockefeller's proposal to allocate the 700 MHz D-Block to Public Safety will be one issue the Republican-controlled House Commerce Committee will address. Congress could seek a higher cut of any TV channel incentive auction revenue for the Treasury with less money going to broadcasters. Finally a Communications Act overhaul may be offered. The ranking Republican member on the Subcommittee, Cliff Stearns (Fla), called the Act "obsolete," said it has become outdated amid today's rapidly changing technology sector and indicated that he would like to hold hearings in early 2011 to rewrite the Act for the 21st Century. For more information, please contact Doug Jarrett (202.434.4180; jarrett@khlaw.com).

Coalition of Concerned Utilities' Comments Blast FCC Pole Attachment Order

In comments filed last week, Keller and Heckman's client the Coalition of Concerned Utilities [Allegheny Power, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Dayton Power and Light Co., FirstEnergy Corp., National Grid, NSTAR, PPL Electric Utilities, South Dakota Electric Utilities and Wisconsin Public Service Company] supported comments filed by other electric utilities criticizing the FCC's recent pole attachment order. The Coalition argued that the FCC's Order is too reliant on the staff recommendations in the pole attachment section of the National Broadband Plan, which was so "one-sided that [it] cannot reliably form the basis for any unilateral actions by the Commission, let alone ones that potentially impact the safe and efficient operation of electric utility distribution systems across the country." The Coalition's comments went on to argue that "the Commission's staff did not even pretend to be objective," as the agency cited 38 comments filed by attachers and only two filed by utilities to support its proposals. A copy of the comments is available here. For an article in Communications Daily, a leading trade publication for the telecommunications industry, discussing the Coalition's comments, click here [reprinted with permission of Warren Publishing]. For more information, please contact Tom Magee (202.434.4128; magee@khlwa.com).

FCC Narrowband Migration Deadlines Reminder

Beginning January 1, 2011, the Commission no longer will accept applications for new wideband 25 kHz operations (i.e., operating with only one voice path per 25 kHz of spectrum) or modifications of existing wideband 25 kHz stations that expand the authorized interference contour in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz bands. By January 1, 2013, Industrial/Business and Public Safety Radio Pool licensees in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz bands must operate on 12.5 kHz or narrower channels or employ a technology that achieves the narrowband equivalent of one channel per 12.5 kHz of channel bandwidth (voice) or 4800 bits per second per 6.25 kHz (data). Licensees that do not meet the January 1, 2013 narrowband requirements may be subject to enforcement action, including monetary forfeitures and/or license cancellation. Please contact Wes Wright (202.434.4296; wright@khlaw.com) with narrowbanding questions.

FCC Incentive Spectrum Auction Proposal Headlines Open Meeting Agenda

At the Commission's November 30th Open Meeting, it will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to lay the groundwork for incentive spectrum auctions. Under the proposal, incumbent licensees, such as TV broadcasters, would be able voluntarily to auction their spectrum through the FCC in exchange for a share of the auction proceeds. The Commission will also consider a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on ways to accelerate the opportunistic use of underdeveloped spectrum in both the licensed and unlicensed bands. The Open Meeting Public Notice is available here.

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