Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. X Issue 13

Date: Mar 25, 2013

Inside Washington: Leadership Changes at the FCC

Last week, Commissioner McDowell announced he would be leaving the FCC without finishing his term. Just days later, Chairman Genachowski announced he also will be stepping down from leadership of the FCC. These departures leave the White House with one Republican and one Democrat position to fill. Many believe McDowell and Genachowski replacements will be nominated together to smooth the confirmation process on Capitol Hill. Both McDowell and Genachowski plan to leave the Commission in the next few weeks. While many in the industry have already started speculating who will be nominated to fill these leadership positions, the White House has not yet released any information.

Spectrum Auction Tentatively Set for September 2014

Last week, FCC Chairman Genachowski sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration ("NTIA") advising that the FCC intends to commence the auction of licenses in the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands as early as September 2014. The FCC is required by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 to allocate this spectrum for commercial use and license the spectrum by February 2015 and was required to notify NTIA at least 18 months in advance of any spectrum auction. NTIA will now prepare the estimated costs and timeline for relocating and sharing the spectrum and notify the FCC at least six months prior to the start of the auction. 

Estimated Cost of Clearing T-Band for Auction Approaches $6 Billion

Earlier this month, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council ("NPSTC") released a report estimating that it will cost $6 billion or more to relocate existing public safety licensees of T-Band spectrum to replacement bands. These cost estimates do not include Industrial/Business licensees also operating systems on T-Band spectrum which would require additional relocation funding if they were required to move as well. Last year, the FCC suspended the acceptance and processing of applications for licenses in the T-Band (470-512 MHz) (Vol IX, Issue 18). This report follows the FCC Public Notice released last month seeking comment on its process for reclaiming and auctioning this spectrum. (Shorten) Comments must be filed by May 11 and Reply Comments are due June 11. Please contact Greg Kunkle (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178) with questions.

Entities Seeks Narrowbanding Equipment Waivers

Last week, the Washington State Patrol requested a waiver from the FCC to continue to buy equipment capable of operating in both a 12.5 kHz and 25 kHz mode as it transitions to a narrowband system. Last December, the FCC granted Patrol's request to continue operating a wideband system until August 1, 2013. However, the FCC's rules prohibit licensees and equipment manufacturers from manufacturing or importing wideband-capable equipment even if the equipment is suitable for narrowband operations. In addition to the Patrol's request, Motorola Solutions also filed a request to waive this rule and enable companies to manufacture and import wideband equipment for sale to entities that, like the Patrol, received waivers of the narrowbanding deadline. The FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on Motorola's request in December but it remains pending. For more information on the Patrol or Motorola waivers, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4296).

FCC Issues NPRM on Reliability of Communications Infrastructure Nationwide

Last week, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on ways to improve the reliability and resiliency of 9-1-1 service and the wireless and wireline carrier infrastructure nationwide. The NPRM requests comments on the best ways to ensure service providers conduct periodic audits of 9-1-1 links, maintain adequate central office backup power, such as generators and battery backup systems, and implement reliable network monitoring systems. These proposals are based on recommendations contained in the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau's January 2013 Derecho Report identifying the impact of last year's Derecho storm and the severe disruptions in 9-1-1 related communications. The FCC presented four approaches for implementing these changes: 1) imposing reporting requirements on carriers, 2) require carriers to certify compliance with the best practices, 3) impose substantive requirements or 4) conduct compliance reviews and investigations. Comments in response to the NPRM are due 30 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due 45 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register. 

K&H Attorneys at ENTELEC and Other Industry Events

Keller and Heckman LLP attorneys Doug Jarrett, Greg Kunkle and Wes Wright will be attending the ENTELEC 2013 Conference and Expo in Houston, TX, April 9-11. Keller and Heckman is sponsoring a Continental Breakfast at 8 AM on Thursday, April 11, immediately followed by the annual Washington Report Roundtable moderated by Keller and Heckman and featuring Mr. Jarrett, Mr. Kunkle and Mr. Wright. As part of the Washington Report, they will discuss in "Q&A" format the latest FCC activities and telecom legislation affecting the energy industry. 

On April 1, 2013, KH attorneys Greg Kunkle and Wes Wright will be hosting a session at ShaleComm on Licensing and Regulations: Federal and Local Laws for your Sites. Please contact Greg (202.434.4178; kunkle@khlaw.com) or Wes (202.434.4296; wright@khlaw.com) with questions.

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