Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. X Issue 21

Date: May 20, 2013

Supreme Court Review of FCC Pole Attachment Order?

Later this week, several electric utilities are expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for review of the FCC's April 2011 Pole Attachment Order regulating for the first time attachments by ILECs (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier) to electric utility poles. Since the FCC's decision, ILECs in "FCC states" and "non-FCC states" alike have been pressing utilities to abandon longstanding joint use agreements and provide much lower attachment rates. Utilities interested in supporting this important appeal by filing Amicus Curiae ("Friend of the Court") briefs are encouraged to contact Tom Magee (magee@khlaw.com; 202.434.4128) by close of business May 31.

"We have options under the FCC's Order but complete reversal would be far better."
-Thomas Magee
Partner, Keller and Heckman LLP

"This is the electric utility industry's last shot to fix a big problem with the FCC's Pole Attachment Order."
-Keller and Heckman LLP

FCC Dismisses CII Petition for 14 GHz Band Spectrum

Last week, the FCC issued an Order denying a petition for rulemaking submitted by Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) and Winchester Cator, LLC proposing a new secondary fixed service allocation for the 14.0-14.5 GHz band to support the communications needs of critical infrastructure industry (CII) users. The Office of Engineering and Technology claimed the petition "plainly does not warrant further consideration" and denied it entirely. In denying the petition, the FCC cited the broad scope of proposed use by CII, the challenges of preventing harmful interference to incumbent services in the band, and concerns about the effectiveness of having a CII licensee operate as band manager to control CII operations. Though acknowledging that there are no "utilities-specific" bands, and such a designation is unlikely in the future, the FCC contended there are sufficient spectrum options for utilities to meet communications needs. The FCC's rhetoric and outright dismissal of this petition may create an unwelcome precedent for future efforts to obtain designated spectrum specifically for the use of electric utilities, oil and gas companies and others in the CII community. 

FCC Grants Verizon's Waiver for 700 MHz License in the Gulf of Mexico

Earlier this month, the FCC released a Memorandum Opinion & Order granting the assignment and partition of the 700 MHz C Block license to Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless (Verizon Wireless). The partition will allow Verizon Wireless to offer Long Term Evolution (LTE) signal coverage to oil and gas drilling platforms along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. As a condition of grant, Verizon agreed to submit a lease application for a qualified entity to lease the remaining 700 MHz spectrum for use offshore. The FCC also granted a waiver to permit the demonstration of build-out compliance by utilizing offshore platforms "as a proxy for population in the Gulf" for both the Shoreside and Offshore licenses. At the request of the American Petroleum Institute (API), a KH client, construction coverage will be based on coverage to all offshore platforms. This decision presents an opportunity for licensees in the Gulf of Mexico to lease additional spectrum. For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178).

FCC Hosts Workshop for Environmental Regulations

Last week, the FCC hosted an open workshop to explain the environmental regulations and procedures for communications towers. In June 2012, the FCC changed its Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) rules to require applicants to submit local and national notices for review when constructing new structures or making specified modifications to existing structures. Additionally, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires that proposed towers be reviewed for potential impact on Indian Tribal lands and religious sites as well as recognized historical properties. FCC staff emphasized that these environmental requirements continue to be an important issue, and the Commission is dedicated to ensuring licensees comply with the rules. For more information, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4296).

Complimentary K&H Webinar: Telecom Issues in the Critical Infrastructure Industries

On Wednesday, June 5, at noon Eastern Time, Keller and Heckman attorneys will host a complimentary webinar to discuss key telecom issues facing electric utilities, oil and gas companies, railroads and others in the Critical Infrastructure Industries. This webinar is the second in a series addressing current events at the FCC, and will address wireless spectrum issues, licensing and enforcement trends, network services, and cybersecurity. 

Keller and Heckman at Upcoming Industry Events

Doug Jarrett and Greg Kunkle will be making a joint presentation, "USF Contribution Rules: Reform, Revolt or Implosion" on Wednesday May 22, 2013, at the TeleStrategies' Communications Taxation ‘13 Conference at the Peabody Orlando Hotel, Florida. Contact Doug (Jarrett@khlaw.com; 202.434.4180) or Greg (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178) for more information.

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In an attempt to address in our weekly Telecom Business Alert the issues of most importance to the clients and friends of Keller and Heckman LLP, we invite you to submit suggestions on topics of interest to you. To make suggestions, please send an e-mail to TelecomAlert@khlaw.com.

Keller and Heckman LLP's Telecom Business Alert is a complimentary weekly electronic update created by the Telecommunications and the Business Counseling and Transactional practice groups of Keller and Heckman LLP.

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