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Telecom Business Alert -- VOL. XI ISSUE 1

Date: Jan 06, 2014

A Look Back At Our 2013 Predictions

In early 2013, the Telecom Practice Group at Keller and Heckman LLP made some predictions for the upcoming year at the FCC.  Below, we repeat our predictions and “grade” them based on what actually happened this past year.  Next week, we will post our predictions for 2014!

2013 Prediction:  “Broadband will drive FCC policy making.  The Net Neutrality Order will be overturned on appeal.  The current USF contribution rules and carrier transition to all-IP networks will progressively erode the USF contribution base.”  GRADE:  True.  Commercial wireless and wireline broadband were the FCC’s principal focus.  The D.C. Circuit may rule shortly on Verizon’s appeal of the Net Neutrality Order with Verizon expected to prevail, and the USF Contribution Factor is now above 16%. – Doug Jarrett, Partner

2013 Prediction:  “The D.C. Circuit’s pole attachment rules will generate a lot of activity, either good or bad for utilities depending on how the issues are decided.”  GRADE:  True.  With the D.C. Circuit decision and the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari, attachers and ILEC pole owners have become more aggressive.  But how disputes will be resolved through negotiation and by the courts and FCC remains uncertain. – Tom Magee, Partner

2013 Prediction:  "Expect the FCC to finally authorize the use of ‘TV White Spaces' throughout the U.S. sometime in 2013. These license-exempt devices could eventually satisfy requirements for VHF fixed uses, particularly in more remote areas."  GRADE:  The first part of this prediction came true on March 1, 2013, when the FCC authorized nationwide operation of TV White Space devices.  It remains to be seen whether these devices will become a significant tool for users. – Greg Kunkle, Partner 

2013 Prediction:  "As Congress continues to debate cybersecurity legislation, look for an Executive Order from the White House addressing the issues in early 2013, possibly this month."  GRADE:  True.  The White House issued an Executive Order, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, in February 2013.  Since then, NIST has worked with stakeholders to develop a voluntary Framework for reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure, and is expected to release a final Framework next month.  New cybersecurity legislation was also introduced last year. – Tracy Marshall, Partner

2013 Prediction:  "In light of the significant turnover in PLMRS equipment attributable to narrowbanding and 800 MHz rebanding, Part 90 licensees and equipment manufacturers should carefully consider state e-waste and Federal battery recycling requirements with regard to replaced equipment."  GRADE:  Somewhat true.  Many of those who swapped equipment took these rules and regulations into account.  Compliance with e-waste and battery recycling will remain an obligation in 2014 and beyond.

2013 Prediction:  “Though the narrowbanding deadline is in the rearview mirror, I expect 2013 to include a host of narrowbanding cleanup issues.  For example, licensees may encounter interference issues as new narrowband systems are coordinated adjacent to wideband systems that ignored narrowbanding altogether.”  GRADE:  This prediction did not come to pass as, surprisingly, we saw very few interference complaints due to failures to narrowband.  However, the FCC issued a Public Notice last March clarifying that frequency coordinators should treat incumbent wideband-only licenses as 12.5 kilohertz systems.  The 2013 prediction may prove accurate in 2014. 

2013 Prediction:  "The narrowbanding focus will shift from the FCC's Wireless Bureau to the Enforcement Bureau in 2013. I expect the Enforcement Bureau to issue Letters of Inquiry and fine licensees that did not narrowband their licenses by the end of 2012."  GRADE:  Turns out, this prediction was premature.  Enforcement of the narrowbanding deadline has yet to begin in earnest.  The FCC was expected to announce an Enforcement Bureau point of contact for interference complaints and begin a license audit, but that has not yet occurred. 

2013 Prediction:  “It is an open question whether DISH will succeed in partnering with an established wireless carrier to offer terrestrial broadband service utilizing the 40 MHz of AWS-4 satellite spectrum that the FCC recently assigned to DISH.”  GRADE:  The question remains.  After having its offers to purchase Clearwire and Sprint beat by maneuverings by SoftBank, DISH enters 2014 still looking for a partner to help it utilize its AWS-4 spectrum. 

2013 Prediction:  “The FCC’s application processing time likely will remain elevated throughout the first quarter as frequency coordinators and the FCC work through a backlog of applications submitted right before the narrowbanding deadline.”  GRADE:  This prediction turned out to be very conservative, as we saw the effects of narrowbanding slowing processing speed through most of the year.  Just when things seemed to get back to normal, the government shutdown created a new backlog of applications at the Commission. – Tim Doughty, FCC/FAA Licensing Specialist 

2013 Prediction:  “In 2012, the FCC revised its tower registration rules.  As tower owners plan construction projects in 2013, they need to factor in the extended time it will take to secure an ASR from the FCC.”  GRADE:  This proved to be accurate, as we have seen longer processing times to complete all the necessary environmental requirements for securing an ASR. 

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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.  All articles, videos, and quotations are on topics of general interest and do not constitute legal advice for particularized facts.  Keller and Heckman LLP's Telecom Business Alert © 2013.  All rights reserved.  Articles may be copied with attribution.  To sign up for our weekly alert, please send us an email at TelecomAlert@khlaw.com and provide us with your name and email.