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Telecom Business Alert -- Drones, Narrowbanding Renewals, Cell Phones on Planes -- Vol XI Issue 10

Date: Mar 10, 2014

FAA Commercial Drone Ban Overruled

On March 5, a National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge overruled a $10,000 fine issued by the FAA to a drone operator who was filming a commercial for the University of Virginia.  The ALJ ruled that the FAA policy advisory used as the basis of the ban was not enforceable as it did not go through the proper rulemaking process.  On Friday March 7, the FAA announced it appealed the ruling to the full NTSB and that the appeal acted as an immediate stay on the decision.  For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (Kunkle@khlaw.com; 202-434-4178).

FCC Guidance for Post-Narrowbanding Renewals

Last Tuesday, the FCC issued guidance on how the FCC will manage the renewal application process to ensure that Private Land Mobile Radio systems on assignments in the 150-174 MHz and 421-470 MHz spectrum bands are narrowband compliant.  The basic narrowband requirement is that all licensees of systems in these bands must operate on 12.5 kHz channels or the equivalent, unless granted a waiver.  A licensee who has not yet certified its licenses are narrowband compliant must certify in its renewal application and provide an explanation that includes the equipment’s FCC ID number.  Licenses that list wideband emission designators should be modified to remove the wideband designators to prevent dismissal of a renewal application.  For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (Kunkle@khlaw.com; 202-434-4178).

Cell Phones on Planes

On February 24, the Department of Transportation issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a proposal to restrict or prohibit voice calls on flights to, from, or within the United States.  The DOT proposal comes in response to the FCC’s controversial proposal to allow mobile devices to access cellular networks on planes.  The DOT, under its consumer protection power, seeks comment on a proposed prohibition on voice calls.  DOT also seeks comment on the feasibility of an onboard quiet zone as well as time restrictions on voice calls (e.g., no calls at night).  Comments on the ANPRM are due March 26, 2014.  

New Acting Chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau

On March 4, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the appointment of Travis LeBlanc as Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau.  Mr. LeBlanc previously served in the Office of the California Attorney General where he led its high-tech crime and privacy enforcement units, suggesting the FCC will maintain its aggressive approach on enforcement matters.  For more information, please contact Doug Jarrett (Jarrett@khlaw.com; 202-434-4180).

Upcoming K&H Webinar - “Know Your Tower ABCs”

With the increased focus on communications towers, Keller and Heckman LLP attorneys will hold a complimentary one-hour roundtable on April 17, 2014 (“Know Your Tower ABCs:  FAA, ASR, NEPA, FCC, SHPO, TCNS, OSHA”) to discuss the many regulatory obligations associated with construction, operation, and maintenance of antenna towers.  In addition to a multitude of FCC, FAA, and EPA requirements, the webinar will consider OSHA’s recent focus on employers who build, own, and maintain communications towers.  Webinar participants are encouraged to submit requests for topics to be discussed during the one-hour session.  To sign up or submit topic requests, please click here.

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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.  Please follow us on twitter at @KHtelecom.