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Telecom Alert: Keller and Heckman LLP’s Telecommunications Practice Group New Year Predictions [Vol. XXI, Issue 1]

Broadband partnerships of all kinds, shapes, and sizes will continue to surge in 2024, as stakeholders come to understand the many benefits of well-structured partnerships and the significant incentives to engage in them built into BEAD and other public and private funding opportunities.  Jim Baller, Partner

The FCC’s December 15 Pole Attachment Order will generate additional activity on many fronts, and communications providers will seek to leverage the new enforcement rules to gain unfavorable and unwarranted concessions from utility pole owners.  Tom Magee, Partner

While the last two years have focused on putting the processes in place for the allocation of BEAD and other broadband funding, 2024 will be the year in which much of this funding actually gets awarded, creating an unprecedented need to get deals and agreements in place for everything from pole and infrastructure access to dark fiber leases and network operating agreements.  At the same time, don’t be surprised to see large cable operators and other incumbent ISPs ratchetting up efforts to hamper and impede community broadband networks and public-private partnerships that threaten the status quo.  Sean Stokes, Partner

The adoption of Private LTE and 5G systems will surge in 2024 across a variety of industries.  Expect demand in the spectrum market to shift towards bands capable of faster and more reliable data transmission, which will positively impact the buyer-side of transactions for narrower bandwidths.  Greg Kunkle, Partner

Congress will allow the Affordable Connectivity Program to lapse.  A surprising number of providers will help fill the gap by voluntarily providing a similar benefit, but not enough to avoid real pain for consumers and service providers who depend on it.  The BEAD program gets complicated.  Following its reclassification of BIAS as a Title II telecommunications service, the FCC launches a crucial universal service contribution reform rulemaking.  The prospect of a wholesale revamp of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gains steam.  Casey Lide, Partner

In a hotly contested election year, the Democrat-controlled FCC will be active on many fronts, including continuing its Net Neutrality push.  I expect the opposite on Capitol Hill.  Hope springs eternal that the 911 SAVES Act and NG911 Funding legislation can be enacted in early 2024, but as the year proceeds and election draws nearer it is less likely Congress will focus on legislation.  Wes Wright, Partner

I expect to see Anterix clear incumbent 900 MHz broadband licensees from more markets and continue offering spectrum to utilities for pLTE deployments.  Utilities should consider creative funding models if they want to obtain 900 MHz spectrum or competing pLTE spectrum offerings.  I’ll be closely watching to see if Dish follows through with its purchase of T-Mobile’s 800 MHz band spectrum by April.   Tim Doughty, Partner

We will likely see more investigations from the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau aimed at wireless communications tower construction, so licensees and tower owners should be diligent to ensure compliance with the applicable rules.   Liam Fulling, Associate

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