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Practice Area

Telecommunications

Ethernet Cables
©2021 Keller and Heckman LLP

Keller and Heckman’s Telecommunications practice represents major domestic and multinational companies, start-ups, associations, cooperatives, municipalities, and other government entities on a wide range of regulatory, administrative, legislative, and judicial matters involving wireless communications, broadband and telecommunication services, and infrastructure. Working regularly with engineering, financial, and other specialists, we help our clients formulate and implement comprehensive telecommunications plans, develop advanced communications systems, deploy new technologies, and comply with all pertinent federal, state, and local legal requirements. 

Wireless

Keller and Heckman counsels clients on fixed, mobile, and broadband wireless matters. We represent clients on wireless policy matters before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and other regulatory agencies. Our advocacy efforts on behalf of major trade organizations and other clients include meetings with policy makers and drafting comments in regulatory proceedings. 

Keller and Heckman is a leader in counseling clients acquiring wireless spectrum through spectrum leasing, purchase and sale of licenses, license partitions, dis-aggregations, and FCC auctions. We help clients through each step of the process, including identifying available spectrum, drafting and negotiating spectrum leasing and asset purchase arrangements, and securing regulatory authority for the acquisition. We assist clients with spectrum acquisition for all FCC’s wireless frequency allocations, including the 220 MHz band, AMTS (217/219 MHz), VHF/UHF Part 22 Paging, the 1.4 GHz band, Part 90 land mobile channels, 900 MHz, the 2.5 GHz EBS/BRS band, and the 700 MHz band. 

Our attorneys are experts in wireless licensing and compliance issues facing spectrum users. We help our critical infrastructure clients secure and modify station authorizations, assign and transfer control of licenses, obtain rule waivers, and with other licensing matters pertaining to wireless systems and satellite earth station facilities. Keller and Heckman attorneys and licensing specialists work extensively with FCC staff to develop creative responses to meet the needs and requirements of our wireless clients. Our expertise includes a comprehensive understanding of FCC, FAA, and state tower regulation and registration requirements and procedures.

We advise equipment manufacturers on - FCC’s equipment authorization requirements and counsel clients on strategies for dealing with non-conforming equipment. We also represent equipment manufacturers and innovative retailers in obtaining experimental licenses from FCC to test new wireless technologies in real-world operating environments.

We also engage with Keller and Heckman’s Privacy, Data Security, and Digital Media practice attorneys in advising clients on developing, marketing, and deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technology. 

Pole Attachments

Keller and Heckman advocates vigorously for its investor-owned, cooperative, and municipal electric utility clients on all matters pertaining to the attachment of wireline and wireless communications facilities to electric distribution poles, conduits, and rights-of-way. We draft and negotiate pole attachment and joint use agreements, calculate and defend pole attachment and joint use rental rates, and help utilities understand and comply with complex and ever-changing federal and state pole attachment and joint use regulations. We develop workable, business-oriented strategies to enable utility clients to maximize annual pole attachment rentals and other fees, to operate pole plant more efficiently, to safeguard distribution assets, and to protect against potential liabilities. We negotiate and, where necessary, litigate the resolution of countless disputes concerning make-ready costs, safety violations, unauthorized attachments, annual rental rates, and other terms and conditions of access. For decades, Keller and Heckman has been, and continues to be, a leading and vigorous advocate for utility pole owners in litigation, rulemaking and legislative proceedings before the FCC, state commissions, federal and state courts, the U.S. Congress, and state legislatures.

Policymaking

We counsel clients in rulemaking, regulatory, and legislative proceedings involving major wireless and wireline policies and procedures. Keller and Heckman attorneys have decades of experience in policy matters, representing clients before the FCC, Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, and the Rural Utilities Service. We advocate for our clients’ interests ranging from spectrum allocations and technical and licensing standards to broadband funding and market entry and infrastructure access issues. 

We also are involved in state and local proceedings, including representation before state legislatures, public service commissions, and other state and local government entities regarding pole attachment and infrastructure access matters, wireless siting, and broadband deployment ordinances and franchises. In addition, Keller and Heckman advises clients on federal and state legislation, international treaties, and other policy-related matters.

Community Broadband Initiatives

Having participated in scores of site-specific community broadband initiatives, including many of the most prominent ones in America, we have unparalleled expertise in the legal issues involved in all stages of such initiatives, from inception to construction to ongoing operation, and everything in between. We also have deep experience with the legal and political issues surrounding the ability of public and cooperative entities to provide or facilitate the provision of communications services. For the last two decades, we have participated in almost every federal and state legislative and judicial battle over the authority of public entities to participate in public communications projects. We have also been a leading voice in refuting misinformation about community broadband initiatives disseminated by established communications service providers and their supporters. For example, Jim Baller is the president of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, a consortium of more than 600 public and private organizations and individuals that works to preserve and protect local decision-making in critical broadband infrastructure and related matters.

Public-Private Partnerships

Keller and Heckman has deep and extensive experience in the development and negotiation of a wide range of broadband partnerships. This includes public-public, public-private, and private-private partnerships at the state, regional, and local levels. We have also coauthored major papers, including “Public Infrastructure/Private Service: A Shared-Risk Partnership Model For the 21st Century Broadband Infrastructure,” and “The Emerging World of Broadband Public–Private Partnerships: A Business Strategy and Legal Guide.”

Telecommunications Infrastructure

Keller and Heckman’s Telecommunications practice attorneys have led the wireless infrastructure industry on legislative and regulatory policy matters and provide clients with unique insights and expertise into local zoning challenges associated with wireless telecommunications infrastructure siting. 

Our attorneys represent telecommunications infrastructure companies that design, construct, and operate dark fiber networks and macro and small cell sites. We assist these clients in drafting and negotiating dark fiber agreements (IRUs and leases), cell site leases, and combination dark fiber/cell site deployments with the major wireless carriers. 

In assisting clients with proposed transactions, we focus on core risks such as the viability of existing easements, rights-of-way and franchise agreements, and the timely recovery of expended capital. Our goal is to frame agreements and negotiation strategies to meet client objectives, minimizing their financial risks, and balance all other risks and opportunities consistent with industry practices. 

We provide guidance on state wireless siting laws and assist clients in drafting and negotiating wireless siting ordinances and wireless cell tower and small cell siting attachment agreements. Infrastructure clients appreciate Keller and Heckman’s well-rounded expertise on FCC, FAA, and state tower regulation, federal and state pole attachment regulation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tower safety matters, and environmental liability issues pertaining to back-up power facilities and developed and undeveloped real estate. 

Regulation of Broadband and Telecommunications Service Providers

Keller and Heckman counsels a range of service providers on regulatory and compliance matters. Based on the nature of the client’s services, technology, and business objectives, we assess the applicable federal, state, local or international telecommunications and broadband compliance obligations and outline and implement a comprehensive regulatory compliance strategy for our clients. More particularly, we advise on market entry obligations (Section 214 and state commission certificates of public convenience and necessity), wireless licenses, and ongoing compliance obligations, such as CALEA, Universal Service Fund registration and contribution obligations, broadband service reporting, and various “consumer facing regulations.” These include the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Communications and Video Accessibility Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Customer Proprietary Network Information, and network transparency obligations.

We counsel our broadband clients on federal and state support programs for rural areas and low-income subscribers, including FCC’s auction-based High Cost programs (such as the CAF II and RDOF auctions), E-rate, telemedicine and Lifeline programs, support programs offered through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), and broadband accessibility and infrastructure support programs being implemented under recently enacted COVID-19 pandemic response legislation.

FCC Enforcement

We counsel clients on compliance with obligations under the Communications Act and related FCC regulations with the goal to minimize FCC enforcement action. Clients engage Keller and Heckman to assist with all aspects of enforcement proceedings, including responding to FCC Letters of Inquiry (LOI), dealing with monetary forfeitures, and handling license revocation proceedings. 

Our attorneys advise clients on enforcement-related proceedings across a host of FCC-related rules, including wireless spectrum, communications towers, pole attachments, Universal Service Fund, 911 reliability rules, Network Outage Reporting, and others. Keller and Heckman assists clients in creating and implementing compliance plans to ensure ongoing compliance with the agency’s rules. In addition, we counsel clients on implications of potential rule violations and advise clients seeking to file complaints with the Commission alleging rule violations by third parties.

Enterprise Services and Specialized Broadband Services Agreements 

Keller and Heckman represents enterprise customers in negotiating Wide Area Network agreements with the major domestic and international carriers, wireless agreements with domestic mobile service providers, including wireless requirements associated with M2M/IoT requirements and in-building Distributed Antenna System (DAS) arrangements.

Keller and Heckman attorneys work with in-house counsel, enterprise procurement groups, and leading telecom consultants in representing major enterprises securing the voice, data, Internet access and related management and network security services procurements, advising on the legal elements of RFPs, implementing the agreed-upon business terms, and revising the carriers’ one-sided agreements to better reflect and balance the business and legal risks.

Keller and Heckman represents MDU developers and owners, typically in connection with leading consultants, in negotiating and (re)drafting access, and marketing and bulk services agreements with the major cable and broadband services providers, principally in urban areas throughout the United States.

Representative Matters

  • Represented clients in nearly every significant wireless rulemaking proceeding at FCC, including representing prospective broadband users regarding the substantive rules and bidding procedures for the 2020 CBRS auction (Auction 105) and 896-901/935-940 MHz band incumbents in proposing protections for the realignment of the 900 MHz band
  • Vigorously advocated for coalitions of investor-owned utility clients in nearly every significant pole attachment rulemaking proceeding at FCC, including a prominent group of IOUs for several matters in ongoing WC Docket No. 17-84 
  • In multiple states during the last several years, achieved favorable pole attachment regulations and legislation for electric cooperative statewide associations and for investor-owned utilities. 
  • Represented a major trade association in the highly contested FCC proceedings adopting the rules and polices governing the CAF II and RDOF Phase 1 reverse auctions
  • Represented a major utility trade association and large urban county in the appeal of FCC’s Small Cell Wireless Order before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, City of Portland vs. United States, 969 F.3d 1020 (9th Cir. 2020)
  • Assisted a mid-size capital city in successfully developing, negotiating, and implementing a complex, innovative wireless right-of-way siting ordinance that ultimately had the support of both the wireless industry and the civic association 
  • Brought successful petitions to FCC on behalf of two public power utilities to preempt state laws that posed barriers to municipal broadband initiatives (FCC decision subsequently overturned for lack of preemptive authority)
  • Developed and negotiated hundreds of individual contracts involving pole, duct, and conduit attachments, tower siting, rights-of-way, interconnection and collocation agreements, and dark and lit fiber leases. 
  • Represented electric utility trade associations before FCC in matters involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and FCC’s TCPA regulations
  • Represented developer of major convention center and associated residential and business high rises in negotiating agreements with wireless carriers for accessing the in-building DAS and broadband and cable providers offering fixed broadband and video services 

Partner

Senior Counsel

Michael T. N. Fitch
Senior Counsel
C. Douglas Jarrett
Senior Counsel

Associate

Jason P. Chun
Associate
Timothy A. Doughty
Associate
Kathleen Slattery Thompson
Associate

Paralegal

Jaimy “Sindy” Alarcon
Paralegal

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