Telecom Business Alert – Joint Use Rate Disputes, New FCC Draft Orders, EA Petition Dismissal, and a new USF Strike Force. Vol XI Issue 29

Date: Jul 21, 2014

Joint Use Rate Disputes Heat-Up

 In the wake of the FCC’s controversial Pole Attachment Order in April 2011, disputes between electric utilities and ILECs regarding joint use attachment rates are being litigated at the Commission, in state and federal courts, and at state PSCs. Each side is interpreting the new FCC rules differently, and problems have arisen in applying the rules in practice. Compounding the problem is the proclivity of one ILEC in particular to “short pay” its existing invoices under current joint use agreements.  For additional information, please contact Tom Magee (magee@khlaw.com; 202-434-4128).

Draft Orders on Towers and Text-to-911

At the FCC’s August 8th Open Meeting, the Commission is streamline and update its rules governing the construction, marking, and lighting of antenna structures.  Among other changes, the Commission reportedly will allow antenna structure owners to report lighting outages by any means acceptable to the FAA rather than by “telephone or telegraph.”  At the same meeting, following up on its Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in January, the Commission is expected to require all wireless carriers and interconnected, over-the-top text providers to be capable of deploying text-to-911 service by the end of the year.  Under the new rules, text providers and carriers would have six months after a PSAP requests text-to-911 service to provide text-to-911 service.  Please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4239) with questions.

Dispute Over Environmental Assessment

Last week the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau dismissed Global Tower LLC’s Petition for Reconsideration of a decision requiring it to submit an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a new 255 foot antenna tower in Pennsylvania.  During the national environmental review process, the Spectrum & Competition Policy Division granted a commenter’s request for further environmental review of the structure based on concerns about the alleged impact on nearby wetlands and drinking water.  Global argued there was no factual basis for requiring an EA in this case and, in fact, it was unnecessary.  Global also pointed out that a federal court and local officials already had signed-off on the construction.  The Bureau dismissed Global’s Petition, finding that an EA may be required under the circumstances as part of the Application process. 

USF Strike Force

On July 14 FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the creation of a Strike Force under the oversight of the Enforcement Bureau to root out fraud and waste in the Universal Service Fund (USF) program.  The Strike Force will investigate violations of the Communications Act, the Commission’s rules, and other laws bearing on USF contributions and other aspects of the program.  Loyaan Egal, a new addition to the FCC, will head the Strike Force.  Mr. Egal previously served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of New York and the District of Columbia and is the second federal prosecutor to join the FCC staff this month (See the July 14 KH Telecom Alert).  For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (Kunkle@khlaw.com; 202-434-4178).

Next KH Webinar:  Signal Boosters

On July 29 from Noon– 12:45 p.m. (EST), Keller and Heckman partners Doug Jarrett and Greg Kunkle will present a webinar titled, FCC Signal Booster Rules and Challenges.  This webinar will review the major decisions, implementation challenges, and outstanding issues in the FCC's signal booster rules adopted in 2013, as well as the business and legal realities facing enterprises and property owners seeking property-wide wireless reception. 

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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.