Telecom Business Alert – Net Neutrality & Municipal Broadband, FirstNet, CII TCPA Request, FCC Goes Green, Pole Attachment and Emergency Communications Webinars, Vol XII, Issue 9

Date: Mar 02, 2015

Title: Net Neutrality & Municipal Broadband, FirstNet, CII TCPA Request, FCC Goes Green, Pole Attachment and Emergency Communications Webinars

Net Neutrality

Last week the FCC adopted its widely- anticipated Net Neutrality rules: no blocking (broadband providers may not block access to legal content), no throttling (providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic), and no paid prioritization (providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration).  In adopting these rules,  the FCC reclassified high speed Internet access service (broadband) as a ”telecommunications service”  subject to Title II of the Communications Act.  In taking this step, the FCC exercised its statutory authority to forbear (refrain from) applying 27 provisions of Title II and more than 700 associated regulations. However, all terms of broadband service to end-users and edge providers (web sites, e-commerce sites and search engines, among others) and interconnection arrangements that permit the exchange of traffic between and among Internet networks are now subject to FCC review under the “just and reasonable” standard of Title II of the Communications Act.  The major ISPs (Verizon, AT&T (as wireline and wireless providers), the cable industry and many small ISPs had voiced strong opposition to Title II regulation. Some or all of these entities are expected to seek judicial review of the FCC’s Order. A bill has been introduced in Congress to codify the basic net neutrality rules, but would prohibit the FCC from regulating broadband as a telecommunications service.  The text of the FCC’s Order has not yet been released.  For more information, please contact Doug Jarrett (Jarrett@khlaw.com; 202.434.4180). 

Municipal Broadband

During the same Agenda Meeting, the Commission also granted petitions to preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevented municipal broadband providers Electric Power Board (EBP) in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the City of Wilson, North Carolina from expanding their broadband networks and service beyond their authorized service areas.  Tennessee law allows municipal electric systems to provide telecommunications services anywhere in the state, but limits provision of Internet and cable services to the electrical system footprint.  North Carolina state law imposes conditions that precluded Wilson from expanding broadband into neighboring counties.  The FCC’s decision found these laws to be in conflict the provisions of the Communications Act that directs the FCC to remove barriers to broadband investment and competition.  For more information, please contact Doug Jarrett (Jarrett@khlaw.com; 202.434.4180). 

FirstNet to Define Public Safety

At a conference last week, a FirstNet spokeswoman said that FirstNet plans to issue a public notice in the near future to further explore the definition of a “public safety” entities eligible to access FirstNet’s public safety broadband network on a primary basis.  FirstNet has proposed a broad legal definition that would include electric utilities, oil and gas companies and other critical infrastructure entities under certain circumstances.  This will be the second opportunity for critical infrastructure entities to comment on FirstNet’s definition of a public safety user.  In October, more than 65 companies, associations, and government entities filed comments largely supporting FirstNet’s proposed definition.  See, Vol XI, Issue 44.  Please contact Al Catalano (catalano@khlaw.com; 202.434.4207) with questions.

TCPA Petition from Critical Infrastructure

Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) petition for expedited declaratory ruling filed jointly by the Edison Electric Institute and American Gas Association.  The TCPA prohibits certain autodialed or prerecorded/artificial voice calls made without prior express consent.  The joint petition requests the FCC to confirm that, under the TCPA, a customer that provides a telephone number to an energy utility has provided prior express consent to receive non-telemarketing, informational calls related to the customer’s utility service.  This is one of many petitions that have been filed with the FCC requesting clarification on various provisions of the TCPA. Comments are due March 26th and Reply Comments by April 10th. Please contact Tracy Marshall (marshall@khlaw.com; 202.434.4234) with questions.

FCC Goes Green - Part IV 

As noted in previously alerts, the FCC announced its implementation of its "paperless" enhancements to the Uniform Licensing System (ULS) and Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system.  As part of the new enhancements the FCC has started emailing electronic notices of granted applications that link directly to the official license. Applicants are still able to update their preferences to continue receiving hard-copies of licenses if they prefer.  

Complimentary Webinars: Pole Attachments and Emergency Communications

Keller and Heckman will be hosting two complimentary webinars on March 10th and March 12th.  At 1:00 EDT on March 10th, attorney Tom Magee will discuss a recent, favorable decision from the FCC clarifying rates for ILECs attaching to joint use poles and the impact of the FCC’s “Net Neutrality” decision on pole attachment rights and obligations.  Please click here to register for this 30-minute webinar.  At 1:30 p.m. EDT on March 12th, Al Catalano will be joined by Rear Admiral Ronald Hewitt, USCG (Ret.), Director, Office of Emergency Communications, DHS to discuss the critical role of the nation’s utilities in national security and with FirstNet.  Please click here to register.  

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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 © 2015.  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.