Federal Communications Commission

Chairman Wheeler Responds to Letter from Rep Marchant Re: Lifeline Expansion

On March 30, Rep Kenny Marchant (R-TX) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler re: the March announcement to expand the Lifeline telephone subsidy to high-speed Internet access. Rep Marchant wrote, "Given the problems with fraud and cost increases involved in an earlier expansion to cell phone service, this new step risks wasting American consumers' money, and also remains legally tenuous."

On June 23, Chairman Wheeler replied by detailing the key programmatic reforms the Lifeline Order put in place, designed to "protect the integrity of the Lifeline program and build on the Commission's recent efforts to root our waste, fraud, and abuse in the program." To address Rep Marchant's concerns about the cost of the program, Chairman Wheeler detailed the budgeting mechanisms in the Order.

FCC Adds New Warning Codes To The Emergency Alert System

The Federal Communications Commission updated its rules so that Americans can receive more specific – and potentially life-saving – warnings through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) before extreme weather strikes.

The amended rules add three new “event codes” that can be used to warn the public about the storm surges and extreme winds that may accompany hurricanes and other severe weather events. The FCC has now added three additional codes – to signify an “Extreme Wind Warning,” “Storm Surge Watch,” and “Storm Surge Warning” – so that communities can receive more specific and relevant alerts during hurricanes or other severe weather. The updated rules require EAS equipment manufacturers to integrate the codes into new equipment and will also enable EAS participants to update their existing equipment in advance of next year’s (2017) Atlantic hurricane season.

Snapshot of Process Reform Ideas

In my two and a half years as a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, I have tried to make productive suggestions to improve the internal workings of the Commission. These efforts have never been an attempt to undermine the authority of the Chairman or the ability of the Commission majority, whoever they may be on a particular issue, to get items completed in a timely manner. Instead, this entire effort is about improving the efficiency of the Commission and increasing fairness and transparency with regard to a process that is questionable in some instances and downright objectionable in others.

The chart below outlines the 24 reform proposals that I have suggested, to date, in various blogs and Congressional testimony. Those proposals that have been adopted in whole or in part – all three of them – are in yellow. In all fairness, item number 17, pertaining to improving the circulation process, was only proposed a few weeks ago. To the extent that the public or practitioners before the Commission have additional suggestions to improve the Commission’s workings, I would be pleased to review and consider supporting them. I plan to continue to call out for the need to improve the functionality of this Commission to ensure every sound idea is given due consideration, and will add to this list as the process issues pile up.

First Meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee

The first meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee will be held on August 2, 2016; at 11:00 am in the Federal Communications Commission Meeting Room. A draft agenda of the meeting is attached. The Advisory Committee’s objective is to provide the FCC with advice, technical support and recommended proposals for the WRC-19. At its initial meeting, the Advisory Committee will consider formation of its Informal Working Groups (IWGs), assignment of WRC-19 agenda items to the IWGs, scheduling and other organizational matters. This meeting is open to the public.

FCC Confirms Agenda for July 2016 Meeting

The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting on the subjects listed below on Thursday, July 14, 2016:
Spectrum Frontiers: The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would make spectrum in bands above 24 GHz available for flexible use wireless services, including for next-generation, or 5G, networks and technologies.
Advancing Technology Transitions: The Commission will consider a Declaratory Ruling, Second Report and Order, and Order on Reconsideration that adopts a framework to guide transitions to next-generation communications technologies while protecting the interests of consumers and competition.

FCC Commissioner Pai Sends Letters to State Commissioners

Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai sent letters to commissioners at Public Utility Commissions of Oregon, Texas, and California as well as the Vermont Public Service Department. The states each run their own Lifeline accountability databases. Commissioner Pai said he is seeking their aid in “combating the waste, fraud, and abuse that has riddled the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program since wireless resellers began participating in this program.” He asks several questions about how the states run their databases. He asks for a reply by August 2, 2016.

FCC Seeks Comment On The Accessibility Of Communications Technologies

This Public Notice seeks comment on tentative findings for the 2014 Biennial Report to Congress on the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

Public comment will assist the Federal Communications Commission in assessing the following: (1) the level of compliance with the CVAA’s mandates requiring telecommunications and advanced communications services and equipment to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; (2) the effect of related recordkeeping and enforcement obligations; and (3) the extent to which accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new communications technologies.

The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will submit the final Report to Congress by October 8, 2014. Interested parties may file comments on or before September 11, 2014.

Request for Comment on Petition Filed by Sprint Corporation Regarding Access to the Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Service Numbering Directory

On January 16, 2014, Sprint filed a petition requesting a limited waiver of the Federal Communications Commission’s rule that restricts access to the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) Numbering Directory to the TRS Numbering Administrator and Internet-based TRS providers.

Specifically, Sprint requests a waiver of this rule to allow Sprint, as a provider of Federal Relay services, to load telephone numbers for its federal video relay service (VRS), including “front door” toll-free numbers and ten-digit numbers into the TRS Numbering Directory.

Sprint asserts that, because these numbers are not currently in the TRS Numbering Directory, federal employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and have been assigned a Federal VRS number are unable to make point-to point video calls to other deaf or hard-of-hearing federal employees.

Sprint further asserts that permitting these “front door” toll-free numbers and ten-digit numbers into the database will allow deaf and hard-of-hearing federal employees to make point-to-point video calls, increase the ability of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to reach federal employees, and reduce the number of calls that must be supported by the Interstate TRS Fund.

The FCC invites interested parties to file comments on the Sprint petition within by Sept 8, 2014 and to file reply comments no later Sept 18, 2014.

FCC Requests Additional Information from Charter in Comcast/Time Warner Cable Review

On August 21, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission sent Charter Communications a request for information and data with respect to the applications for transfer of control of certain licenses that the company filed on June 4, 2014. Now, the FCC asks that Charter provide additional written responses and supporting documentation for each request listed below:

Describe in detail Charter’s plans to migrate subscribers acquired as a result of the proposed divestiture transactions, including but not limited to:
a projected timeline for the transition of all the acquired customers;

  • any plans for relevant services and devices necessary to access the services to be offered to the acquired subscribers;
  • any plans for the acquired customers to retain their current service plans and if so, the length of time the acquired customers may remain enrolled under their existing service plans;
  • the features and services accessible from each device that will be offered to acquired customers;
  • any services or features that an acquired subscriber received from its previous provider that it will not be able to obtain from the Company after the consummation of the proposed the proposed divestiture transactions, and plans to introduce that lost service or otherwise compensate the subscriber; and
  • all documents discussing customer migration and transition of the acquired customers to the Company.

For the proposed divestiture transactions, provide: (i) a timetable for each transaction, a description of all actions that must be taken prior to consummation of each transaction, and any harm that will result if the transactions are not consummated; and (ii) a description of any other terms or conditions of the transactions that are not reflected in the transaction agreements between the parties.

The FCC requested responses no later than September 11, 2014.

[Lake is Chief, FCC Media Bureau]

[MB Docket No. 14-57]

T-Mobile USA Forfeiture Order Concerning Hearing Aid-Compatible Handsets

Although the Federal Communications Commission’s wireless hearing aid compatibility rules have been in place for nearly a decade, T-Mobile USA failed to provide the minimum number of hearing aid-compatible handset models required under the rules during calendar years 2009 and 2010.

To that end, the FCC imposes a penalty of $819,000 against T-Mobile, for failing to offer to consumers the required number of hearing aid-compatible digital wireless handset models for nearly two years.