What's on the agenda for policymakers.

Effective Date Announced for Revisions to Public File Requirements

On January 31, 2017, the Commission adopted a Report and Order in MB Docket No. 16-161 eliminating two public inspection file requirements: (i) the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain in their public inspection file copies of letters and emails from the public; and (ii) the requirement that cable operators maintain for public inspection the designation and location of the cable system’s principal headend. On March 24, 2017 and May 25, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) approved the Commission’s Paperwork Reduction Act (“PRA”) submissions associated with changes to the broadcaster correspondence file and cable principal headend rules adopted in the Public Inspection File Report and Order. Today, the Federal Register published OMB’s approval, and the effective date of these rule changes will be June 29, 2017.

Chairman Pai to speak at Koch-backed event

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is set to speak at an event in August put on by Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch. Chairman Pai will give remarks at the organization’s annual "Defending the Dream" summit in Richmond (VA) on Aug 19, which its website bills as a “conference is the chance for activists, staff and free market leaders to come together and learn how to be more effective advocates for freedom.” Americans for Prosperity’s free market and conservative ideology squares up with Chairman Pai’s. The FCC chairman has called for reducing regulation at the commission in favor of letting the market forces make decisions instead. Americans for Prosperity has praised the chairman’s plan.

President Trump plans to nominate Brendan Carr to fill final FCC seat and provide crucial vote to reverse net neutrality rules

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Brendan Carr, a former aide to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, to fill the final open seat at the agency and provide a crucial vote to reverse tough net neutrality rules.

Carr, currently the FCC’s general counsel, would fill a Republican slot on the commission and would be expected to support Pai’s push to roll back the regulations for online traffic. Carr’s intended nomination comes after President Trump nominated Jessica Rosenworcel, a former FCC commissioner, on June 14 to fill a Democratic seat. If the Senate confirms both nominees, as expected, the FCC would have its full complement of five commissioners and a 3-2 Republican majority. Chairman Pai praised Carr’s “distinguished record of public service” and said his expertise on wireless and public safety policy “will be a tremendous asset to the commission.”

Before becoming general counsel in January, Carr spent three years as Pai’s legal advisor for wireless, public safety and international issues. Before joining the FCC, Carr worked as a telecommunications attorney at the Wiley Rein law firm, where his clients included AT&T, Verizon Communications and USTelecom. Because he worked on Pai’s staff, Carr would be expected to back the chairman.

Michigan may consider Rivada's bid alongside FirstNet

Rivada Networks said it received the top score among three bidders to build Michigan’s statewide public safety broadband network. But that doesn’t at all mean it will beat out FirstNet for its first statewide win.

Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget recommended that the state analyze Rivada’s bid alongside FirstNet’s proposal “to determine the best value bid for the state,” the company said this morning in a release. Michigan is the second state to select a vendor for a potential alternative to FirstNet, Rivada said, following the lead of New Hampshire, which is also considering Rivada’s offering. “We are honored that our alternative plan for public safety broadband in Michigan will have the chance to be placed side-by-side with the federal government’s offering,” said Declan Ganley, Rivada’s co-CEO, in the announcement. “By putting out this RFP (request for proposal), Michigan has given its governor a real choice, as envisioned in the legislation that created FirstNet.”

T-Mobile could join a Sprint tie-up with Comcast and Charter

Reports of a potential wireless partnership between Sprint, Charter and Comcast have quieted speculation about a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. But analysts say T-Mobile could play a role in any such arrangement.

Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son struck a exclusive two-month deal to hold discussions with Charter and Comcast through July focusing on potential partnership arrangements. One such deal could include the cable companies taking an equity stake in Sprint and investing in the carrier’s network, through which they could presumably launch a branded service. But T-Mobile could join such an effort, Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research wrote in a note to investors. A model that complex would be difficult to pull off, but it could benefit all stakeholders. “Actually, the best-case scenario (for T-Mobile) would be a four-way deal; however that seems tough to get across the goal line,” Chaplin wrote. “The worst-case scenario would see a Sprint/cable deal that leaves T-Mobile out in the cold entirely; we don’t think this is the most likely outcome either. And then there are a host of scenarios in between, where T-Mobile would benefit, potentially greatly, but without the negotiating leverage that many have assumed.”

What’s at Stake in the Discussions Between Comcast, Charter and Sprint

[Commentary] Comcast and Charter are negotiating with Sprint to offer wireless services to their cable and high-speed internet customers. The real disruption may be how Sprint’s negotiations with the cable companies put a potential merger with T-Mobile USA in limbo. The parent companies of Sprint and T-Mobile, SoftBank of Japan and Deutsche Telekom of Germany, have been in negotiations to merge their American wireless companies. If Comcast and Charter are bidding for a stake in Sprint, then those Sprint and T-Mobile negotiations will be affected.

Sprint’s talks with Comcast and Charter could ramp up competition in the already ailing wireless industry

[Commentary] Sprint needs a deal. With a market value roughly equal to its $33 billion in net debt, a tie up may be the only way for Sprint to get the resources to invest enough in its network to remain competitive. A deal with cable would be bad for Sprint’s wireless competitors because it would reduce the likelihood of industry consolidation through the hoped-for merger of Sprint and T-Mobile . It also would lower the cost of offering wireless service for the two cable companies, further exacerbating wireless competition. The optimistic view is that Sprint is talking to the cable guys to get T-Mobile and its majority owner Deutsche Telekom to agree to a deal on more favorable terms.

Sprint Enters Into Exclusive Talks With Charter, Comcast On Wireless Deal

Apparently, Sprint has entered into exclusive talks with Charter Communications and Comcast as the cable companies explore a deal that could bolster their plans to offer wireless service, according to people familiar with the matter. Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son and the cable firms have entered into a two-month, exclusive agreement for discussions through late July, putting merger talks with T-Mobile US on hold. One arrangement that has been considered is for Charter and Comcast to invest in improving Sprint’s network in exchange for favorable terms to offer wireless service using the carrier’s network. Such a deal could involve the companies taking an equity stake in Sprint. The cable companies already have such a network-resale agreement with Verizon Communications, but the Sprint deal could provide much better terms. While thought to be the much less likely scenario, the talks also include the possibility for the cable companies to jointly acquire Sprint. Sprint has a market value of $32 billion and $32.6 billion of net debt.

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for July 2017 Open Meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the July Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 13, 2017:

  1. Call Authentication Trust Anchor – The Commission will consider a Notice of Inquiry that seeks comment on methods to authenticate telephone calls to further secure our telephone networks against illegal robocallers. The Notice seeks comment on implementing authentication standards for telephone calls, as well as the Commission’s role in this process and other public policy considerations. (WC Docket No. 17-97)
  2. Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls – The Commission will consider a Notice of Inquiry that explores methods by which reassigned telephone number data could be made available to callers to avoid making unwanted calls to consumers. (CG Docket No. 17-59)
  3. Protecting Consumers from Unauthorized Carrier Changes and Related Unauthorized Charges – The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking outlining steps to further curtail slamming and cramming. (CG Docket No. 17-169)
  4. Rural Call Completion - The Commission will consider a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes rule changes to better address ongoing problems in the completion of long-distance telephone calls to rural areas. The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes to (1) adopt new rural call completion requirements for covered providers, and (2) eliminate the Commission’s existing rural call completion recording, retention, and reporting rules. (WC Docket No. 13-39)
  5. Video Description – The Commission will consider a Report and Order which increases the required hours of video described programming that covered broadcast stations and MVPDs must provide to consumers. (MB Docket No. 11-43)
  6. Updating the Part 2 Equipment Authorization Program – The Commission will consider a First Report and Order that would update and amend its equipment authorization program by replacing two certification procedures with a new Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity process, codifying procedures for the electronic labeling of devices, modernizing the requirements related to the importation of electronic equipment, and incorporating up-to-date methods for equipment compliance measurements into the rules. (ET Docket No. 15-170)
  7. Radar Services in the 76-81 GHz Band – The Commission will consider a Report and Order that would address use of the 76-81 GHz band under the Part 95 rules to support a broad range of vehicular radar uses, such as collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control systems, as well as to expand the types of fixed and mobile radar operations permitted within airport environments. (ET Docket No. 15-26)
  8. Wireless Microphone Operations – The Commission will consider an Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would address licensed and unlicensed wireless microphone operations in the TV bands and various other frequency bands. (GN Docket No. 14-166; ET Docket No. 14-165)

Consumer Protection Month at the FCC

Americans are reaping the benefits of rapid and exciting changes in the ways we communicate. But many of the problems that consumers confront stubbornly remain. For too long, Americans have been plagued by unwanted and unlawful robocalls. For too long, they’ve found unauthorized charges and changes to their phone service on their bills—practices commonly known as “slamming” and “cramming.” And for too long, some phone calls that are placed to rural residents have been dropped. Efforts to excommunicate this unholy triad of consumer scourges—unlawful robocalls, slamming/cramming, and rural call completion—headline the FCC’s agenda in July. During Consumer Protection Month, we will take up several public interest initiatives to address problems that too many Americans face.