Photo of Tracy Marshall

Lawsuits- class actions in particular- alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. § 227 (“TCPA”) are on the rise.  The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has also been actively engaged in TCPA enforcement, and just last month released a Declaratory Ruling clarifying that sellers may be held vicariously liable for TCPA

Photo of Douglas Jarrett

Several matters before the FCC could have substantial dollar and technology impacts for enterprise customers.  The FCC’s special access services and USF contribution reform proceedings could significantly affect pricing for enterprise services, beginning sometime in 2014.  A more open-ended proceeding focuses on whether the FCC will move aggressively in granting AT&T’s wish list included in its proposal to convert its local telephone networks to all-IP platforms.

One matter that should be addressed this year is the appeal of the FCC’s Open Internet Order currently pending before the D.C. Circuit.  Because this is such a prominent matter, we believe the non-prevailing parties likely will petition the Supreme Court for review.

FCC Taking a Fresh Look at Special Access Services.  In an earlier entry, we highlighted the FCC’s reassessment of the interstate special access services market.  Subsequently, the FCC released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, setting out a comprehensive data request to  price cap ILECs and other services providers to determine the extent of competition among providers of special access services, principally, DS-1, DS-3 and Ethernet special access services.  Ethernet service broadly is undergoing rapid growth.  The FCC is taking a direct approach to determine whether special access rates are competitively priced.

We propose to perform a one-time, multi-faceted market analysis of the special access market designed to determine where and when special access prices are just and reasonable, and whether our current special access regulations help or hinder this desired outcome. We do not propose to conduct a simple market share or market concentration analysis.  Rather, we will use the data we are collecting in this Report and Order to identify measures of actual and potential competition that are good predictors of competitive behavior, for example, by demonstrating that prices tend to decline with increases in the intensity of various competition measures, holding other things constant.  In undertaking that analysis we will consider evidence as to what leads firms, including competitive providers, to undertake infrastructure investments.

Clearly, a fresh look at the special access services market (data for years 2010 and 2012 are being requested) is warranted.

Two points merit further note.  First, the FCC is seeking comment on whether Internet access service is a competitive alternative to special access services.  Hopefully, the FCC will conclude the services are not substitutes.  Internet access service is not an “access service,” rather it is part and parcel of an end-to-end best efforts shared transport and information access and retrieval service.  Special access is basic transport between defined physical locations.  Second, the FCC is requesting comment on the “Petition to Reverse Forbearance Determinations,” filed late last year by an enterprise customer group, Sprint and several interexchange carriers that requests the FCC to reverse decisions issued prior to 2010 in which the FCC elected to forbear from (i) imposing certain Computer Inquiry requirements on the price cap ILECs, and (ii) regulating non-TDM based special access services offered by price cap ILECs, particularly Ethernet services.

Continue Reading

Photo of Douglas Jarrett

Based on developments in 2012 and continuing this year, it is clear that the major carriers will have the necessary spectrum to offer more robust wireless broadband services for years to come.  In addition to spectrum acquisitions, the FCC adopted decisions facilitating mobile broadband operations on spectrum originally allocated to the Mobile Satellite Service (“MSS”) and, in other cases, initially authorized for narrowband voice communications or largely undeveloped because of adjacent channel interference concerns.

The willingness of the carriers to expend billions of dollars for spectrum and FCC decisions “repurposing spectrum” constitute a significant “doubling-down” on the future of wireless broadband.  The downside is that an essential resource for prospective competitors is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the major wireless carriers.

Major Wireless Carriers Move Aggressively to Enhance Broadband Spectrum Holdings.   As AT&T was acknowledging that DoJ and the FCC would not allow it to acquire T -Mobile at the end of 2011, spectrum deal-making began in earnest.

  • Verizon Wireless announced its agreement with SpectrumCo and Cox Communications to acquire the cable companies’ substantial AWS spectrum holdings.  Even though final approval was not granted until August, this transaction triggered a series of significant spectrum deals.
  • On the heels of Verizon Wireless/SpectrumCo/Cox, AT&T initiated a series of transactions to acquire 700 MHz A and B Block licenses and, later in the year, entered into transactions to acquire multiple Wireless Communications Service (WCS) licenses in the 2.3 GHz band.
  • T-Mobile and MetroPCS sought FCC approval to their proposed transaction that will consolidate operations, customers and spectrum holdings and enable deployment of “a network capable of supporting at least 20 x 20 MHz LTE deployments in many areas.”
  • Relying on an anticipated cash infusion resulting from Softbank’s proposal to acquire control of Sprint, the nation’s 3rd largest wireless carrier offered to acquire all of Clearwire’s equity interests that it did not already possess in order to control Clearwire’s spectrum at 2.5 GHz.  Dish Network Corporation (“DISH”) countered with its own offer for the Clearwire’s stock and asked the FCC to “stop the clock” on the FCC’s consideration of the Softbank/Sprint/Clearwire transactions.

The pending transactions are subject to the FCC’s current “case-by-case analysis” for assessing spectrum holdings in transactions and auctions.  While the FCC has initiated a proceeding reassessing current policies for determining criteria for limiting spectrum holdings, this proceeding will not be resolved until the 2nd Quarter of 2013, at the earliest.  In view of the closed and pending transactions noted above, the impact of new spectrum holding policies likely will be limited to future spectrum auctions.

Continue Reading

On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which, in relevant part, authorizes the Administration to ease export restrictions on satellites and related products.  Our entry of November 30, 2012, addressed the efforts underway to ease export controls on a variety of sensitive technologies and products, emphasizing

Photo of Douglas Jarrett

In affirming the FCC’s Data Roaming Order, the D.C. Circuit rebuffed Verizon’s efforts to squash any obligation to enter into roaming agreements with competing wireless carriers. In Cellco Partnership v. FCC, No. 11-1135 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 4, 2012) (“Cellco”), the court found that the Commission had ample authority under Title III

The United States prohibits the export of a broad range of telecom equipment, systems and technologies if the exporter does not first obtain a government license.  Controlled telecom products can be as diverse as parts and components, network equipment, encryption technology and satellites.  Failure to comply with export control restrictions can result in a fine

Photo of Douglas Jarrett

Despite an energetic reboot earlier this year, the FCC’s most recent effort to reform the rules and policies for funding the Universal Service Fund—USF contribution reform—has lost momentum.  In its Further Notice, the FCC raised every conceivable issue and policy question and sought comment on each of them.  To no one’s surprise, countless services

Photo of Douglas Jarrett

Over the weekend, the boards of both Sprint and Softbank agreed to terms under which the Japanese wireless carrier would acquire a 70% equity interest in Sprint, providing substantial cash infusion into Sprint.  In light Deutsche Telekom’s controlling interest in T-Mobile and Vodafone’s longstanding ownership interest in Verizon Wireless and that Sprint is often regarded