We understand that regulatory compliance is not the most engaging issue. Whether planning to deploy a new broadband network or operating an existing one, ensuring that the network and services are fully compliant with various state and federal regulatory obligations is an easy task to put off. But if not addressed, regulatory compliance can turn into a very expensive problem.
Now would be an ideal time to identify and address any regulatory compliance issues for several reasons:
- A regulatory compliance failure could have implications for grant funding. Many broadband projects have received funding support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARPA). Subawards made through ARPA typically require recipients to comply with all applicable state and federal regulations as a contractual matter. Broadband grants made under forthcoming Infrastructure Act programs (BEAD, etc.) may include similar requirements.
- Any transfer of control or acquisition of a broadband network or company will normally require a detailed review of the company’s regulatory compliance status. Transactions involving broadband providers that receive support from one of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund/High Cost Fund programs will involve close scrutiny to ensure the target company is in compliance with applicable requirements. Any outstanding compliance issues can significantly delay those transactions.
- The FCC could implement an enforcement action, potentially resulting in fines and other adverse consequences.
As readers are probably aware, broadband service is comparatively “unregulated” (as opposed to “telecommunications service”). Consequently, broadband providers that are not also providers of “telecommunications service” have relatively few regulatory obligations. Nevertheless, a number of important regulatory obligations are likely to apply to most broadband providers, including the following:
- Posting of a “network transparency” statement
- Annual submission of Form 477 (broadband connection reporting)
- Submission of data for the new FCC Broadband Data Collection initiative (as finalized)
- Submission of a CALEA System Security and Integrity Plan
- Compliance with Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor requirements (copyright policy, etc.)
If interconnected VoIP is provided alongside broadband service, the regulatory compliance obligations expand significantly. In that case, regulatory obligations may also include, for example:
- Annual submission of Form 499-A, and, if not a de minimis contributor, quarterly 499-Q (Federal Universal Service Program Reporting and Contributions)
- Development of Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) compliance program and annual certification regarding such compliance
- STIR/SHAKEN compliance certification
- Annual disability reporting certification (per CVAA)
- E-911 fee requirements
Even if you have undertaken a compliance review at some point in the past, keep in mind that the FCC’s rules are constantly evolving, and the nature of your services and customers may have changed as well. It is important to periodically refresh past compliance decisions to ensure that they are still valid.
If you would like to explore whether your company or project is fully compliant with all applicable regulatory requirements – and what to do if you are not – we would be glad to speak with you. Please contact one of the attorneys in the Telecommunications Practice Group, or email us at email@example.com to set up an initial discussion.