Photo of Wesley Wright

Tomorrow, March 1, 2019, telecommunications carriers and interconnected VOIP providers (“Filers”) will have filed their annual certification confirming they complied with the FCC’s Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”) rules.

The FCC’s CPNI rules require Filers to establish and maintain systems designed to ensure they adequately protect their subscribers’ CPNI.   Consumer data protected by the CPNI rules includes account information, call detail information (including what numbers are called and when), and other sensitive information.

In addition to safeguarding this information, the FCC’s rules also require Filers to submit an annual certification – due March 1st of each year – documenting their compliance with the rules and detailing any complaints they received against data brokers.  A template of the CPNI filing is available on the FCC’s website (here).

The CPNI deadline filing kicks off the FCC’s “Spring Filing Season.”  On March 8th, facilities-based broadband providers must file data with the Commission on its Form 477 identifying where they offer Internet access service at speeds exceeding 200 kbps in at least one direction, as of December 31, 2018.  The filing deadline typically is March 1st, but this was recently extended for an additional week by the Commission.

The Form 477 requires fixed broadband providers to identify the census blocks in which “a provider does, or could, without an extraordinary commitment of resources, provide service.”  Mobile broadband providers file maps of their coverage areas for each broadband technology.  The Form 477 reporting portal is available here.

On April 1st, the FCC requires service providers and equipment manufacturers that are subject to the Commission’s rules implementing the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (“CVAA”) to file annual recordkeeping certifications.  This certification confirms that the filer has taken steps to ensure its services and products are accessible by people with disabilities and that it maintains records detailing these accessibility considerations.  The Commission’s CVAA filing portal is available here.

Also on April 1st, telecommunications providers and many VoIP providers must file their annual FCC Forms 499-A with USAC, summarizing their 2018 revenues and USF contributions and making adjustments to their 2018 contributions based on the estimates in their 2018 quarterly filings.  Some states have established funds for universal service which  require contributions based on revenues from certain services and impose reporting obligations.

It can be challenging to track these deadlines and determine which obligations apply to your company or the specific services it offers.  Please contact us with questions about these – and other – ongoing compliance requirements.

Photo of Douglas Jarrett

This Update is intended for enterprise IT, telecom, procurement staffs, and in-house counsel responsible for telecommunications management and procurements, focusing on strategies to maximize savings and optimize services to meet projected enterprise requirements.

Industry Consolidation

XO Communications is now part of Verizon, CenturyLink has acquired Level 3, and, among the cable operators, Charter has acquired Time Warner Cable.  The environment is more favorable for multinationals that can look to Orange, BT, Tata, or Telefonica to compete for their international and rest-of-world services.  Whether DoJ and the FCC, respectively, approve the T-Mobile and Sprint merger will remain an open question for several months.

Best Practices

Unlike the markets for cars and publicly traded stocks, there are no publicly available resources on pricing trends or terms and conditions for telecommunications service agreements.  The rack rates in carrier service guides do not reflect the best available pricing for any given expenditure level or mix of services.  Timely, well-planned procurements with assistance of experienced consultants remain the baseline for a successful procurement.  Additional background is available on our blog: Telecommunications Services Agreements—The Underlying Business Deal.

Importance of RFPs

Requests for proposals are the starting point for negotiations.  In addition to the essential description of a customer’s current network, desired services, and projected growth in usage, bandwidth and locations, the enterprise’s proposed terms and conditions (both business and legal) should be set out in the RFP.  Even if the carrier declines to accept certain provisions, compromise positions can be negotiated.  If preferred provisions or customer interests are not set out in the RFP, negotiations are more challenging.

Transitioning to New Services

Wireline carriers deploy new services to achieve efficiencies, remain competitive, and deliver innovative offerings and savings to customers. Many enterprises have just concluded or are working through the transition to IP voice services, principally to SIP trunking.  A newer offering is SD-WAN. It enables network flexibility, redundancy, and cost savings as compared to exclusive reliance on MPLS for corporate data communications.  Enterprises should assess the value (or accept the reality) of these services and structure their RFPs accordingly.

Limits of RFPs

In terms of enterprise telecommunications priorities, network security is now on equal footing with service reliability and availability.  The relative efficacy of carriers’ internal network security practices cannot reasonably be reduced to comparisons of responses to RFP questions.  A qualitative assessment, possibly based upon independent third-party investigations or reviews, is required.   RFPs may be structured to compare the elements and pricing of carriers’ network cybersecurity offerings, but in 2019 the relative efficacy of competing carriers’ offerings likely requires independent assessments, as well.

Negotiating Tips

Assuming the incumbent carrier submits the most compelling bid, don’t look to negotiate a new master agreement.  Focus on minimum commitment levels, lowest rates as opposed to incentive pricing schemes, migration strategies to newer, preferred services, customer support, mid-term benchmarking, service levels, and the transition period at contract expiration.  The more recent carrier master agreement templates are progressively more one-sided.  If the incumbent carrier insists on a new master agreement (or a more onerous set of general online terms and conditions), core terms and conditions in the RFP and previously negotiated provisions provide the customer’s baseline for negotiations.

If migrating to a successor carrier, be prepared for the successor’s master services agreement with a compilation of preferred clauses (which should track those included in the RFP) and propose a scope of work for the network transition, striving to limit the period during which services from the incumbent and successor carriers overlap while recognizing the carriers are loathe to negotiate a detailed transition plan as part of contract negotiations. (This intransigence makes little sense as the successful bidder typically acquires a detailed picture of a company’s existing network and locations in the customer’s RFP that, in turn, is central to the service provider’s RFP responses.) 

Dark Fiber.  Bandwidth requirements have a persistent, upward trajectory.  The questions are how fast and to what extent.  For local or regional requirements (such as connectivity to disaster recovery sites or among large, geographically concentrated facilities), an optimum solution may be a dark fiber lease or indefeasible right of use.  Additional background on dark fiber leases and IRUs is available on our blog: Enterprise Customers and Dark Fiber: An Important Connection, Part 2.

The virtue of dark fiber is that over time the enterprise can upgrade the electronics to derive more bandwidth from a given quantity of dark fibers. The challenges are that dark fiber is not ubiquitously available and the major wireline carriers and cable operators do not routinely offer or even negotiate dark fiber arrangements.  Even in markets where dark fiber is available, new construction likely will be required to establish connectivity between or among the enterprise’s locations.

Telecommunications Surcharges and State Taxes

The cost impact of telecommunications regulatory surcharges and taxes on enterprise services varies significantly based on the services being provided and is underappreciated by many enterprise customers.

The aggregate surcharge and tax burden for an interstate private line or a special access circuit can exceed 30% of the monthly charge.  Conversely, no surcharges or taxes are imposed on the charges for high speed Internet access service, but up to 65.8% of the revenues from VoIP (SIP) services are “USF-assessable.”

This disparity is driven by three considerations.  First, state and local jurisdictions need revenue and have targeted telecommunications services (wireline and wireless) as a prime revenue source.  Second, the Internet Tax Freedom Act prohibits the imposition of state taxes on charges for Internet access services.  Third, the FCC’s Universal Service Fund rules require USF contributions from service provider’s revenues from interstate and international telecommunications services and VoIP services, but excludes revenues from information services such as Internet access service.  The FCC allows services providers to recover their USF contributions via pass-throughs to customers.

The USF contribution factor (% of assessable revenues) is adjusted quarterly.  For the first quarter of 2019, the contribution factor is 20%.  Local state and sales taxes range from 3.5% to 6.0% of telecommunications services and VoIP (SIP) revenues. The major carriers also recover property taxes, gross receipts taxes, and costs of regulatory compliance, as set out in their service guides.  Adding insult to injury, these tax and cost recovery charges are added to the carrier’s USF-assessable revenues.

Questions/Follow-Up Discussion.  Keller and Heckman is pleased to offer a no-fee ½ hour follow-up conversation to discuss these topics in greater detail or respond to questions on telecom procurements.  To schedule a conversation, please contact Doug Jarrett: jarrett@khlaw.com; 202.434.4180.

Photo of Kathleen Slattery

Funding for a portion of the federal government expired on December 21, 2018, beginning a partial federal government shutdown.  The agencies affected by the lapse in funding include the FCC.  While the FCC managed to hang on longer than some of the other agencies affected, the Commission suspended operations starting mid-day on January 3, 2019.

During the suspension, some of the FCC’s filing databases remain available, but FCC staff is not working and will not be processing applications during the shutdown.  According to an FCC Public Notice regarding Commission operations during the shutdown, no support will be provided for the Commission’s website, including the databases that remain available.

The relevant FCC databases and services that remain available are:

  • Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS)
  • Universal Licensing System (ULS)
  • Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS)
  • Auctions Public Reporting System (PRS)
  • Auction Application System, the Auction Bidding System
  • Daily Digest
  • Commission Online Registration System (CORES).

The relevant databases that will be unavailable are:

  • Electronic Tariff Filing System (ETFS)
  • Experimental Licensing System (ELS)
  • International Bureau Filing System (IBFS/MyIBFS)
  • FCC Form 477 Online Filing System
  • Tower Construction Notification System (TCNS)
  • Antenna Structure Registration System (ASR)
  • Electronic Section-106 System (E-106)
  • Fee Filer
  • 911 Reliability Certification System.

All spectrum auction activities authorized by Section 309(j) will continue and spectrum auction filing deadlines remain the same.  Other filing deadlines will be extended so that any submission due on January 3, during the suspension, or on the first day of normal operations will be due on the second day of normal operations.  Deadlines for Responsive Pleadings are extended in the same way.  Responsive Pleadings filed on January 2 will be treated as if filed on the date normal operations resume.

Any Special Temporary Authorizations (STAs) that would expire during the suspension are extended to the day after operations resume.  Emergency STA requests will be processed through the FCC Operations Center during the suspension.

The FCC’s Fee Filer System will not be available during the suspension.  Deadlines for payments are not extended, except for those that can only be paid through Fee Filer.  Those deadlines are extended in the same way as the filing deadlines.  The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau’s Fee Filing Guide states that “the application must remit payment within 10 calendar days of submitting the application, or the application will be dismissed [emphasis added].”  The status of applications filed during the shutdown is listed as “submitted.”  Because of this, applicants may need to mail in the Remittance Form with a check for the filing fee.

Prior to the suspension, the Commission was already facing an application processing backlog of a few months.  As the suspension continues, application processing times will extend further.  When operations resume, FCC staff will face an even more significant backlog.  Because applications will be processed in the order in which they are received, we recommend applicants continue to file applications as early as possible during the suspension.

There is no clear end in sight for the partial federal government shutdown.  The House of Representatives plans to consider four smaller spending bills to reopen parts of the government.  Funding for the FCC and FTC is included in the Financial Services appropriation bill, which is likely to be the first considered.  While these bills will likely pass the House and Senate Republicans are growing impatient with the shutdown, it is unlikely they will gain the support of President Trump.  Until the shutdown ends or the FCC is funded, the Commission must continue to operate in a very limited capacity.

For more information, please contact Kathleen Slattery (slattery@khlaw.com; 202.434.4244).

Photo of Wesley Wright

The year of 2018 at the FCC could be considered the year of déjà vu.  Sure, the Commission broke new ground in some areas, but many of the headline-grabbing items rehashed old proceedings.  For instance:

Net Neutrality

The ink was barely dry on the FCC’s net neutrality rules when, in January, the agency released a Declaratory Ruling that largely revoked those rules (see, Vol. XV, Issue 2).  The January Order – which took effect on June 11th – effectively terminated the bright line rules that were central to the FCC’s 2015 rules: no blocking lawful content, no throttling lawful content, and no paid prioritization.

To say this was a hotly-contested proceeding is an understatement: the issue caused a 3,000% spike in the FCC’s web traffic and the agency received about 22 million comments.  In August 2018, the FCC’s Inspector General concluded that the bulk of this was caused by a segment on John Oliver’s TV show.

Citizens Broadband Radio Service

The agency also revisited its rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band (3.55-3.70 GHz).  The proposed rules essentially reopened the CBRS proceeding to make the spectrum allocation more palatable to large wireless carriers (see, Vol. XV, Issue 33).  The Public Notice seeking comment on proposed rule revisions was issued in August 2018 and the agency finalized its revised (again) rules in October 2018 (see, Vol. XV, Issue 44).  This most recent revision clears the way for CBRS networks to begin operating in 2019.  We expect the General Access tier to be available for use in the first four months of 2019 and the auction for the Priority Access tier of licenses likely will be held in late 2019 or early 2020.

FCC Enforcement

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau made an example of a private land mobile licensee in August of 2018.  Marriott entered into a Consent Decree with the agency – agreeing to pay more than $500,000 and implement a Compliance Plan – for failing to secure the agency’s prior consent to acquire Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (and Starwood’s 65 wireless FCC licenses) (see, Vol. XV, Issue 36).

*       *       *

But 2018 wasn’t all the same old, same old at the FCC.  The agency broke new ground in a few areas, including:

5G Deployment and Pole Attachments

The Commission’s top priority in 2018 was promoting 5G wireless deployments.  In that spirit, the FCC focused on infrastructure and spectrum to support 5G networks.  The agency took a number of steps to streamline the process by which: (i) new communications towers can be built (see, Vol. XV, Issue 19); and (ii) carriers can install new small cells to expand network coverage (see, Vol. XV, Issue 43).  These changes benefit the large national carriers, but many of the rule revisions – including onerous changes to Pole Attachment regulations and the Small Cell rules – were aggressively opposed by utilities and municipalities alike (see, Vol. XV, Issue 30).

On the spectrum front, the FCC also took steps to make additional mid-band spectrum available by proposing rules to rework the 2.5 GHz band, starting the process of cleaning up the 4 GHz band by requiring users to certify the accuracy of their operational information, and proposing to allow unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band (see, Vol. XV, Issue 41).

Connect America Fund Auction

The FCC also completed its Connect America Fund Phase II Auction, allocating nearly $1.5 Billion in federal funding over the next decade to support broadband deployments in unserved areas of 45 different states (see, Vol. XV, Issue 36).

For more information, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4239).

Photo of Gregory Kunkle

On October 23, 2018, the FCC adopted a Report and Order in its 3550-3700 MHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) proceeding.  The Report and Order makes several modifications to rules governing the band, including extending license terms to 10 years, adding license renewability, and increasing the size of Priority Access License (PAL) areas from census tracts to counties.  Most notably, these items are the last substantial rule tweaks the Commission needed to resolve to move forward with its plans for CBRS deployment.

CBRS is somewhat of an experiment in spectrum management by the FCC.  It will entail third party Spectrum Access System (SAS) managers that will coordinate three tiers of users – General (unlicensed), Priority (auctioned licensees), and Incumbent (largely earth stations and federal users).   The goal is for each SAS to provide advanced, highly automated frequency management that will assign spectrum in nearly real time.  If it works, it will provide more intensive use of the band than manual coordination, while mitigating interference between the three tiers of users.

Way back on December 21, 2016, the FCC conditionally certified seven entities seeking to provide SAS services.  That conditional certification allowed further testing and pilot programs to commence, but did not authorize full commercial SAS deployment.  Full SAS certification is expected in early 2019, at which point users will be able to begin operating under the General Access tier.  Auction of the Priority Access tier licenses has not been announced, but likely will not occur until at least late-2019, given the Commission’s typical auction timelines.

The question now has become whether the Commission has taken so much time that additional relief is required.  This process started in 2015 when the FCC first adopted its initial CBRS rules.  At that time, the FCC gave incumbent users in the 3.65-3.7 GHz band a deadline to move out of the band or transition to CBRS service.  That deadline expires for many licensees as early as April 17, 2020.  That means some current users must transition their systems in the next 18-months even though the CBRS service is not even commercially authorized, yet.

Two entities representing wireless ISPs and utilities have filed a request asking the FCC to extend the transition period for 3.65-3.7 GHz band users until January 8, 2023.  This would allow time for SAS providers to become fully certified, the CBRS service to fully commence, and 3.65-3.7 GHz band users the time necessary to transition their service in a considered manner.  There seems to be little, if any, downside to granting the request.  The 3.65-3.7 GHz portion of the band has been successfully used for more than 10 years to provide applications such as rural wireless Internet access and critical infrastructure data communications.  There’s an argument it was not necessary for the FCC to require users in this portion of the band to migrate from their legacy systems at all.  An unnecessarily condensed migration timeframe will not allow users to evaluate the CBRS and may encourage users to move to other bands, such as 5 GHz.  This isn’t good for the viability of CBRS.  In light of the length of time it has taken to bring the CBRS to reality, it certainly seems like a good decision not to rush the final remaining steps.

The FCC currently is seeking comment on the extension.  Comments are due December 12, 2018 and Reply Comments are due December 24, 2018.

For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178).

Photo of Peter de la Cruz

The 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinko is generally understood to mean that an incumbent local exchange company is not obligated under the antitrust laws to open its network to a competitor.[1]  In the context of recent FCC decisions, it is noteworthy that Justice Scalia’s opinion in Trinko was grounded on the fact that the “regulatory framework that exists in this case demonstrates how, in certain circumstances regulation significantly diminishes the likelihood of major antitrust harm.”[2]

This regulatory framework no longer applies for the Nation’s most significant telecommunications-related market, high speed Internet access service.  The FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order adopted in December 2017 held that the Commission does not have jurisdiction over high speed Internet access services, including wireless broadband services provided by CMRS providers.[3]

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act) sought to “promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technology.”[4] The 1996 Act left undisturbed the application of the antitrust laws to telecommunications.[5]  But, subsequent antitrust analysis and litigation have been highly influenced by the FCC’s expansive regulatory system even after enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 explicitly directed that the antitrust laws be applied to telecommunications, with Trinko as a leading example.

The Restoring Internet Freedom Order means that FCC decisions are of limited precedential value and prior court decisions must be reassessed. Opponents of the FCC’s reclassification of broadband cited Trinko as posing obstacles to meaningful antitrust remedies and the Commission cited Trinko in its Order, but the implications of the Commission’s Order regarding the effect of prior judicial precedent was not addressed.[6]

The Commission’s decision requires reevaluation of Trinko.  Absent any Commission regulation under Title II of the Communications Act, a key element supporting the court’s conclusions is absent.  It is an open question whether the Justice Department’s acquiescence to wireline and wireless mergers over the last twenty (20) years is relevant for assessing the business practices of the major broadband providers, particularly the four nationwide mobile broadband service providers (that may be reduced to three if the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is approved).  Any antitrust challenge to wireless broadband services providers, will be judged under the rule of reason, focusing principally on the adverse impacts on the downstream market (end-user customers).

Most antitrust claims are evaluated under the “rule of reason,” which is a case-by-case inquiry into all the circumstances to assess whether a particular activity or arrangement lessens competition. Typically, plaintiffs need to demonstrate that defendants with market power have engaged in anticompetitive conduct. To conclude that a practice is “reasonable” means it survives antitrust scrutiny, in contrast to a “per se” offense for which the activity is presumed to be anticompetitive and illegal, as with price fixing.  The rule of reason assessment permits a defendant to justify allegedly anti-competitive practices by demonstrating valid procompetitive justifications.[7]

If the Restoring Internet Freedom Order is affirmed on appeal, major broadband providers may well find the antitrust laws not as accommodating as anticipated.

 

[1] Verizon Communications v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, 540 U.S. 398 (2004) (Trinko).

[2] Trinko, supra, 540 U.S. at 412.

[3] In the Matter of Restoring Internet Freedom, Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order, WC Docket No. 17-108, ¶¶ 86-123 and 143-154 (Dec. 14, 2017).

[4] Preamble to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151, et seq.

[5] The 1996 Act contains a Savings Clause and an No Implied Effect Clause, see, § 601(b)(1) and (c)(1). “[N]oting in this Act of the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to modify, impair, or supersede the applicability of any of the antitrust laws.”

[6] Restoring Internet Freedom Order, note 556.

[7] Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Tech. Services, 504 U.S. 451, 461-462 (1992). The Trinko decision did not fault Verizon’s refusal to deal under precedent existing in 2004, and under the essential facilities doctrine, which is recognized by several federal courts of appeals, but not explicitly by the Supreme Court. Trinko, supra, 540 U.S. at 408-411.

Photo of Wesley Wright

Earlier this month, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau implemented a temporary freeze on applications for new and modified authority for Land Mobile systems operating in the 896-901/935-940 MHz band.  The freeze was effective as of September 13, 2018.

The freeze stems from a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) issued by the FCC in 2017, seeking input on possibly reconfiguring this band to accommodate a Petition for Rulemaking filed by Pacific Data Vision (PDV) in December 2014.  The FCC delayed PDV’s vision for the band in 2017 when it issued an NOI – which generally seeks information from the public – as opposed to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) – which is a vehicle through which the FCC could have changed its rules to accommodate PDV’s request.

By issuing the licensing freeze last week, however, it appears the Commission is likely considering the issuance of an NPRM to modify the rules governing this 900 MHz land mobile band.  The stated purpose of the freeze is to allow the Wireless Bureau to examine the band and determine what changes, if any, can be made.

One other important clarifying point: the portion of the 900 MHz band that currently is frozen by the FCC differs from the portion of the 900 MHz band that is used by critical infrastructure entities for Multiple Address Systems (MAS).

For more information, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4239).

Photo of Thomas B. Magee

The FCC last week released a DRAFT order, scheduled for a vote at its September 26 meeting, designed to dictate the process and fees that state and local governments must apply to small cell wireless antenna installations on government-owned poles and similar facilities, and on newly-constructed poles the wireless carriers want to install in state and local rights-of-way.  As currently drafted, the DRAFT order would establish shot clocks for small wireless facility review, and would declare that all fees must be cost-based.

Although 20 states have already enacted small cell legislation, some states have rejected small cell legislation, and numerous municipalities already have reached agreements with wireless carriers on the process and fees for wireless attachments and new pole installations, the FCC’s DRAFT order appears designed to override such legislation and agreements to the extent they fail to comport with the DRAFT order’s standards.

The DRAFT order would establish the following “shot clocks” for state and local review of small wireless facility applications:  60 days for collocation on preexisting structures, and 90 days for new builds.

The fees the DRAFT order addresses fees for access to public rights-of-way (ROW), and for attachments to government-owned property in the ROW, “such as light poles, traffic lights, utility poles, and other similar property.”  The DRAFT order would conclude that such fees violate the federal Communications Act’s prohibition on excessive state and local regulation unless:  “(1) the fees are a reasonable approximation of the state or local government’s costs, (2) only objectively reasonable costs are factored into those fees, and (3) the fees are no higher than the fees charged to similarly-situated competitors in similar situations.”

The DRAFT order would go even further, by specifying that the following fees presumptively would not violate the federal prohibition on excessive state and local regulation:  “(a) $500 for a single up-front application that includes up to five Small Wireless Facilities, with an additional $100 for each Small Wireless Facility beyond five, and (b) $270 per Small Wireless Facility per year for all recurring fees, including any possible ROW access fee or fee for attachment to municipally-owned structures in the ROW.”

Nowhere in the DRAFT order does the Commission explain how its proposed action establishing shot clocks and fees for municipally-owned “utility poles” and “light poles” comports with the federal Pole Attachment Act, which exempts municipally-owned poles from FCC pole attachment regulation.  In addition, the DRAFT order’s restrictive provisions will not appeal to state and local governments, whose enthusiasm for the 5G rollout appears to be diminishing with every new ruling.

For more information, please contact Tom Magee (magee@khlaw.com; 202.434.4128)

Photo of Timothy Doughty

The FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II Auction concluded last week.  The auction allocated nearly $1.5 billion in federal funding over the next decade to support broadband deployments in unserved areas of 45 different states.  This aggregate amount was almost $50M per year ($500M for ten years) short of the available CAF II funds.  Electric cooperatives, terrestrial fixed wireless providers, satellite operators, and incumbent local exchange carriers were among the winning bidders.

The FCC announced the winning bidders as an attachment to a Public Notice earlier this week.  The Public Notice sets forth the next steps for auction winners, including a requirement that each winning bidder submit a post-auction application for support (FCC Form 683) by October 15, 2018.  Further information about completing the FCC Form 683 is available here.  The Public Notice also clarifies that winning bidders may assign some, or all, of their winning bids to related entities.  The Public Notice sets forth the process for dividing and assigning winning bids.  The deadline for such assignments is September 14, 2018.

The other notable item for auction winners is the FCC extended its original deadline for submitting the letter of credit commitment letters and detailed technology and system design descriptions.  This information is now due by November 5, 2018.

For more information, please contact Tim Doughty (doughty@khlaw.com; 202.434.4271).

Photo of Wesley Wright

The FCC has established deadlines for Fixed Satellite Service earth station licensees to certify the accuracy of all information on their current earth station license and provide the agency with additional details about existing operations.  Earlier this year, the Commission sought comment on the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services to use or share use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum band.  As part of this effort, the FCC is asking earth station licensees to certify existing operations and provide additional technical information.  The FCC hopes that its efforts will unveil lightly used portions of the 4 GHz band where the agency can introduce fixed and mobile terrestrial use.

The first step is for the Commission to get its arms around existing satellite operations in the band.  As such, the FCC is asking C-Band users to provide the agency with the call sign(s); geographic location(s); licensee contact information; antenna gain; azimuth and elevation gain pattern; antenna azimuth relative to true north; antenna elevation angle; satellite(s) at which the earth station is pointed; number of transponders; how often each is used; and, antenna site elevation and height above ground.  This information is required by October 17th.

Once the FCC has completely digested all this information, it may create an opportunity for fixed microwave links in the band, but it’s a bit too early to tell how expansive any additional use of the 4 GHz band may be. For now, the FCC is focused on protecting existing satellite earth station operations.

For more information, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com202.434.4239).