This Week in Telecom – Weeks Ending 2.25.18 and 3.4.18

Below is a smattering of telecommunications stories from the past two weeks.  Some are trendy, some are interesting, and some are just weird.  This is by no means an exhaustive account of the past two weeks in telecommunications.  It is simply what I personally found interesting from the wide array of telecommunications news.

Disclaimer – The views expressed in this summary are my own and not necessarily those of Bradley Berkland Hagen & Herbst, LLC.

I.     Universal Service 

Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Wireline Competition Bureau (“WCB”) Announces Funding Year 2018 E-Rate Cap – On February 20, 2018, the FCC WCB released a Public Notice regarding the E-Rate funding cap for Funding Year 2018. According to the Public Notice, the funding cap is set at $4,062,030,726 and represents a 1.8% inflation-adjusted increase from the Funding Year 2017 cap. The FCC’s Public Notice can be accessed at Public Notice (DA 18-163).  

II.    Open Internet/Net Neutrality 

Chairman Pai Responds to Congressional Request to Delay Vote on Restoring Internet Freedom Order – On February 8 and 9, 2018, respectively, Chairman Pai sent response letters to Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), et al., explaining the reasons he did not delay the December 14, 2017 vote on the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (“Order”). Despite claims that the proceeding was marred by fraudulent comments, Chairman Pai maintained that the Order amply addressed the rulemaking record, and the draft Order was released over three weeks prior to the vote, allowing the public ample opportunity to review and submit feedback. The letter to Representative Hanabusa can be accessed at Hanabusa Letter and the letter to Senator Blumenthal, et al., can be accessed at Blumenthal Letter. 

Restoring Internet Freedom Order Published in Federal Register – On February 22, 2018, the FCC published in the Federal Register the Restoring Internet Freedom Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order (“Order”). The Order is effective April 23, 2018, with the exception of amendatory instructions 2,3,5,6, and 8. The delayed items will become effective only after the FCC publishes a subsequent Federal Register announcement providing their applicable effective date(s). The FCC said in the February 22, 2018 Federal Register announcement that the Order “will also be effective upon the date announced in that same document.” The Federal Register announcement can be accessed at Federal Register Announcement. 

Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel Release Statements on Publication of Net Neutrality Repeal Order – On February 22, 2018, Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel issued statements on the publication of what they called the “Net Neutrality Repeal Order.” Commissioner Clyburn decried the repeal of net neutrality stating “[t]oday it is official: the FCC majority has taken the next step in handing the keys to the internet over to billion-dollar broadband providers by publishing the Destroying Internet Freedom Order in the Federal Register.” However, Commissioner Clyburn also expressed optimism that, ultimately, “robust net neutrality protections will prevail with the American public!” Commissioner Rosenworcel described the repeal of net neutrality as “a study in just what’s wrong with Washington.” Commissioner Rosenworcel asserted that in repealing net neutrality, the FCC “turned a blind eye to all kinds of corruption in our public record—from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in our files” and stated that “[a]s a result of the mess the agency created, broadband providers will now have the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content.” Commissioner Clyburn’s statement can be accessed at Clyburn Statement and Commissioner Rosenworcel’s statement can be accessed at Rosenworcel Statement. 

Petitions for Review of Restoring Internet Freedom Order Filed Shortly After Order’s Publication in the Federal Register – At least three entities recently filed petitions for review of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (“Order”). The National Hispanic Media Coalition, NTCH, Inc., and the Benton Foundation filed their petitions in the D.C. Circuit on February 23, 26, and 27, 2018, respectively. The petitions seek review on the basis that the Order is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, not supported by substantial evidence, and otherwise contrary to law. The petitions ask the Court to hold unlawful, vacate, enjoin, and set aside those portions of the Order reclassifying broadband Internet access service as an information service not subject to the protections of Title II of the Communications Act. The applicable Case Nos. are: (1) National Hispanic Media Coalition – Case No. 18-1056; (2) NTCH, Inc. – Case No. 18-1061; and (3) the Benton Foundation – Case No. 18-1062.

III.  Emerging Communications Technologies 

FCC Issues Notice of Public Rulemaking on Emerging Communications Technologies – On February 22, 2018, the FCC approved a Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to flesh out the FCC’s authority under Section 7 of the Communications Act (“Act”) to assess emerging communications technologies. Section 7 of the Act was passed by Congress in 1983 and requires timely action by the FCC to encourage the provision of new technologies and services to the public. Specifically, Section 7 of the Act requires the FCC to respond within one year to applications proposing new technologies or services. “The NPRM proposes rules for Commission evaluation of petitions or applications proposing new technologies and service. In addition, the NPRM seeks comment on how the Commission can comply with the statutory requirements of [S]ection 7 of the Act for Commission-initiated proceedings for new technologies or services.” The Press Release regarding the NPRM can be accessed at Emerging Communications Technologies Press Release and the full text of the NPRM can be accessed at Emerging Communications Technologies NPRM. 

IV.   In the Press 

Law360 – Law360 published an article on February 20, 2018 discussing the DOJ’s vehement arguments against AT&T’s request for evidence of Donald Trump’s rants against CNN in the DOJ’s lawsuit opposing AT&T’s proposed purchase of CNN parent, Time Warner.

On February 23, 2018, Law360 published an article describing how FCC Chairman Pai was awarded a “token firearm” by the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) for alleged threats and insults made against him because of the recent net neutrality deregulation. According to the article, other recipients of the “courage under fire” award include Mike Pence, Rush Limbaugh, and former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke.

You must have a subscription to Law360 to view and read these articles.  Subscription information can be found at Law360 Telecom Website.

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