COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – June 8, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly unfolds, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has been active to keep communications services available through various waivers, extensions, and other regulatory relief. Kelley Drye’s Communications Practice Group is tracking these actions and what they mean for communications service providers and their customers. CommLaw Monitor will provide regular updates to its analysis of the latest regulatory and legislative actions impacting your business and the communications industry. Click on the COVID-19” blog category for previous updates.

If you have any urgent questions, please contact your usual Kelley Drye attorney or any member of the Communications Practice Group. For more information on other aspects of the federal and state response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as labor and employment and other issues, please visit Kelley Drye’s COVID-19 Response Resource Center.

FCC Approves Ninth Set of COVID-19 Telehealth Applications, Nears Halfway Mark for Currently-Available Funding

On June 3, 2020, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved 53 additional funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Under the latest funding round, $16.46 million will go to health care providers across 25 states and Washington, D.C. With this latest set of approvals, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 238 health care providers in 41 states, plus D.C., for a total of $84.96 million in funding awarded so far. Congress appropriated $200 million for the Program and the FCC continues to evaluate applications and distribute funding on a rolling basis. As the FCC nears the halfway point for currently-available funding, providers should take action to assess their interest and ability to participate in the Program, if they have not already done so.

FCC and NARUC Partner to Help Low-Income Consumers Stay Connected Through Lifeline

On June 1, 2020, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”) President Brandon Presley issued a joint letter asking state officials to distribute educational materials regarding the federal Lifeline program to low-income consumers. The letter notes that Americans newly-unemployed or otherwise facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may not be aware that they are eligible for Lifeline service. The letter urges state officials to circulate the Lifeline education materials as widely as possible, especially to state agencies that administer Medicaid, SNAP, and unemployment benefits. The letter also highlights features of the federal Lifeline program, including recent steps taken to ease the application and enrollment process.

FCC Grants Temporary Spectrum Access Request in Rural Kentucky

On June 2, 2020, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted Harlan 2-Way, Inc.’s emergency Special Temporary Authority request to operate in the 2.5 GHz band in Harlan County, Kentucky. This is the latest action in the FCC’s continued effort to improve communications and broadband service in rural and other hard-to-serve areas during the crisis through increased spectrum access.