FCC Plans Major Wireless Deployment and 911 Actions at September Meeting
Continuing its focus on broadband infrastructure deployment for 5G technologies, the FCC announced that it plans to eliminate regulatory impediments that delay and increase the cost of wireless deployments at its next meeting, scheduled for September 26, 2018. The item would alter the balance of power between wireless broadband providers and state/local governments concerning control over rights of way and deployment fees. The FCC also anticipates initiating a rulemaking aimed at improving 911 dialing and location accuracy for multi-line telephone systems (“MLTS”), potentially imposing new compliance obligations on office building, hotel, and other large facility managers. Rounding out the major actions, the FCC released draft items that would: (1) permit toll free numbers to be auctioned and sold on the secondary market and (2) consolidate rules and expand the spectrum available for so-called Earth Stations in Motion (“ESIMs”) that provide high-speed broadband service to vehicles, aircraft, and vessels. The proposed items will generate input from all corners of the communications industry as well as real estate interests. You will find more details on the significant September FCC items after the jump:
Wireless Infrastructure Deployment: The FCC issued a draft Declaratory Ruling and Order finding that state/local fees for accessing rights of way and other charges associated with deployments may prohibit the provision of wireless service in violation of the Communications Act. The FCC therefore plans to allow such fees and charges only to the extent they are nondiscriminatory and represent a “reasonable” approximation of the state/local governments’ costs related to the deployment. The draft item would further clarify that state/local consideration of aesthetic concerns with deployments are not necessarily unlawful, so long as any aesthetic requirements are: (1) reasonable; (2) no more burdensome than those applied to other deployments; and (3) published in advance. In addition, the FCC will establish two new shot clocks for small wireless facility deployments (60 days for collocation on preexisting structures and 90 days for new constructions) and codify existing shot clocks for larger wireless facility deployments.
911 Dialing and Location Accuracy: A draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on requiring MLTS to enable users to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line (e.g., requiring callers to first dial 9). The FCC proposes requiring MLTS to provide a notification that a 911 call has been made to a front desk, security office, or other centralized location. The proposed rulemaking asks whether MLTS, VoIP, and other telecommunications service providers should be responsible for ensuring that “dispatchable location” information is transmitted with 911 calls, such as the calling party’s street address as well as room number, floor number, or similar data necessary to help first responders reach the called party quickly.
Auctioning Toll Free Numbers: The FCC plans to adopt a draft Report and Order that would enable it to auction off toll free numbers. Generally, the FCC has allocated toll free numbers on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost. The FCC claims this process leads to stockpiling and other inefficient uses of toll free numbers, while rewarding parties that “game” the system through computer-assisted number reservation tools. The FCC proposes that its first auction will cover 17,000 numbers recently made available in the 833 toll free code. Importantly, the FCC intends to eliminate the prohibition on secondary market sales of toll free numbers to allow successful auction participants to sell numbers to others, potentially creating a “gold rush” for prime toll free numbers.
ESIM Expansion: Under a draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC would consolidate the rules that apply to earth stations on aircraft, vessels, and vehicles, eliminating duplicative regulations and streamlining the application process. It would also expand the frequencies available for ESIMs to include conventional Ka-band spectrum. Operation of ESIMs is currently confined to the conventional C-band spectrum and parts of the Ku-band spectrum. The FCC argues that any potential interference issues involving incumbent satellite operators in the Ka-band can be resolved through prior coordination and industry best practices. The FCC seeks comment on whether ESIMs should be allowed to operate in additional spectrum bands, on both a protected and unprotected basis, to provide even more flexibility.