FCC’s October Meeting Has No Spectrum Item or Particular Theme

Last week, the FCC announced its tentative agenda for its upcoming October 25, 2019 open meeting and released drafts of the items on which the commissioners will vote. There is a notable lack of a spectrum item on the agenda, as Chairman Pai does not appear ready yet to address the pending mid-band spectrum proceedings (including C-Band and 6 GHz). In addition, while the items will address themes that have been consistent throughout Ajit Pai’s chairmanship, like bridging the digital divide and removing unnecessary regulatory burdens, there does not appear to be a particular common theme among the items on the agenda. We have not been able to come up with a way to weave a Halloween theme into the agenda either, but at least the Chairman’s blog did take time out to wish the Nationals good luck in their series with the Dodgers. Those well wishes appear to have paid off!

You will find more details on some of the most significant October meeting items after the break:

Measuring CAF Recipients’ Broadband Performance: The draft Order on Reconsideration would modify the uniform testing methodologies for all carriers receiving Connect America Fund (“CAF”) support to use for speed and latency testing established by the Wireline Competition Bureau, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology last year, and provide flexibility based on carrier sizes, networks and technical abilities. The modifications would, for example, align testing dates more closely with build-out obligations and establish a pre-testing period so that carriers can address any issues without penalty before formal testing and reporting begins.

911 Fee Parity: The draft Declaratory Ruling responds to a primary jurisdiction referral from a dispute between 911 districts in Alabama and BellSouth and other telecommunications carriers. The federal NET 911 Act prohibits states from discriminating against interconnected VoIP services by assessing a higher 911 fee than is assessed on traditional telecommunications services. Under Alabama law, local telephone services were assessed per line” to the network while VoIP services were assessed per telephone number (not per line). The Declaratory Ruling is intended to ensure parity between VoIP services and traditional telecommunications services by clarifying that the NET 911 Act provision applies to the total amount of 911 fees that a subscriber pays for the same 911 outbound calling capability. Thus, even if the per-unit assessment is the same, the state may not impose a larger total fee on VoIP providers.

Tariff Rules Modernization: The draft Report and Order would adopt two uncontroversial changes to the FCC’s tariff filing requirements that were the subject of a 2018 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Interim Waiver Order released nearly a year ago. Specifically, the Order would allow carriers to cross-reference their tariffs and those of their affiliates, and would remove the requirement that certain carriers file short form tariff review plans 90 days before their annual interstate access charge tariff filings are effective. The requirements have become outdated now that tariffs are submitted and reviewed electronically, and annual access charge filings have diminished in complexity.