CommLaw Monitor https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor News and analysis from Kelley Drye’s communications practice group Wed, 03 Jul 2024 05:35:50 -0400 60 hourly 1 COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – June 8, 2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-june-8-2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-june-8-2020 Mon, 08 Jun 2020 16:06:01 -0400 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.

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COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – June 1, 2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-june-1-2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-june-1-2020 Mon, 01 Jun 2020 17:24:26 -0400 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 Eases Lifeline Application Process for Tribal Consumers, Extends Previous Waivers

On June 1, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (“WCB”) released an Order (DA 20-577) aimed at easing the Lifeline program application and enrollment process for consumers who reside in rural areas on Tribal lands and qualify for Lifeline benefits. Specifically, the WCB FCC’s Wireline issued a temporary waiver to allow Lifeline carriers to begin providing Lifeline service to consumers in rural Tribal areas even if those consumers have not yet submitted certain documentation to complete their application. The FCC noted that consumers living in rural areas on Tribal lands already face difficulties in providing this documentation, and the pandemic has added to these hardships.

Under the June 1 waiver, until August 31, 2020, a Lifeline eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) may choose to immediately begin providing Lifeline service to a consumer living in a rural Tribal area who applies for Lifeline but is unable to provide the necessary documentation to resolve a failed automated eligibility check at the time of application. The consumer will have 45 days from the time of application to submit the documentation. If the applicant then does provide the necessary documentation within 45 days and is determined to qualify for Lifeline service, the Lifeline provider can go back and claim reimbursement for the discounted service provided during the 45-day period.

In addition, in the Order, WCB also extended its recent waivers of the Lifeline program’s recertification, reverification, general de-enrollment, usage requirements, and three-month documentation requirements for income verification through August 31, 2020. Those waivers were set to expire at the end of June.

FCC Approves Latest Set of COVID-19 Telehealth Applications

On May 28, 2020, the WCB approved 53 funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth program. Under the latest funding round, $18.22 million in funding will go to health care providers across 24 states. With this latest set of approvals, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 185 health care providers in 38 states, plus Washington D.C., for a total of $68.22 million in funding awarded. Read the latest issue of Kelley Drye’s USF Tracker for details on awards granted.

FCC Grants Washington Tribe’s Temporary Spectrum Access Request

On May 29, 2020, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) granted the Makah Tribe emergency Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) request to operate in the 2.5 GHz band in Washington State. 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.

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COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – May 18, 2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-may-18-2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-may-18-2020 Mon, 18 May 2020 17:10:07 -0400 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 Latest Set of COVID-19 Telehealth Program Applications, Bringing Approvals to $33 million

On May 13, 2020, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (“WCB”) approved 33 funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Under the latest funding round, $8.36 million will go to health care providers across 18 states for telehealth services during the pandemic. With this latest set of application, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has approved and funded 82 health care providers in 30 states for a total of $33.26 million in funding. Congress authorized up to $200 million in funding for the program.

Over 750 Providers Extend Keep Americans Connected Pledge

On May 14, 2020, the FCC announced that 774 broadband and telephone service providers have taken the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and extended that commitment through June 30, 2020. On April 30, 2020, Chairman Pai announced he was extending the Pledge, originally set to expire on May 12, to June 30. Since Pai’s announcement, the number of companies covered by the Pledge has increased, as more companies have signed onto the Pledge for the first time than declined to extend it. The pledge involves service providers committing to not terminate service, to waive late fees for residential and small business customers who cannot pay during the pandemic, and to make their Wi-Fi hotspots available to any American who needs them.

In the latest episode of Kelley Drye's Full Spectrum podcast, we discuss the unique issues the Keep Americans Connected Pledge creates in a bankruptcy proceeding involving an affected customer. Click here to listen.

Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau Extends Temporary Waivers for Relay Services Rules

On May 14, 2020, FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau extended temporary waivers (DA 20-517) through June 30, 2020 for Telecommunications Relay Service (“TRS”) providers to ensure relay services remain available for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or have a speech disability. These waivers extend actions previously taken to grant TRS providers flexibility.

WTB Permits More WISPs to Use 5.9 GHz Spectrum on a Temporary Basis

Last week, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) granted requests by United Wireless Communications, Inc. and Comcell, Inc. for emergency Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) to operate in the 5850-5895 MHz band to provide relief during the pandemic. The grants are for a period of 60 days, provided the applicant files a complete FCC Form 601 application within 10 days. These actions are part of the FCC’s continued effort to improve communications and broadband service in rural and other hard-to-serve areas during the pandemic.

WTB Grants GE Healthcare Waiver to Expedite Medical Equipment from New Suppliers

On May 11, 2020, the WTB granted GE Healthcare’s request for a waiver (DA 20-489) to allow the importation, marketing, and operation of certain GE medical devices, including wearable patient monitors, diagnostic testing systems, and portable x-rays. The action will enable GE Healthcare to overcome disruptions in the medical device supply chain. Without the waiver, many of GE’s devices that are sourced from new suppliers or that contain new components would have required prior FCC equipment certification.

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COVID-19: What Communications Service Providers Need to Know – May 11, 2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-may-11-2020 https://www.kelleydrye.com/viewpoints/blogs/commlaw-monitor/covid-19-what-communications-service-providers-need-to-know-may-11-2020 Mon, 11 May 2020 17:53:30 -0400 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 Fifth Set of COVID-19 Telehealth Program Applications, Moves to Portal-Only Applications

On May 6, 2020, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (“WCB”) approved an additional 26 applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Under the latest funding round (which is the largest so far), $11.19 million in funding will go to health care providers in California, Texas, Massachusetts, and several other hard-hit areas. To date, the Program has funded 56 health care providers in 23 states for a total of $24.9 million. On May 1, 2020, the WCB announced via Public Notice that it will no longer accept PDF form applications by email for the Program. Instead, all applications for the Program must be submitted through the FCC’s online application portal available at https://www.fcc.gov/covid-19-telehealthprogram. The WCB stated that accepting applications only through the portal will enable it to expedite Program funding decisions.

Congress appropriated $200 million for the Program and the FCC continues to evaluate applications and distribute funding on a rolling basis. While money remains available, the size and pace of disbursements under the Program continues to increase and providers should take action now to assess their interest and ability to participate in the Program.

FCC Highlights Consumer Broadband Service Through Temporary 5.9 GHz Band Access Grants

On May 4, 2020, the FCC announced that its decision to grant wireless Internet service providers (“WISPs”) temporary access to 5.9 GHz spectrum is helping boost consumer internet access during the pandemic. To date, the FCC has granted Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) to more than 100 WISPs to access otherwise fallow spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band and other bands. Many providers in rural and suburban communities have reported how the spectrum is helping to address the increased demand for broadband as consumers adjust to stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures. It is likely that the FCC will continue to approve STAs to improve consumer broadband service during the pandemic.

FCC Hosts HBCU Presidents' Roundtable on Connectivity during Pandemic

On May 4, 2020, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks virtually hosted a roundtable to discuss the connectivity needs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”) during the COVID-19 pandemic. This event featured remarks from U.S. Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), and brought together leadership from HBCUs across the country. HBCU requests included laptops and residential broadband for students and employees, and funding for HBCUs in the next COVID-19 stimulus bill. Rep. Adams suggested that future COVID-19 legislation should include $10 million for a technology infrastructure fund for HBCUs to continue their transition to online learning.

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