United States: Telecom Deadlines & Headlines - February 18, 2014

Arent Fox's Telecom Deadlines & Headlines brings you the most recent legal developments affecting the telecommunications industry.

This Telecom Deadlines & Headlines reminds you of the upcoming deadlines for FCC Forms 477s and 499As, and recaps recent FCC and FTC action on TCPA and mobile-tracking issues.

KEY REGULATORY DATES

FCC CPNI Certificates and Form 477s Due March 1, 2014

  • FCC Form 477, known as the Local Telephone Competition and Broadband Report, is due March 1, 2014. This semi-annual report collects information about broadband connections to end user locations, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, and wired and wireless local telephone services in individual states and territories. Facilities-based providers of broadband connections to end users, interconnected VoIP providers, providers of mobile telephony services, and providers of wired or fixed-wireless local exchange telephone service are required to file FCC Form 477. The FCC has developed an online portal for this filing. More information about this filing can be found here. The portal for filing FCC Form 477 can be found here.

Comments Sought on Reducing Barriers to Deployment of Wireless Infrastructure

  • On December 5, 2013, the Commission's September 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) aimed at reducing barriers to the deployment of wireless infrastructure was published in the Federal Register. The NPRM seeks comment on expediting the Commission's environmental review in connection with proposed deployments of certain technologies, such as small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems, which may be less likely to affect the environment. The NPRM also proposes a narrow exemption to notification requirements for certain temporary towers, and seeks comments on rules that would clarify provisions concerning time periods in which local agencies are expected to act on wireless facility siting applications. Initial comments were due February 3, 2014, and reply comments must be filed by March 5, 2014. WT Docket Nos. 13-238 and 13-32 and WC Docket No. 11-59. A copy of the NPRM is available here.

499A Due April 1, 2014; New Wholesale/Resale Certification Language Released

  • The FCC released its 2014 FCC Form 499-A and FCC Form 499-Q, along with updated instructions for completing those filings. Notably, the instructions include updated guidance for the execution of reseller certificates for services provided to resellers that pay into the federal Universal Service Fund. Copies of the Public Notice outlining the changes from the 2013 FCC Form 499-A and 499-Q can be found here, and the new versions of the forms can be found here and here. The FCC Form 499-A is due April 1, 2014. (DA-14-119)

KEY INDUSTRY EVENTS

Mobile World Congress, February 24–27, 2014

  • For more details about this event in Barcelona, click here.

Channel Partners Conference & Expo, February 26–28, 2014

  • For more details about the event in Las Vegas, click here.

Metro Connect USA 2014, February 27–28, 2014

  • For more details about this event in Miami, click here.

NEWS ROUNDUP

FCC Seeks Comment On TCPA Petition Regarding Reassigned Numbers

  • On February 6, 2014, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice seeking comment on United Healthcare Service's petition for expedited declaratory ruling filed on January 16, 2014. United is requesting that the FCC clarify that an entity should not face liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) for placing an autodialed and/or prerecorded telephone call to a wireless number that has been reassigned to a new individual, unbeknownst to the calling party. United states that it obtains patients' "prior express consent" to send them informational healthcare messages, such as prescription refill notifications, to the telephone numbers given by its patients, but sometimes these telephone numbers are reassigned to other individuals. As a result, United has been named as a defendant in a TCPA class action litigation on the grounds that it did not have "prior express consent" to call the reassigned telephone number. United argues that organizations "cannot completely avoid calling reassigned wireless telephone numbers" because there is no public wireless telephone number directory and individuals change their telephone numbers without notifying businesses with which they have a relationship. United asserts that the FCC has ample authority to immunize entities from TCPA liability when they unknowingly call a reassigned telephone number. Comments are due March 10, 2014, and reply comments are due March 24, 2014. A copy of United's petition can be found here.

Federal Court Takes Common-Sense Approach In Dismissing TCPA Claim

  • On January 28, 2014, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted summary judgment on a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) claim to Sabre, a company that contracted with Hawaiian Airlines to provide flight notification services to the airline's passengers. At issue was a single text message, sent from Sabre to Shaya Baird, asking Baird if she wished to receive flight notification services. Baird had booked a flight on Hawaiian Airlines, and in order to complete her transaction she was required to provide a phone number. There were no disclosures on Hawaiian Airlines' website about subsequent text messages she would receive. In finding for Sabre, the court held that it was bound by a 1992 Federal Communications Commission rulemaking that stated that knowingly providing one's phone number to a merchant constitutes prior express consent to receive calls under the TCPA. Although Baird had provided her number to Hawaiian Airlines, her consent to be contacted about flight-related matters also extended to the airline's contractors, the court held. Thus, Sabre was entitled to summary judgment. Baird v. Sabre, Inc., No. CV 13-999 SVW (C.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2014).

FTC Mobile Tracking Seminar February 19, 2014

  • The Federal Trade Commission will hold a seminar this week regarding privacy concerns relating to tracking mobile devices in stores and other public areas. According to the FTC, companies are using the signal emitted from mobile phones to "reveal information about consumers including the path taken throughout a location, length of time in one location, whether a visitor is new or returning, and the frequency of visits to a location." The privacy seminar will be held on February 19, 2014, at the FTC's headquarters in Washington from 10:00 a.m. to noon. A live webcast will also be available. More information is available here.

Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications Bill Pending In House

  • In response to the FCC's adoption of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Fall that may ultimately lift the ban on the use of cell phones on airplanes, the House Transportation Committee moved forward last week on a bill that would prohibit passengers from using cell phones for voice calls during domestic flights. Under the bill, voice calls by crewmembers and law enforcement would be permitted, and passengers would be permitted to use their phone for sending and receiving text messages. The Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013 passed committee on a voice vote, but must still be considered by the full House. More information about the bill, including the full text, is available here.

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