United States: Telecom Deadlines & Headlines - March 2014

Key Regulatory Dates

Annual International Circuit Reports Due March 31, 2014

  • Facilities-based carriers that provide international telecommunications services are required to file their Annual International Circuit Reports with the FCC's International Bureau by March 31, 2014. Carriers are required to report if they had any circuits that may have been activated or idle as of December 31, 2013. The FCC has a manual available to assist carriers with this filing, which can be found here. Please note, the FCC made changes to the reporting requirements in the First Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in IB Docket No. 04-112 that are not reflected in the current Filing Manual. Specifically, carriers are not required to: (1) report circuits from off-shore U.S. points separately; (2) report any circuits between the United States and offshore U.S. points; and file a Circuit Addition Report. More information can be found in the FCC's Public Notice, found here.

Form 499-As Due April 1, 2014

  • Companies that provide telecommunications and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service are reminded that completed FCC Form 499-As are due April 1, 2014. These forms report annual revenue to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as other fund administrators. This form must be filed by all interstate telecommunications carriers, interconnected VoIP providers, providers of interstate telecommunications that offer service for a fee on a non-common carrier basis (including stand-alone audio bridging companies), and payphone providers that are aggregators. In addition, non-interconnected VoIP providers are now required to file this form for the assessment of fees to support the Telecommunications Relay System (TRS). The FCC recently released 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 revenues reported on Form 499-A provide the basis for true-up of a company's Universal Service contributions and for assessing annual fees for the TRS, Local Number Portability (LNP) fund, the North American Numbering Plan Administration fund, and the FCC's annual fee. Companies may submit FCC Form 499-A electronically if they have registered with USAC. If a company submits its FCC Form 499-A to USAC in hard copy, it must contain an officer's original signature.

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.

Key Industry Events

Arent Fox Partner Stephanie Joyce Discusses Inmate Phone Issues On The Kojo Nnamdi Show, March 4, 2014 at 1:30 PM EST on WAMU 88.5 FM

  • For more details about the program, click here.

Ross Buntrock Speaks To The Telecom Council of Silicon Valley, March 28, 2014

  • Arent Fox Partner Ross Buntrock will be speaking at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley's Quarterly Investor and Service Provider Forum Meeting at Meru Networks in Sunnyvale, CA. For more details on the event, click here.

COMPTEL PLUS, March 16–19, 2014

  • For more information on this event, which Arent Fox Partner Michael Hazzard will be attending, click here.

News Roundup

Dish Network Ducks Class Certification in TCPA Case

  • On February 18, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado partially denied Dish Network's ("Dish") motion for summary judgment on Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA") claims filed against it for calls that were made by Dish retailers or by telemarketers retained by Dish retailers, but that were not made directly by Dish itself. Dish had argued that it could not be held liable for these calls. The court rejected that argument, agreeing with the FCC's interpretation of the TCPA in In re Joint Petition Filed by Dish Network, LLC, 28 FCC Rcd. 6574 (2013), and held that Dish could be held vicariously liable for these calls under the federal common law of agency. The court then denied summary judgment to Dish with respect to four of the nine calls made to the plaintiff, for which the plaintiff had provided evidence that could trigger vicarious liability, and granted summary judgment in favor of Dish with respect to five of the nine calls, for which the plaintiff had provided no such evidence. Significantly, however, the court also denied the plaintiff's request for class certification. In order to propose a class of which he was a member, the plaintiff had sought certification of a class that only included individuals who had received calls from particular dealers on particular dates a number of years ago, just as he had. The court held that this class was not an ascertainable class because the records has been lost or destroyed, and individual members could not be easily ascertained through notice by publication. The end result of the court's order appears to be that Dish's liability is now limited to four calls placed to the plaintiff himself. Donaca v. Dish Network, LLC., No. 11-CV-02910-RBJ-KLM, 2014 WL 623396 (D. Colo. Feb. 18, 2014).

FCC Seeks Comment on Another Petition For Declaratory Ruling Seeking Clarity On The FCC's New Consent Rules

  • On February 20, 2014, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice seeking comment on Acurian, Inc.'s petition for declaratory ruling filed on February 5, 2014. Comments are due March 24, 2014, and reply comments are due April 8, 2014. Acurian is requesting that the FCC clarify that prerecorded calls to residential landlines seeking an individual's participation in a clinical pharmaceutical trial are exempt from the restrictions on prerecorded calls sent without the called party's prior express written consent under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Acurian states that it has been named as a defendant in TCPA class action on the grounds that Acurian's prerecorded calls are allegedly commercial in nature and that it did not have the necessary consent to call residential telephone numbers as a result. Acurian argues that its prerecorded calls are analogous to "research" and "market survey" calls that have been deemed by the FCC to fall under the category of calls that are "not made for a commercial purpose." Acurian therefore requests that the FCC clarify that calls that "merely seek an individual's participation in a clinical drug trial" do not require any consent if sent to a residential telephone number. A copy of United's petition can be found here.

Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Passed In House

  • On February 25, 2014, the House of Representatives voted 295-114 in favor of a bill that would allow consumers to unlock their cell phones so that they can be used on another carrier's network. The bill called Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (HR 1123), was crafted to reverse a 2012 decision made by the Librarian of Congress, who has certain oversight over copyright laws, which stopped consumers from unlocking their phones without the consent of their wireless carrier. The bill, which must still be taken up by the Senate, would only authorize unlocking for a two-year period, after which further legislation would be required. Some consumer advocacy organizations have expressed disappointment with the bill passed by the House because it was recently amended to prevent the sale of unlocked phones in bulk, limiting the creation of new businesses based on the sale of unlocked phones.  You can monitor the bill, and read the full text as passed by the House, here.

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