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FCC Seeking Comment on Measures to Promote Deployment of Next-Generation Broadband Infrastructure

Legislative Activity

Chairman Pai Tells Members of Congress that Set-Top Box Docket to Stay Open

On Thursday, April 13, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai responded to a January 25 letter (previously discussed here) from members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee that asked Chairman Pai to make a “healthy practice of closing dockets that are no longer under active debate and consideration,” including the docket in the FCC’s set-top box proceeding, which began in early 2016. Chairman Pai indicated that “it would be premature to close th[e] docket” at this time. The chairman noted that, despite his disagreement with previous Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules concerning set-top boxes, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the proceeding had “teed up certain issues” on which the FCC may want “to take appropriate action” in the future, the possibility of which would be foreclosed by “immediately closing th[e] docket.” Specifically, Chairman Pai noted that the NPRM “sought comment on eliminating the current CableCARD reporting requirement.” A CableCARD is a one-way device that can be used with a CableCARD-compatible device to access television content provided by the cable companies, thereby allowing television subscribers to access content on third-party devices not sold or rented by the cable companies. Chairman Pai indicated that he “d[id] not want to impede [the FCC’s] ability to take appropriate action with respect to [the CableCARD reporting requirement] in an efficient manner by immediately closing [the] docket.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Seeking Comment on Measures to Promote Wireless Broadband Deployment

The FCC has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry(NPRM and NOI) that “commences an examination of the regulatory impediments to wireless network infrastructure investment and deployment, and how we may remove or reduce such impediments consistent with the law and the public interest, in order to promote the rapid deployment of advanced wireless broadband service to all Americans.” The NPRM and NOI notes that “deployment of next-generation wireless broadband has the potential to bring enormous benefits to the Nation’s communities,” and that by one assessment, “the next generation of wireless broadband is expected to directly involve $275 billion in new investment, and could help create 3 million new jobs and boost annual GDP by $500 billion.” The FCC’s proposals include “potential measures or clarifications intended to expedite [] review” of wireless facility deployment applications by states and local regulatory agencies, and the FCC also in the NPRM “undertake[s] a comprehensive fresh look at our rules and procedures implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) . . . in the context of wireless infrastructure deployment.” The FCC also “invite[s] commenters to propose other innovative approaches to expediting deployment.” Comment deadlines will be announced by a notice published in the Federal Register.

FCC Seeking Comment on Measures to Promote Wireline Broadband Deployment

On April 21, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment seeking comment on measures “to better enable broadband providers to build, maintain, and upgrade their networks, which will lead to more affordable and available Internet access and other broadband services for consumers and businesses alike.” The FCC notes that “[a]ccess to high-speed broadband can create economic opportunity, enabling entrepreneurs to create businesses, immediately reach customers throughout the world, and revolutionize entire industries.” The FCC proposes in the item “to remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment at the federal, state, and local level; suggest changes to speed the transition from copper networks and legacy services to next-generation networks and services; and propose to reform [FCC] regulations that increase costs and slow broadband deployment.” Comment deadlines will be announced by a notice published in the Federal Register.

FCC Reinstates “UHF Discount” For Broadcast TV Stations

The FCC voted on April 20 to reinstate the “‘UHF discount’ until the [FCC] can address its national television ownership rule more holistically, in a proceeding to be launched later this year,” according to an FCC news release. The UHF (or “ultra high frequency”) discount allows “stations broadcasting in the UHF spectrum . . . to count 50 percent of the television households in their market when determining compliance with the 39 percent national cap,” per the news release. The news release states that the UHF discount was eliminated in August 2016 by the FCC “on a party-line vote,” and that the April 20 Order (which has not yet been released)“finds that this action had the effect of substantially tightening the national cap for companies without any analysis of whether this tightening was warranted given current marketplace conditions.” Further, the FCC’s previous decision “erred by getting rid of the UHF discount without simultaneously considering whether the [national] cap itself should be modified,” and the FCC “plans to take up both the question of the 39 percent cap and the UHF discount later this year,” according to the news release.

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About this Author

Steven F. Lederman, Communications, ATtorney, Squire PAtton Boggs, law firm
Senior Associate

Steven Lederman focuses his practice on general communications law matters including issues involving regulation of wireline, wireless and cable television providers. Steve has an in-depth understanding of state and federal regulations impacting telecommunications providers and has participated in proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He has extensive experience with respect to FCC decisions, federal statutes, and regulations affecting telecommunications and cable television providers. In addition, Steve has experience with communications-...

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Koyulyn K. Miller, Squire Patton, Technology, Communication Lawyer, FCC
Associate

Koyulyn Miller advises clients in the communications and technology sectors, specializing in enforcement matters before government agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). She works tirelessly to unpack and analyze complex legal matters, counseling clients on how to navigate enforcement and other regulatory proceedings. Drawing from her years of experience working in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, she educates clients on practical matters such as how to respond to Commission correspondence and enforcement actions, how and when to broach negotiations with Commission staff, and how to implement proactive measures to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations and statutory provisions going forward.

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Benjamin D. Tarbell, Squire Paton, Government Enforcement Lawyer,
Attorney

Benjamin Tarbell draws on his experience in regulatory policy to assist clients in the technology and communications sectors, specializing in matters before government agencies including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

While attending law school, Ben clerked full-time for Commissioner Ajit Pai of the FCC. In that role, he worked alongside the Commissioner’s advisors to draft statements, speeches and agency publications, and advise the Commissioner on FCC issues including the Broadcast Incentive Auction, media ownership, market...

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Peter M. Bean, Squire Patton, Communication Licensing Lawyer
Associate

Peter Bean is a member of the firm’s Communications Practice Group. Peter represents public and private sector US and non-US clients in the technology and communications industries on a range of complex legal, regulatory and legislative issues, many of which are at the forefront of telecommunications law and policy. Peter’s practice is global in scope and leverages the firm’s global footprint for the benefit of clients. In the US, his practice includes varied experience practicing before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and counseling clients on matters...

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