October 26, 2020

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October 26, 2020

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Robocalls, $200k Fine for Wi-Fi Routers, Submarine Cable Outage Rules, Hearing Aid Compatibility - Telecom Business Alert

“Robocalls” From Energy Utilities

Last week, the FCC released a Declaratory Ruling granting a petition by the Edison Electric Institute and American Gas Association regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).  The ruling confirms that energy utilities may place “robocalls” (calls and texts placed with an autodialer or a prerecorded or artificial voice) regarding matters “closely related to the utility service” to numbers that have been provided by their customers. The ruling extends to calls concerning service outages, service restoration, meter work, tree trimming and other field work, threatened service curtailment, and potential brown-outs due to heavy energy use. Callers must still comply with other TCPA requirements, including opt-out requirements and ceasing robocalls to numbers that have been reassigned to new subscribers. 

$200,000 Fine for Wi-Fi Routers

The FCC announced last week that TP-Link will pay a $200,000 fine and enter into a compliance plan for selling Wi-Fi routers capable of operating at higher power levels that those approved by the Commission.  The Commission stated that Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) Wi-Fi equipment operating in the 5 GHz band must refrain from offering user configurable options that cause operation in violation of the FCC’s rules.  During its investigation, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) determined that TP-Link’s software installed on its router permitted the user to change the country code for the router, enabling it to operate at higher power than allowed on 5 GHz channels.Submarine Cable Outage Rules

Last week the FCC adopted Final Rules requiring submarine cable licensees to report service outages (defined as a failure or significant degradation in the performance of a licensee’s cable service regardless of whether traffic can be re-routed) to the FCC through the Network Outage Reporting System (“NORS”).  The FCC also directed the International Bureau to develop and improve interagency coordination processes and best practices for submarine cable deployment activities and permitting.

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rules

The FCC issued a Report and Order on Friday that amended its hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules for wireless handsets by increasing the number of HAC handsets that service providers and manufacturers are required to offer: 66 percent of offered handsets must be compliant following a two-year transition period for manufacturers, and 85 percent of offered handsets must be compliant following a five-year transition period.  Additional compliance time will be allotted for service providers. 

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 221



About this Author

Tracy Marshall, Keller Heckman, regulatory attorney, for-profit company lawyer

Tracy Marshall assists clients with a range of business and regulatory matters.

In the business and transactional area, Ms. Marshall advises for-profit and non-profit clients on corporate organization, operations, and governance matters, and assists clients with structuring and negotiating a variety of transactions, including purchase and sale, marketing, outsourcing, and e-commerce agreements.

In the privacy, data security, and advertising areas, she helps clients comply with privacy, data security, and consumer protection laws, including laws governing telemarketing and...

Gregory E. Kunkle, Keller Heckman, regulatory attorney, FCC lawyer

Gregory Kunkle joined Keller and Heckman in 2006. Mr. Kunkle practices in the area of telecommunications, with an emphasis on assisting corporate clients and trade associations with various legal and regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission.

Mr. Kunkle regularly counsels critical infrastructure companies, such as electric utilities, oil and gas companies, and railroads, public safety agencies, and commercial providers regarding FCC wireless licensing and compliance issues.  He assists clients in identifying and acquiring wireless spectrum through a variety of means, including spectrum leasing, purchase and sale of licenses, and the FCC's auction process. His spectrum acquisition practice spans all of the FCC’s wireless frequency allocations, including the 220 MHz band, AMTS (217/219 MHz), VHF/UHF Part 22 Paging, the 1.4 GHz band, Part 90 800/900 MHz bands, MAS, the 2.5 GHz EBS/BRS band, and the 700 MHz band.

Mr. Kunkle counsels clients that become involved in the FCC's enforcement process including by responding to and vigorously defending against complaints and investigations and, where appropriate, negotiating settlements with the Commission. 

Albert J. Catalano, Keller and Heckman, Domestic Joint Ventures Attorney, FCC Regulation Lawyer, DC

Albert Catalano joined Keller and Heckman in 2014.  Mr. Catalano has 30 years of experience in telecommunications regulatory and legislative matters, domestic and international joint ventures, litigation, and transactions involving communications, properties and investments.  Mr. Catalano represents States and other entities in matters related to the buildout of the 700 MHz nationwide public safety broadband network on spectrum licensed to FirstNet.  He has extensive experience in spectrum relocation proceedings.  Mr. Catalano’s practice focuses on wireless...

Timothy A. Doughty, Keller Heckman, Telecommunications Licensing Specialist, Lawyer, FCC Matters Attorney

Timothy Doughty joined Keller and Heckman in 2009 as a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Licensing Specialist.

Mr. Doughty assists clients with the preparation of FCC applications, modifications, special temporary authorities, requests for rule waiver, renewals and spectrum leases in various radio services including Private Land Mobile, Microwave, Coast and Ground and Aircraft. His capabilities also include the preparation of tower registrations with the FCC and Obstruction Evaluations and Aeronautical Studies with the Federal Aviation...