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Telecom Alert, August 13, 2017: FirstNet and APCO; 3.5 GHz Band PN; 911 Grant Program; Wireless Siting Moratoria Clarification Requested; Massachusetts Dismisses 911 Fee Action; WV Business Benefits from Private Broadband

FirstNet and APCO 2018

FirstNet was a prominent topic at APCO’s annual conference held last week in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Early in the week, AT&T’s Executive Vice President of Regulatory & State External Affairs, Joan Marsh, published a blog post, stating that AT&T is pleased that Colorado withdrew its filing seeking clarification on FirstNet interoperability guidelines.  The blog further explained that allowing other networks to access FirstNet’s core could pose security concerns.  Senior Vice President, Verizon Enterprise Solutions - Public Sector, Michael Maiorana, presented at the conference, emphasizing the importance of interoperability for FirstNet and promoting the benefits of Verizon’s network. 

3.5 GHz Band Public Notice

The Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology released a Public Notice seeking comment on the 2015 3.5 GHz rulemaking.  The Spectrum Pipeline Act requires the Commission to submit a report by November 2, 2018 regarding the 3.5 GHz band rule changes and “proposals to promote and identify additional spectrum bands that can be shared between incumbent uses and new licensed and unlicensed services under such rules and identification of at least 1 gigahertz between 6 GHz and 57 GHz for such use.”  Comments are due September 11, 2018 and Reply Comments are due September 26, 2018. 

911 Grant Program

NTIA and NHTSA announced that the agencies will move forward with their NG-911 grant program, allocating up to $110 million to upgrade call center equipment and operations to NG-911 capabilities.  The application process will consist of two steps.  The Notice of Funding Opportunity provides that the initial application, the first step, is due September 10, 2018. 

Request for Clarification of FCC Declaratory Ruling on Wireless Siting Moratoria

On August 3, 2018, the Commission adopted a Declaratory Ruling under Section 253(a) of the Communications Act, ruling that local or state moratoria on the deployment of telecommunications services or telecommunications facilities are a violation of Section 253(a).  The FCC’s action is widely opposed by municipal governments. Last week, AT&T submitted an ex parte filing requesting the Commission “clarify the types of municipal regulations that ‘have the effect of prohibiting’ the provision of wireless service.” 

Highest Massachusetts Court Dismisses 911 Fee Qui Tam Action  

Over the past few years, Phone Recovery Services, LLC has filed qui tam lawsuits in a number of state courts against prominent telecom companies, alleging the telcos are underreporting the number of landlines served to minimize payment of state E-911 surcharges assessed on a per telephone line basis. Under a qui tam action, the plaintiff is deemed to be acting on behalf of the state to recover monies unlawfully paid to or payments avoided by private firms and individuals.  Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Phone Recovery Services, LLC lacked standing to sue on behalf of the state because Massachusetts law only allows individuals to bring such a suit.  The plaintiff has brought similar actions in other states, largely unsuccessful to date. 

Private Broadband Arrangement Assists Small Rural Business

Last summer, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai published a blog post, in which he described a visit to Capon Springs, West Virginia.  Capon Springs and Farms, a family-owned resort had been struggling to maintain connectivity, which in turn was greatly affecting their business.  This spring it was announced that Capon Springs and Farms had worked out a private arrangement to secure fixed wireless Broadband service.  Senator Shelly Moore Capito’s (R-WV) Capito Connect Plan played a role in developing the private arrangement.  The broadband capability will make it easier for the business to attract visitors who require a strong Internet connection while away.  While this arrangement is private, the resort hopes it can help the broader community gain broadband capabilities. 

© 2019 Keller and Heckman LLP

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