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Telecom Alert — FCC Fines CenturyLink, West Safety for 911 Outage; Net Neutrality Petition for Rehearing; AT&T to Pay $60 Million in FTC Settlement; T-Mobile and Sprint Merger FCC Approval Order; Pole Inspection Company Cited by — Vol. XVI, Issue 45

FCC Fines CenturyLink, West Safety for 911 Outage

Last Monday, the Enforcement Bureau issued fines against CenturyLink and West Safety Communications, Inc. of $400,000 and $175,000, respectively, for a multi-state 911 outage that occurred in August 2018.  The outage was caused by a mistaken switch configuration change, which resulted in a 65-minute outage that led to more than 460,000 calls to 911 going undelivered.  In addition to the fines, both companies committed to a compliance plan.

Petition for Rehearing Filed in Net Neutrality Case

The Digital Justice Foundation (DJF) filed a petition for rehearing en banc with the D.C. Circuit seeking review of its decision to uphold the FCC’s reclassification of broadband service and repeal of net neutrality rules (Vol. XVI, Issue 40).  DJF specifically seeks review of the court’s decision to uphold the transparency rule, which requires ISPs to publicly disclose their network management practices.  According to DJF, the transparency rule is arbitrary and capricious. 

AT&T to Pay $60 Million in FTC Settlement

AT&T will pay $60 million under a proposed settlement agreement with the FTC to end litigation over allegations that AT&T misled millions of its smartphone customers by charging them for “unlimited” data plans while throttling their data speeds.  The FTC initially filed a complaint against AT&T in 2014, alleging the company failed to adequately disclose that unlimited data customers would have their data speeds throttled after a certain amount of use in a given billing cycle.  Under the settlement, the $60 million will be used to provide partial reimbursements to current and former unlimited data plan customers prior to 2011 that had their data speeds throttled.  AT&T is also prohibited from making any representations about the speed or amount of its data without prominently disclosing any material restrictions. 

T-Mobile and Sprint Merger Approval Order Released

The FCC issued an Order last Tuesday officially approving the T-Mobile and Sprint merger (Vol. XVI, Issue 42).  Approval of the transaction is conditioned on T-Mobile and Sprint fulfilling the commitments they made in the deal, which include deploying 5G service to 97 percent of Americans within three years and to 99 percent of Americans within six years.  The Commission also proposed modifications to DISH’s construction deadlines for spectrum it is obtaining under the Order. The remaining hurdle is the pending antitrust action brought by multiple states’ attorney generals. T-Mobile previously stated it will not consummate the merger until this lawsuit is resolved.

Pole Inspection Company Cited by OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Citation and Notification of Penalty against Smith Mountain Investments, LLC on October 22 for heat stress violations that resulted in the death of an employee.  The worker collapsed, and later died of hyperthermia, after manually shoveling around the circumference of two wooden telephone poles for approximately twelve and a half hours in 74.7-87.8-degree Fahrenheit weather.  According to the citation, Smith Mountain lacked a formal process to allow employees to rest and recover and failed to ensure that an individual with first aid training was present at the jobsite.  Smith Mountain was charged $18,564 for the violations. 

© 2023 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 315

About this Author

C. Douglas Jarrett, Keller Heckman, telecommunications lawyer, procurement law

Douglas Jarrett joined Keller and Heckman in 1979. Mr. Jarrett specializes in telecommunications law, policy and procurement matters.

Mr. Jarrett is a recognized expert in representing enterprises in negotiating telecommunications services agreements with the major wireline and wireless carriers, domestically and globally.  He also advises enterprises on M2M services, cloud computing and IVR technology procurements. 

Mr. Jarrett represents technology companies in securing amendments to the FCC rules to enable the...

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...

Thomas B. Magee, Keller Heckman, transactional counsel, litigation attorney, FCC law, safety violation lawyer

Thomas Magee joined Keller and Heckman in 2000. Mr. Magee provides regulatory, transactional and litigation counsel to investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and municipalities regarding pole attachments and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing of private wireless telecommunications services.

Mr. Magee has helped to resolve dozens of pole attachment disputes affecting make-ready costs, safety violations, unauthorized attachments, annual rental rates and other terms and conditions of access. He negotiates,...

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...

Wesley K. Wright, Keller Heckman, Telecommunications Lawyer, FCC Enforcement Attorney, DC

Wesley Wright joined Keller and Heckman in 2006 and practices in the areas of telecommunications law.  He assists corporate clients and trade associations with various legal and regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, courts and state agencies.

Mr. Wright’s practice includes private wireless licensing, FCC enforcement, and related transactional matters.  He counsels clients on internal operations and governance matters and has drafted and negotiated asset purchase agreements,...