Telecom Alert: March 20, 2017 - Verizon Settles 911 Suit; Court Finds for FirstNet in Rivada Mercury Suit; Chairman Pai's First Major Policy Speech; E-rate News; FCC Seeks Comment on Airborne Use of 700 MHz;
Verizon Reaches Settlement in 911 Suit
Verizon Communications has settled a lawsuit with the Wendell Family, alleging the company’s failure to correctly program their county’s 911 system delayed by hours law enforcement’s response to their calls. In March 2016, the family was held hostage in their own home by an escaped convict. During the ordeal, James Wendell dialed 911 multiple times, but calls were not completed. As a result, the family suffered significant injuries. The claim alleged the delayed response was due to “defendants’ failure to use reasonable care in the construction, programming, testing and activation of its cellular wireless voice, messaging and data services for the Vicksburg-Warren County 911 call center,” and sought $45 million in damages. The case settled out of court, the terms were not released.
Court Finds for FirstNet in Rivada Mercury Lawsuit
Last week, Judge Elaine Kaplan found against Rivada Mercury’s protest of the FirstNet procurement process. In a sealed decision, Judge Kaplan denied Rivada Mercury’s motion to have its bid considered in the “competitive range” part of the procurement process and granted motions filed by the Department of Justice and AT&T. Now that the ruling has been issued, FirstNet CEO Mike Poth explained that “FirstNet intends to move expeditiously to finalize the contract for the nationwide public-safety broadband network.” Reportedly, Rivada Mercury intends to continue pursuing opportunities in states that choose to opt-out of FirstNet.
Chairman Pai Gives First Major Policy Speech
Last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave his first major policy speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Chairman Pai outlined four guiding policy principles: “the importance of digital empowerment, the need for ubiquitous Internet access, the power of competitive free markets, and light-touch regulation.” To meet these policy goals, Chairman Pai emphasized the importance of facilitating infrastructure and innovation. Regarding infrastructure, Chairman Pai called on the President and Congress to include broadband networks as major part of any national infrastructure plan, recommending that any funding for broadband should be administered through Universal Service Fund mechanisms and that any legislation should include Gigabit Opportunity Zones for unserved areas.
Last week, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced the E-rate program funding cap for funding year 2017 is $3,990,207,000. This new level is 1.3 percent inflation-adjusted increase on the 2016 funding cap. Also last week, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) sent a letter to Chairman Pai that stresses the importance of the E-rate program, stating that they want to ensure that the E-rate program “remains strong for generations to come.”
FCC Seeks Comment on Airborne Use of 700 MHz
The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and the International Bureau issued a Public Notice calling for comment on Airborne use of the 700 MHz public safety narrowband spectrum (769-775/799-805 MHz) along the U.S. - Canada border. Specifically, the Bureaus seek comment on “how to best provide reliable and seamless air-ground communications in the 700 MHz band in the U.S. and Canada, while avoiding undue disruption of existing terrestrial facilities in both countries.”