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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. 

E-rate News

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.” 

© 2017 Keller and Heckman LLP


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 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. 

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 joined Keller and Heckman in 2002. She 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.


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,...