Telecom Alert: November 21, 2016 - Republicans Urge FCC Regulatory Freeze; PSAP Task Force Meeting; Utilities Call Scam; Drones; Waiver for Power Cooperative; FCC Approves Verizon's Acquisition of XO
Republicans Urge FCC Regulatory Freeze
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last week, urging him to omit controversial topics from the FCC’s agenda for the remainder of his tenure and to focus instead on ensuring a successful broadcast incentive auction. They also reminded the Chairman of 2008, when Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin honored similar requests from subcommittees headed by Democrats. FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly echoed these sentiments in statements released on November 15. In response, Chairman Wheeler removed all controversial matters from the FCC’s Open Meeting on November 17, including items on the rates for special access services, often referred to as business data services (“BDS”), Roaming, Mobility Fund, and Video Description.
PSAP Task Force Meeting
Last week the FCC announced that the Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Architecture (TFOPA) will hold a public meeting on December 2 at FCC Headquarters in Washington, D.C.. The TFOPA will aid the Commission in determining the necessary actions for PSAP to optimize its security, operations, and funding while transitioning to Next Generation 911.
Utilities Call Scam
The Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a statement warning consumers of callers pretending to be utility company representatives demanding immediate payment of fees through prepaid debit cards, credit cards, or gift cards. The caller typically threatens to terminate heating fuel within the home unless the payments are made. The Commission urges consumers who are contacted to report the calls to their local utility, local police, the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant, and the FCC’s Consumer Help Center.
FAA Evaluates Drone Detection Systems near Airports
In a press release, the FAA announced an ongoing partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and various industries to evaluate technologies used for detecting the presence of drones near airports. The governmental organizations will be conducting drone-detection research in the vicinity of Denver International Airport as part of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program for UAS Detection at Airports and Critical Infrastructure.
Waiver for Power Cooperative
Keller and Heckman LLP recently assisted an Iowa electric cooperative with obtaining a waiver of the FCC’s rules to replace and upgrade a load control system using digital radios. The system, used for mission critical load shedding events, relied on the Commission’s 154 MHz power utility peak load sharing channel, which is normally limited to 6 kHz bandwidth. In order to migrate to digital technology, a wider 11 kHz bandwidth was required. The Commission recognized that denial of the waiver would require unnecessary replacement of a substantial amount of embedded equipment, would be less spectrally efficient, and could require the construction and operation of additional sites in order to provide the needed coverage.
FCC Approves Verizon’s Acquisition of XO
Last week the FCC approved Verizon’s acquisition of XO Communications, LLC, consistent with the Justice Department’s prior approval, finding the transaction strengthens Verizon’s ability to compete in the enterprise wireline services market and does not adversely affect competition in other sectors. XO operates substantial metro fiber assets in major US markets and maintains significant Internet backbone capacity. XO Holdings, Inc. will retain its LMDS licenses that Verizon currently leases and may acquire in the future. The FCC’s decision strongly indicates the FCC will approve the CenturyLink’s recently proposed acquisition of Level 3 Communications.