What will the FCC be tackling next?Just minutes before the FCC shutdown last Thursday, Chairman Pai released the tentative agenda for the FCC’s scheduled January 30, 2019 Open Meeting. Unfortunately, he did not release his customary blog setting the “theme” for the meeting. So, we are left to guess what that theme might be, and, to be honest, I’m not sure I see one. Maybe you will. Let's take a closer look at some of the issues on the agenda.
Implementing the Anti-Spoofing Provisions of the RAY BAUM’S Act: Last year, Congress passed RAY BAUM’s Act, which amended the Communications Act by, among other things, amending §227(e) to: (1) reach spoofing activities directed at consumers in the United States from actors outside the United States; and (2) extend its reach to caller ID spoofing using alternative voice and text messaging services. In response, the FCC is proposing rules to implement these statutory changes and “take another significant step in our multi-pronged approach to ending malicious caller ID spoofing.” The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would:
- Revise the FCC’s current Truth in Caller ID rules by largely tracking the language of the statutory amendments. These proposed changes include: (1) extending the reach of the FCC’s current Truth in Caller ID rules to include covered communications originating from outside the United States to recipients within the United States; and (2) expanding the scope of covered communications services to include text messages and additional voice services.
- Seek comment on new or revised definitions of the following terms: “text message,” “text messaging service,” “voice service,” “caller identification information,” and “caller identification service.”
- Seek comment on any other changes to the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID rules necessary to effectuate Congress’ intent in amending section 227(e).
VoIP providers may be particularly interested in the portion of the Notice that discusses the definition of a voice service, as the FCC is considering whether the definition should include one-way VoIP services (and similar IP based or other technology-based calling capability) that connect with the PSTN and use telephone numbers that separately enable users to make outbound calls to landline or mobile telephones or to receive inbound calls from landline or mobile telephones.
Transitioning to CAF Phase II Auction Support in Price Cap Areas: The Connect America Fund (CAF) provides high-cost support to areas currently serviced by price cap carriers using a combination of a forward-looking broadband cost model and competitive bidding. In 2015, several price cap carriers declined model-based support in these areas but continued to receive CAF Phase I frozen support. Meanwhile, competitive carriers providing service to fixed locations had their high-cost support frozen pending the completion of the CAF Phase II auction. The FCC will be considering a Report and Order that adopts a transition framework to end CAF Phase I frozen support in areas where support was awarded through the CAF Phase II auction and phase out federal high-cost support in price cap areas that were not eligible for continued support through the auction.
The Report and Order would:
- Using the Connect America Cost Model (CAM), allocate legacy CAF Phase I frozen support among those price cap carriers that declined CAF Phase II model-based support based on the relative cost of serving each area served by those carriers.
- Establish a schedule for ending support to price cap carriers and phasing down fixed competitive eligible telecommunications carrier (CETC) support in areas that were successfully bid during the auction, while providing interim support for areas that did not receive any bids.
- Afford price cap carriers and fixed competitive ETCs an option to decline support.
For CETCs, legacy support would be subject to a two-year phase down, beginning on the first day of the month immediately following the first authorization of any Phase II auction support. Fixed CETCs would receive phase-down support equal to two-thirds of their total legacy support for the first 12 months; and one-third of their total legacy support for the following 12 months. All legacy support would end thereafter.
Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS): Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) is a form of telecommunications relay service (TRS) that allows individuals with hearing loss to both read captions and use their residual hearing to understand a telephone conversation. The FCC will consider various changes intended to enhance program management, prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, and improve emergency call handling in the IP CTS program, as follows:
- A Report and Order that would integrate IP CTS into the TRS User Registration Database, subject to the same data submission and verification rules that currently apply to video relay service, with minor modifications for IP CTS.
- A Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would: (1) codify a requirement for IP CTS providers to include unique user account identifiers in monthly call detail records submitted for TRS Fund compensation; and (2) simplify the processing of 911 calls for some IP CTS users, so that they can communicate more effectively with emergency dispatchers.
- An Order that would, pending the completion of the rulemaking, waive certain emergency call-handling requirements so that some IP CTS users can communicate more effectively with emergency dispatchers.
The FCC will also consider two Media Bureau items that would: reexamine the comparative standards and procedures for licensing Noncommercial Educational Broadcast Stations and Low Power FM Stations; and eliminate the requirement that broadcast stations to file the Broadcast Mid-Term Report (Form 397).
It remains to be seen whether Chairman Pai was too optimistic in planning for a January 30 meeting. But for those with an interest in any of these items, the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System is one of the systems that is supposed to remain available during the shutdown so you should be able to file comments on the proposed items. And, once it does happen, the January meeting will be the first meeting in a really long time with a full contingent of FCC Commissioners!