Today's Regulatory Mix: FCC Clarification on Emergency COVID-19 Related Calls, FCC Agenda for Virtual Workshop on Role of Libraries in Advancing Broadband, USDA Announces Funding for North Carolina Broadband
FCC Clarification on Emergency COVID-19 Related Calls
The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (Bureau) confirmed that calls and text messages made by or on behalf of commercial labs, health insurers, physicians, and pharmacies (health care entities) that, pursuant to guidance from federal, state, or local government officials, communicate with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to provide them with information regarding donating their plasma after recovering, fall within the “emergency purposes” exception to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). As a result, such calls during the ongoing pandemic do not require prior express consent to be lawful.
The Bureau notes that, in a March 20, 2020 Declaratory Ruling, See the Regulatory Mix dated 3/23/20, it confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an “emergency” under the TCPA and that consequently hospitals, health care providers, state and local health officials, and other government officials may lawfully communicate, through automated calls or texts to wireless numbers, information about the novel coronavirus as well as mitigation measures. The Public Notice confirms that this emergency exception also applies to calls or texts made by or on behalf of health care entities that, pursuant to guidance from federal, state, or local government officials, communicate with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to encourage them to donate their plasma after recovering. The FCC emphasized, however, that automated calls that contain advertising or telemarketing of services or that attempt to collect debt, even if such debt arises from related health care treatment, do not constitute calls made for an “emergency purpose” as those calls do not “affect the health and safety of consumers,” and are not directly related to an imminent health or safety risk. As a result, those calls or texts require the prior express consent of the called party.
FCC Agenda for Virtual Workshop on Role of Libraries in Advancing Broadband
The FCC released the agenda for its August 3, 2020, virtual workshop examining the role of U.S. libraries as community hubs to drive digital adoption and literacy. The FCC’s Media Bureau and the Digital Empowerment and Inclusion Working Group of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) are co-sponsors of the event. The workshop will feature experts from libraries, academia, and civil society organizations who will discuss efforts to support underserved rural and urban communities’ acquisition of digital skills. Experts will consider what constitutes digital inclusion today and the role of libraries and public-private partnerships in supporting digital literacy. Panelists will also address the impact of COVID-19 on advancing digital inclusion, as well as the impact of various local, state, and federal interventions in recent months.
The workshop will be available to the public via live feed from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live. The public may also follow the meeting on Twitter@fcc or via the Commission’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcc. Members of the public may submit any questions during the workshop to firstname.lastname@example.org.
USDA Announces Funding for North Carolina Broadband
The USDA announced it investing more than $3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in North Carolina. In rural North Carolina, French Broad Electric Membership Corporation will use a $3.2 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 4,056 people, 189 farms, 64 businesses and two fire stations to high-speed broadband internet in Madison County.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.