FCC’s January Meeting Agenda Includes Proposed Disclosures for All Broadband Providers

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The FCC released its agenda for the next Commission Open Meeting, scheduled for January 27, 2022. The agency will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would require all broadband Internet access service providers (“ISPs”) to disclose information about various aspects of their service to consumers at the point of sale (“ISP NPRM”). The FCC will address a Report and Order that would amend the E-Rate program rules to clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible for E-Rate support (“E-Rate Tribal Order”). The commissioners also will consider a Second Order on Reconsideration and Order that would revise rules governing white space spectrum to ensure that wireless microphones are protected from harmful interference (“White Space Order”). In addition, the FCC will focus on an NPRM that would propose to amend the equipment authorization rules to incorporate updated technical standards (“Equipment NPRM”).

You will find more information about the items on the January meeting agenda after the break:

Empowering Broadband Consumers Through Transparency – The ISP NPRM would propose rules to implement certain provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“Infrastructure Act”). Specifically, Section 60504 of the Infrastructure Act directs the Commission to “promulgate regulations to require the display of broadband consumer labels” to “disclose to consumers information regarding broadband Internet access service plans.” In accordance with that statutory mandate, the ISP NPRM would propose consumer labels consistent with a 2016 Public Notice (DA 16-357). In the 2016 Public Notice, the Commission set forth various required consumer disclosures related to fixed and mobile broadband services, including information about pricing, data allowances, broadband speeds, network management practices and fees. The Commission would also seek comment on the following issues:  whether any changes should be made to the content of the consumer labels contained in the 2016 Public Notice; where the consumer labels should be displayed; how to ensure the accuracy of the content of the labels; and the effective date of the label requirements.

Connecting Tribal Libraries – The E-Rate Tribal Order would amend Sections 54.500 and 54.501(b)(1) of the FCC’s rules to clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible for E-rate support. Pursuant to Section 254(h)(4) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, a library may not receive preferential treatment or rates (such as under the E-rate program) unless it is eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act (“LSTA”). The amended FCC rule would be consistent with a 2018 amendment to the LSTA which provided that Tribal libraries are eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency. The Commission’s planned clarification about Tribal libraries’ eligibility for E-Rate support is intended to increase Tribal libraries’ participation in the E-Rate program and lead to more affordable access to high-speed broadband and a narrowing of the digital divide in Tribal regions. The E-Rate Tribal Order would also direct the Office of Native Affairs and Policy and the Wireline Competition Bureau, together with the Tribal Liaison at the Universal Service Administrative Company, to focus on outreach efforts and training for Tribal libraries. Finally, the Commission would implement measures to track Tribal libraries’ participation in the E-rate program.

Facilitating Better Use of ‘White Space’ Spectrum – The White Space Order would revise technical requirements governing how white space devices and white space databases work together to ensure that the licensed operation of wireless microphones is not subject to harmful interference. Under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules, unlicensed devices can operate on unused channels within the broadcast television spectrum and certain other areas of the spectrum where licensed wireless operations have not commenced (commonly known as white spaces), so long as they do not cause harmful interference. As a means to prevent harmful interference, white space devices must contact a white space database (administered by Commission-designated private entities) at least once per day to obtain a list of available channels and the associated maximum power level for those channels. In 2015, the FCC adopted rules to further protect the operation of licensed wireless microphones by requiring white space databases to push changes in channel availability to white space devices. In response to petitions asserting that the push notification is burdensome and technically infeasible, the FCC would replace that requirement with a requirement for white space devices to check the white space database once per hour to protect licensed wireless microphones. In addition, the White Space Order would deny a petition for reconsideration of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology’s approval of Nominet UK (now RED Technologies) as a white space database administrator.

Updating Equipment Authorization Rules – The Equipment NPRM would propose to update equipment authorization rules to reference new technical standards. The Commission’s equipment authorization procedures ensure that radiofrequency devices operate without causing harmful interference. The FCC’s rules governing equipment authorization of radiofrequency devices incorporate several standards set by industry standard-setting bodies, such as the America National Standards Institute (“ANSI”) and the International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”). The Equipment NPRM would focus on standards that are referenced in the Commission’s equipment authorization rules that relate to the testing of equipment and accreditation of laboratories that test radiofrequency devices. In particular, the Equipment NPRM would seek comment on the following: (1) incorporating “American National Standard Validation Methods for Radiated Emission Test Sites; 1 GHz to 18 GHz” (ANSI C63.25.1:2018) as a new technical standard; (2) referencing a more current version of “American National Standards of Procedures for Compliance Testing of Unlicensed Wireless Devices” (ANSI C63.10:2020); and (3)  transitioning to “Conformity assessment – Requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies” (ISO/IEC 17011:2017) and “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories” (ISO/IEC 17025:2017).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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