Spectrum Sharing and Caller ID Authentication Top Jam-Packed FCC September Meeting Agenda

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The FCC announced a jam-packed agenda for its penultimate meeting before the 2020 general election, with a focus on long-awaited spectrum sharing and caller ID authentication actions. At its meeting scheduled for September 30, 2020, the FCC plans to clear the way for eventual sharing of 3 GHz spectrum between commercial wireless providers and federal incumbents. The FCC announced earlier this year its intention to auction flexible use licenses in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band in December 2021. The Department of Defense, as a primary user of the band, has already devised a sharing framework for the spectrum. The FCC also plans to allow commercial wireless providers to lease spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band, which currently is allocated to public safety operations. The agency claims the band remains underutilized and that leasing arrangements could free up to 50 megahertz of mid-band spectrum to support commercial 5G services. In addition, the FCC plans to hold firm on its June 30, 2021 deadline for most voice providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework for IP networks and to extend such requirements to intermediate providers that neither originate nor terminate calls. Rounding out the major agenda items, the FCC plans to streamline executive branch foreign ownership reviews of certain applications formerly handled by “Team Telecom,” adopt a phase down in IP Captioned Telephone Service (“IP CTS”) compensation and impose IP CTS service standards, and launch an inquiry into state diversion of 911 fees.

FCC regulatory activity likely will slow in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of the 2020 general election. As a result, the September agenda may represent the FCC’s last big push on major reforms for the year. You will find more details on the significant September meeting items after the break:

Repurposing 3 GHz Band Spectrum: The draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would eliminate the non-federal radiolocation and amateur allocations from the 3.30-3.55 GHz band as a first step toward future sharing of the spectrum between federal incumbents and commercial wireless providers. However, the FCC would allow incumbent non-federal licensees to continue in-band operations until it finalizes its plans to reallocate the spectrum operations to below 3.0 GHz. The FCC would propose making 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for flexible use wireless service throughout the contiguous United States. To facilitate such wireless operations, the FCC would propose adding a co-primary, non-federal fixed and mobile (except aeronautical mobile) allocation to the band. It would also seek input on the appropriate licensing, auction, spectrum sharing, and technical rules for the band, and on relocation procedures for the non-federal relocation operators.

Commercial Access to the 4.9 GHz Band: The draft Sixth Report and Order and Seventh Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would allow one statewide 4.9 GHz band licensee per state to lease some or all of its spectrum rights to third parties, including commercial users. Lessees would be required to comply with the same spectrum coordination procedures as public safety licensees in the band. In addition, the FCC would seek comment on establishing a Band Manager in each state to coordinate and authorize new operations in the 4.9 GHz band. The agency also would request input on how to ensure robust use of the 4.9 GHz band, including through dynamic spectrum sharing technologies and cross-state collaborations.

Implementing STIR/SHAKEN Framework: The draft Second Report and Order would require voice service providers to either upgrade their non-IP networks to IP and implement the STIR/SHAKEN framework or develop a non-IP caller ID authentication solution by June 30, 2021. The FCC would adopt extensions of the June 30, 2021 deadline for: (1) small providers (two-year extension); (2) providers that currently cannot get a digital certificate necessary to implement STIR/SHAKEN because they do not obtain direct access to telephone numbers or other technical issues (indefinite extension); (3) services scheduled for discontinuance (one-year extension); and (4) non-IP network services (indefinite extension). The Commission would require all providers subject to an extension to implement a robocall mitigation plan for the parts of their networks where STIR/SHAKEN is not implemented and certify that they implemented such mitigation measures with the FCC. Moreover, the FCC would require intermediate providers to either pass along caller ID authentication information for authenticated calls or authenticate the caller ID information for unauthenticated calls they receive by June 30, 2021. Intermediate providers would be relieved of the independent authentication requirement if they register with the industry traceback consortium or respond to all traceback consortium information requests. Finally, the FCC would prohibit providers from adding line item charges to subscribers for providing caller ID authentication.

Streamlining Foreign Ownership Reviews: The draft Report and Order would establish rules and timeframes for the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Service Sector (Committee) to complete its review of certain applications posing potential foreign ownership concerns (i.e., the applicant has a 10% or greater direct or indirect foreign investor). Specifically, the Committee would be required to complete its initial application review within 120 days and, if necessary, its supplemental application review within 90 days. Affected applicants would be required to provide responses to a standardized set of national security and law enforcement questions regarding: (1) corporate structure and shareholder information; (2) relationships with foreign entities; (3) financial condition; (4) compliance with applicable laws and regulations; and (5) business and operational information. The standardized questions would be developed in a subsequent proceeding following public notice and comment. The new rules would apply to applications: (1) for international Section 214 authorizations or to assign/transfer control of such authorizations; (2) for submarine cable landing licenses or to assign/transfer control of such licenses; and (3) to exceed the foreign ownership limits under Section 310(b) of the Communications Act.

Reforming IP CTS Rates and Standards: The draft Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would establish a compensation rate of $1.30/minute for IP CTS providers through a two-step transition process. The first step would transition from the current $1.58/minute rate to a $1.42/minute rate for the remainder of fund year 2020-21 (effective December 1, 2020), while the second step would transition the rate to $1.30/minute for fund year 2021-22. The FCC would also propose to adopt service standards for IP CTS captioning delay and accuracy, and seek comment on appropriate metrics. The Commission would request input on appropriate IP CTS service standard testing procedures, including sample size and call methodology. In addition, the FCC would ask whether it or a third-party organization should be responsible for such testing.

Reviewing 911 Fee Diversion: The draft Notice of Inquiry would request input on the effects of 911 fee diversion, specifically from states, on the provision of 911 services and the transition to next-generation 911 services. The FCC also would seek comment on how it can use its regulatory authority to discourage 911 fee diversion, including by conditioning state eligibility for FCC licenses, programs, or other benefits on the absence of fee diversion. The FCC would further ask about measures it can take to discourage fee diversion under the Commission’s authority, and how it can encourage states to pass legislation or adopt rules that would prohibit 911 fee diversion.

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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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