Welcome to the Tech & Telecom Weekly, an e-newsletter keeping you apprised of the latest developments in the telecommunications and high-tech industries.
The next FCC Open Meeting will be held April 22, 2021, at 10:30am ET. The Commission will consider the same eight items previously noticed, including NPRMs on text-to-988 as a means of reaching the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and on ensuring timely disclosure of 911 service outages. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
On April 12, 2021, the White House released fact sheets covering each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to highlight the need for President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, his proposed major infrastructure package. The proposed eight-year investment plan would include $100 Billion of new spending to ensure that every American —including the 35% of rural Americans who lack it— has access to high-speed broadband service. The Administration also vows to prioritize “lifting barriers that prevent municipally owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers” though details on what that will mean in real terms are unclear. The American Jobs Plan comes on the heels of the FCC’s reverse auction award in December 2020 giving $9.2 billion in grants to build broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas, and the Commerce Department’s preparing to launch three grant programs awarding up to $1.5 billion under the Consolidated Appropriations Act to address broadband connectivity gaps in underserved communities. For more information, please contact Doug Bonner.
The FCC’s Annual Geographic Rate Averaging Certification, required under Section 64.1900 of the Commission’s Rules (47 C.F.R. § 64.1900), is due May 1, 2021. This requirement applies to nondominant providers of interstate, detariffed interexchange telecommunications services and certifies that interexchange rates charged to rural customers are no higher than those charged to urban customers. The certificate must be signed by an officer of the company and mailed in hard copy to Office of the Secretary, Attn: Chief, Pricing Policy Division, 45 L Street NE, Washington, DC 20554.
FCC Form 499-Q is also due May 1, 2021, for all filers that are not considered de minimis for Universal Service contribution purposes. The filing must report revenues from the 2nd quarter of 2020, and projected revenues for the 4th quarter of 2021. The 499-Q must be filed through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) online portal https://forms.universalservice.org/portal/login.
USAC will hold two webinars relating to the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program this week. The first will introduce the EBB Program’s Claim System for reimbursement for services provided to eligible customers, and will be held tomorrow, April 20, 2021, at 4:00pm ET. Interested persons can register here. The second webinar will introduce the Enhanced Tribal Benefit for Tribal Partners, which will assist Tribal governments and agencies and non-profit groups serving in Tribal areas with their enrollment. This webinar will be held in conjunction with the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy on April 22, 2021, at 4:00pm ET. Interested persons can register here.
For assistance with compliance matters or the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, please contact Katherine Barker Marshall.
The FTC will hold a virtual workshop titled “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop” on April 29, 2021, at 10:30am ET. Dark patterns are manipulative user interfaces that can have the effect of “obscuring, subverting, or impairing consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice.” In advance of the workshop, the FTC is seeking comment on the prevalence, effectiveness, and harms of dark patterns as well as methods for preventing them. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
In the Courts
Illinois’ leading-edge Biometric Information Privacy Act is making headlines again as McDonald’s seeks insurance coverage for claims by employees that the fast-food giant and an Illinois-based franchisee used time-tracking methods that run afoul of the Act. The employees allege that their privacy rights were violated when they had to clock in and out of work via a fingerprint scanner. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. has filed a declaratory judgment action in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, seeking a ruling that it has no duty to defend or indemnify its insureds against these employees’ claims. Starr Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. McDonald's USA LLC, et al., No. 2021-CH-01706. For more information about the case, please contact Susan Metcalfe.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, April 20, 2021, titled “Strengthening the Federal Trade Commission’s Authority to Protect Consumers” at 10:00am ET. All four FTC Commissioners are scheduled to testify. The hearing will be live-streamed here https://www.commerce.senate.gov/.
The House Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Leading the Wireless Future: Securing American Network Technology” on April 21, 2021, at 10:30 am ET. It will be conducted via Cisco Webex.
For more information about these hearings, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
The second round of FCC funding for the Telehealth Program will begin April 29, 2021, at 12:00pm ET. This round will grant up to $249.95 Million to reimburse the telecommunications-related costs incurred in providing telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are due to the Wireline Competition Bureau by May 6, 2021, at 12:00pm ET. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
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