Welcome to the Tech & Telecom Weekly, an e-newsletter keeping you apprised of the latest developments in the telecommunications and high-tech industries.
The FCC is seeking comment on the distribution of the $7.171 Billion Emergency Connectivity Fund that was established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This funding is aimed at remote learning and will fund the purchase of advanced telecommunications services, information services, and equipment for use by students, school staff, and library patrons at off-campus locations. Comments are due April 5, 2021, with reply comments due April 23, 2021. For more information, please contact Katherine Barker Marshall.
On March 12, 2021, the FTC obtained a permanent injunction against Randon Morris, a/k/a Randy Morris, as well as the four LLCs he manages, for sending millions of roboballs offering fake work-from-home employment opportunities. The injunction prohibits these defendants from making robocalls and from making misleading claims about products, services, or earnings potential. In addition, the court entered judgment for the FTC of more than $2 Million, though that amount was partially suspended for inability to pay, and ordered disgorgement of several assets held by defendants. Of the judgment, Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated, “These defendants used illegal robocalls, lies about income, and people’s anxiety about the pandemic to pitch their work-from-home scam. If someone promises you big money working from home, tell the FTC and see our tips at ftc.gov/IncomeScams.” FTC v. National Web Design, LLC, et al., No. 2:20-cv-00846-RJS (D. Utah). For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
On March 17, 2021, the FCC issued cease-and-desist letters to six providers of voice telephony service warning them that “illegal robocall traffic” was detected on their networks and to take swift action to address it. Each carrier has 48 hours to cease the transmissions before “downstream U.S.-based voice service providers” are authorized to block all of the carriers’ calls. The targeted carriers are Icon Global, IDT Corp., RSCom, Stratics Networks, Third Rock, and Yodel Tech. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
On March 18, 2021, the FCC issued a record $225 million Forfeiture Order against two Texas telemarketers for spoofing (providing false Caller ID) approximately 1 billion numbers while placing pre-recorded robocalls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and Truth In Caller ID Act. The robocalls, placed without prior consent, occurred during a four-month period in 2019, and falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from established companies such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group. The FCC assessed the forfeiture not only against the companies involved, but it also pierced the corporate veil under federal common law to find the corporate officers personally liable and rejected their pleas to reduce the fines based on alleged inability to pay. For more information, please contact Doug Bonner.
The E-Rate 2021 Funding Filing Window closes on March 25, 2021. More information can be found here.
The FCC announced that the proposed Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution factor for the second quarter of 2021 is 33.4 percent. This rate will go into effect if not amended by March 27, 2021.
For more information about USF and E-Rate please contact Katherine Barker Marshall.
The House Communications Subcommittee and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing titled “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation”on March 25, 2021, at 12:00pm ET, via Cisco Webex.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
In the Courts
A $500 million class action settlement won final approval last week for consumers who claim Apple deliberately slowed their iPhones as a means of pushing them to upgrade to newer models. The complaint, filed in 2018 in the Northern District of California, alleges Apple sent software updates that secretly throttled devices’ performance while making a purported effort to decrease unexpected shutdowns due to an undisclosed manufacturing defect. Plaintiffs’ counsel will take home $80 million in fees for their work on the case, In Re: Apple Inc. Device Performance Litigation, No. 5:18-md-2827-EJD. For more information, please contact Susan Metcalfe.
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