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 invites consumers to submit their own experiences in obtaining and using broadband service via a new web portal. The data collected "will serve as an informational hub for the Broadband Data Collection program" that Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel established last month. “Collecting data from consumers who are directly affected by the lack of access to broadband will help inform the FCC’s mapping efforts and future decisions about where service is needed,” she stated. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will host a series of webinars from April to July 2021 to help prospective applicants understand the new grant programs funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. These programs include (1) a $300 million Broadband Infrastructure Program directed to public/private partnerships, (2) a $1 Billion Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program directed to tribal governments seeking broadband deployment on their lands, and (3) a $285 million Connecting Minority Communities pilot program targeting Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Pre-registration will be required with space limited to the first 1000 participants. More details and registration information will be posted here. For more information, please contact Doug Bonner.
In the Courts
Last week, Personalized Media Communications (PMC) scored a $308.5 million jury verdict in its patent suit against Apple. In its 2015 amended complaint, PMC claimed that Apple’s digital rights management technology, FairPlay, infringes seven of PMC’s patents. Shortly after PMC initiated suit, Apple successfully challenged the validity of the patents-in-suit, but lost that battle on appeal. PMC also successfully defended against Apple’s claim that PMC is a patent troll, even though PMC does not create or sell any products. For more information, please contact Susan Metcalfe.
The FTC has established a new group within its Office of General Counsel dedicated to the adoption of rules preventing unfair or deceptive trade practices and unfair competition. Acting FTC Chair Rebecca Kelly Slaughter stated in the agency’s announcement that, “I believe that we can and must use our rulemaking authority to deliver effective deterrence for the novel harms of the digital economy and persistent old scams alike … It is also time for the Commission to activate its unfair methods of competition rulemaking authority in our increasingly concentrated economy.” Though the agency has long exercised its rulemaking authority via various offices, this move will provide a centralized rulemaking arm for the FTC. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
FCC Form 499-A is due April 1, 2021, from all interstate telecommunications carriers, interconnected VoIP providers, providers of interstate telecommunications offered for a fee on a non-common carrier basis (including stand-alone audio bridging companies), and payphone providers that are aggregators. In addition, non-interconnected VoIP providers are required to file this form for assessment of fees to support the federal Telecommunications Relay System (TRS). The FCC reviews carrier revenues reported on Form 499-A to assess Universal Service contributions for the previous calendar year, as applicable, and for assessing fees for federal TRS, Local Number Portability (LNP), North American Numbering Plan Administration, and the FCC’s annual fee. Filings must be submitted through the Universal Service Administrative Company filing portal.
Disability Access Recordkeeping Requirement Certifications are also due to the FCC on April 1, 2021. Carriers, equipment manufacturers, VoIP providers (including non-interconnected VoIP providers), wireless carriers, and advanced communications service providers are required to file this certificate, which states that they maintain records of all efforts to ensure that their services are accessible to those with disabilities. The Certifications must also provide the FCC with a company contact for questions about accessibility and identify an agent for service of process and FCC inquiries. The Certifications must be filed through this FCC portal.
For more information about compliance issues, please contact Katherine Barker Marshall.
New California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) regulations targeting so-called “dark patterns” that make it harder for consumers to opt out of the sale of their data have gone into effect. “Dark patterns” are website designs that are used to manipulate user behavior through tactics such as confusing language, unnecessary steps, and extra screens. Although California was the first to impose this ban, dark patterns are also on the FTC’s radar: it will hold a workshop titled “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop” on April 29, 2021. For more information, please contact Marci Lerner Miller.
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