Welcome to the Tech & Telecom Weekly, an e-newsletter keeping you apprised of the latest developments in the telecommunications and high-tech industries.
On October 30, 2020, the General Accountability Office released a Report describing the Trump Administration’s failings in the way it administered the Universal Service Fund High-Cost Support program. The study particularly focused on whether the $5 billion invested in broadband deployment in 2019 satisfied “key attributes of successful performance measures.” GAO found that the administration had fallen short in several respects, and made four recommendations to the FCC for remedying its performance. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chair of the House Commerce Committee, issued a statement, noting “GAO has found that the high-cost program has been woefully maintained, with basic governance structures either wholly missing or outdated, effectively being left to rot under Chairman Pai’s leadership.” For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
On November 2, 2020, the FCC Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) against US South Communications, Inc. d/b/a US South & IWCOMM in the amount of $75,000 for alleged failure to respond to Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) requests for verification of US South revenues on its 2018 and 2019 Forms 499-A. US South has 30 days to respond. For more information about USAC reporting requirements, please contact Katherine Barker Marshall. (DA 20-1272)
On November 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice settled False Claims Act claims against Concept Schools, a charter school management company in Des Plaines, Illinois, for $4.5 million on allegations of bid-rigging in the E-Rate Program between 2009 and 2012. In addition to the fine, Concept Schools must adhere to an E-Rate compliance plan supervised by the FCC. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.
On November 5, 2020, the FCC entered into a consent decree with Sprint, T-Mobile US, and Assurance Wireless (f/k/a Virgin Mobile USA) to resolve an investigation into whether Sprint, prior to its merger with T-Mobile, took monthly Lifeline support for 850,000 ineligible subscribers. The consent decree entails a $200,000 fine and a Lifeline compliance plan. FCC Chmn. Pai credited the Oregon Public Utility Commission with providing valuable assistance in the investigation. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce. (FCC 20-1295)
In the Courts
Voip-Pal.com’s battle against Amazon over call-routing patents suffered another blow last week when the Federal Circuit handed down its ruling in Voip-Pal.com Inc. v. Amazon.com Inc. The Court affirmed a 2019 decision by the Northern District of California holding that the patent claims are directed to an abstract idea, without any added inventive concept, and are therefore ineligible for protection. The appellate ruling also resolves a second case that Voip-Pal.com filed in 2018 against Apple Inc., in which it alleged that iMessage and FaceTime infringe the same Voip-Pal.com patents. For more information, please contact Susan Metcalfe.
On election day, California voters approved Proposition 24 – the California Consumer Rights Act (CCRA) – which modifies and supersedes the California Consumer Privacy Act, which itself took effect only this year. The CCRA generally tightens the privacy rights established by the CCPA by aligning them more closely with those in the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation and limits how businesses may use personal information. It also creates a new California Privacy Protection Agency to enforce the statute. Different provisions will take effect at varying times, but the substantive privacy protections will take effect on January 1, 2023, with the CCPA remaining in effect until then. Businesses, even those that already took measures to prepare for the CCPA, likely will need to devote considerable time and resources to preparing for the CCRA. For more information, please contact William Baker.
On November 10, 2020, at 2:30pm ET, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to consider Nathan Simington, who was nominated by Pres. Trump on September 16, 2020, to fill Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s seat. Mr. Simington is presently a Senior Advisor at NTIA. The Committee will also consider nominees to the Department of Commerce and NASA. The hearing will be live streamed here. For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce
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