Welcome to the Tech & Telecom Weekly, an e-newsletter keeping you apprised of the latest developments in the telecommunications and high-tech industries.

FCC Policy

The next FCC Open Meeting will be June 17, 2021, at 10:30am ET. The final Agenda contains the same eight items previously noticed, including an NPRM in the Supply Chain proceeding and a Report and Order adopting a streamlined process for reporting suspected spoofing and robocalls. 

For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.

Compliance Alerts

The Enforcement Bureau entered into a consent decree with SUEZ North America Inc., SUEZ Water New York Inc., and SUEZ Water New Jersey Inc. (collectively, the Company) to resolve allegations that they violated the Commission’s transfer-of-control rules in connection with the acquisition of United Water Resources Inc. and Heritage Hills Water Works. That acquisition had resulted in the unauthorized transfer of wireless licenses. The Company had also acquired a spectrum management lease from SUEZ Water Toms River without authorization. The Company agreed to pay a $104,000 civil penalty and enter into a compliance plan. (File No. EB-IHD-21-00031774)

The FCC announced that the proposed universal service contribution factor for the third quarter of 2021 will be 31.8 percent. This rate will go into effect June 25 unless the Commission changes it. (DA 21-676; CC Docket 96-45)

The FCC extended the deadline for providers in the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program to submit their reimbursement claims for services provided in May 2021 by one month to July 15, 2021. (DA 21-671, WC Docket No. 20-445)

For more information about compliance matters, please contact Katherine Barker Marshall

In the Courts

On June 9, 2021, a federal judge in the District of South Carolina held in Timms v. USAA Federal Savings Bank, No. 3:18-cv-1495-SAL, that a bank’s use of Aspect system-dialed and representative-dialed equipment to autodial 150 debt-collection calls to a consumer’s telephone number stored on a list did not constitute use of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This decision is one of the first to apply the Supreme Court’s April 1, 2021, opinion in Facebook v. Duguid The court held, in accordance with Facebook, that the bank was not dialing stored or produced telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator, but instead dialed numbers “from a specific list of numbers provided to them.” The court also rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to rely on fn. 7 of Facebook to establish an exception for a random-number generator that determines the order in which a phone number is selected and dialed from a preproduced list. That automated action, the court reasoned, did not mean that the phone numbers were “sequentially generated and stored,” and thus the bank was not using an ATDS and could not be liable under the TCPA. The case was dismissed.

For more information, please contact Doug Bonner.

Legislative Affairs

On June 11, 2021, the House Judiciary Committee unleashed its agenda called “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, Choice,” which is comprised of five bills:

  • R. 3816, the “American Choice and Innovation Online Act” (Chmn. Cicilline, D-RI, and Rep. Gooden, R-TX) – Prohibiting discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms (so designated by the FTC)
  • R. 3825, the “Ending Platform Monopolies Act” (Rep. Jayapal, D-WA, and Rep. Gooden, R-TX) – Prohibiting anticompetitive leveraging by dominant platforms into new products and services
  • R. 3826, the “Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021” (Rep. Jeffries, D-NY, and Rep. Buck, R-CO) – Prohibiting acquisitions of competitors by dominant platforms 
  • R. 3843, the “Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act” (Rep. Neguse, D-CO, and Rep. Spartz, R-IN) – Amending, and in several cases increasing, pre-merger notification filing fees
  • H.R. 3849, the “Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act” (Rep. Scanlon, D-PA, and Rep. Owens, R-UT) – Establishing data portability and interoperability requirements for dominant platforms in order to lower entry barriers and the costs of switching platforms and services

For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.

Rural Broadband

On June 8, 2021, the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau issued an order granting Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) status to 56 broadband providers that won Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) support in Auction 904. The order also designated a number of those 56 providers as Lifeline-only ETCs in locations outside of RDOF-eligible areas. ETC applications were due June 7, but many carriers were forced to seek waivers of that deadline due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those petitions remain under consideration. 

For more information, please contact Doug Bonner.

Note: This publication is distributed with the understanding that the author, publisher and distributor of this publication and/or any linked publication are not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters and, accordingly, assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.

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Marlene Laro

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