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 FCC Enforcement Bureau settled actions against AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless regarding their failure to provide z-axis, or “vertical,” location information on wireless 911 calls by April 3, 2021, as required by a rule adopted in 2015. Each carrier must pay a $100,000 penalty, implement a compliance plan, and begin providing the information on a nationwide basis by June 10, 2021. Commissioners Simington and Carr issued a joint statement that they are “surprised and disappointed” that “the FCC is letting wireless carriers off the hook.” Chairperson Rosenworcel praised the result, noting that the settlement expands the carriers’ compliance “everywhere in the country and not just in the top 25 markets,” which is broader than the rule requires.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.

Compliance Alerts

The Enforcement Bureau entered into a consent decree with Broadband VI, LLC to resolve allegations that it violated the Commission’s transfer-of-control rules by obtaining seven wireless licenses from Surge Communications, LLC without approval. Under the terms of the consent decree, Broadband IV is required to pay a $28,000 civil penalty and implement a compliance plan. 

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will hold its monthly Lifeline webinar on June 9, 2021, at 3:00pm ET. Interested parties can register here. During the one-hour call, USAC will provide updates about the Lifeline Program, the National Verifier, and the National Lifeline Accountability Database, followed by discussion of upcoming compliance deadlines.

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

Developments in the EU

The European Commission has opened a two-pronged formal antitrust investigation of Facebook. First, it will look into whether Facebook uses information gathered from advertisers to gain anticompetitive advantage in markets where Facebook competes with them. Secondly, the Commission will investigate whether Facebook ties “Facebook Marketplace,” its online classifieds service, to its social network platform. The investigation will proceed under Article 101 (anticompetitive agreements) and Article 102 (abuse of dominant position) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.

Tribal News

On June 4, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the availability of nearly $1 billion in U.S. Department of Commerce/NTIA grants to increase broadband access and adoption on Tribal lands under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program established under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. 

Broadband infrastructure projects can range from $1 Million - $50 Million, and Broadband Use and Adoption Projects can range from $50,000 to $2.5 Million. The application deadline is September 1, 2021, with funded projects having a one-year buildout deadline, though extensions can be liberally granted. Significantly, Tribal entities can self-certify proposed unserved areas within Tribal Lands without being limited to unserved areas identified under existing FCC broadband mapping.

For more information, please contact Doug Bonner

In the Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court held 6-3 in Van Buren v. United States that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA) does not impose criminal liability on a former police officer who ran a license plate number through a police database in exchange for money. Former Sergeant Van Buren was paid $5,000 to find out whether a female acquaintance of the payor was an undercover police officer. He was charged and convicted of a felony under the CFAA for using police computers in a manner that “exceeds authorized access” – in this case, using them for an “improper purpose” or “inappropriate reason,” as the prosecution had argued. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that “authorized access,” which is defined in the CFAA, focuses only on whether the accused was permitted to access the database at issue, and to consider the purpose or reason for accessing it “would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.”

For more information, please contact Stephanie Joyce.

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.

Media Contact

Marlene Laro

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