BLOGS: Communications, Tech & Media Review

Friday, February 10, 2017, 5:57 PM

FCC Waives Certain Classification Standards from 2017 E-rate Eligible Services List

On February 8, 2017, the Wireline Competition Bureau ("Bureau") granted a waiver of certain Category One/Category Two classification standards established in the 2017 Eligible Services List ("ESL") on its own motion, meaning that it was made without a request from an outside party for waiver. In the 2017 ESL, the Bureau provided a new explanation of how to classify connections between multiple buildings in a single school for purposes of requesting Category One or Category Two support and provided an Appendix B with FAQ on the classification of connections. With regard to multiple buildings, the Bureau clarified that connections between different buildings are eligible for Category One support regardless of whether the buildings are located on the same grounds. Beginning with the 2017 Funding Year, if connections are between instructional buildings of a single school, or non-administrative buildings of a single library located on different campuses belonging to the school or library, they should be classified as Category One. If, however, the connections are between instructional buildings of a single school, or non-administrative buildings of a single library branch that are located on the same campus, they should seek Category Two funding. For schools or libraries that share a single building, the portion of the building used by each would be considered their campus, so the connections between the "campuses" would be considered Category One services.

In the waiver, the Bureau waived the obligation to apply the standards from the ESL to multi-year contracts that had been entered into prior to 2017, if it would cause certain connections to move from being Category Two to Category One. For 2017 applicants, the Bureau waived the requirement to classify connections between different schools and libraries sharing a single building as Category One services. Accordingly, applicants can seek Category Two funding for customer-owned or –controlled inside wiring that connects different schools and libraries within the same building.

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Friday, February 3, 2017, 1:55 PM

Chairman Pai Steps-It-Up on Broadband Deployment

Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the formation of a new Broadband Advisory Committee, calling for nominations by February 15, 2017.  The mission of the new FCC federal advisory committee is to make recommendations to the Commission as to how to accelerate broadband deployment by reducing and/or removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment, and to exchange ideas and develop recommendations on broadband deployment.  While the stated focus of the committee appears to be on removing regulatory barriers to deployment, particularly at the local level, and on what localities can do to promote broadband deployment, no doubt, the committee’s work will also address the permitting practices of state agencies (such as the right-of-way practices of state DOTs), as well as the practices of various federal agencies that have been a significant concern for the industry.   We also expect that ways to streamline environmental and historic preservation reviews will be within the group’s purview.
More broadly, this effort is part of Chairman Pai’s stated agenda to close the digital divide (which some in the public interest community remain skeptical of), and, of course, the importance of broadband and 4G densification through small cell infrastructure deployment generally, as well as what he has referred to as his “digital empowerment agenda.”   Chairman Pai indicated, while a Commissioner, that as part of that agenda, he would back efforts to create gigabit opportunity zones, boost rural mobile broadband, remove broadband regulatory barriers, and promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
Beyond the limited mission on removing regulatory barriers and steps governmental entities can take to promote broadband, this is a welcome part of a larger agenda, particularly given the broader focus of the Administration on infrastructure deployment.  Interestingly, just following the Chairman’s rollout of his deployment agenda, the Chairman’s Republican colleague, Commissioner  Michael O’Rielly, posted an entry to the FCC Blog on the potential pitfalls of federal broadband infrastructure spending – that is, beyond the federal Universal Service program.  This could signal an area of potential disagreement between the Republican commissioners on the extent to which the Federal Government should be subsidizing broadband infrastructure deployment, and is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017, 10:35 AM

John Garziglia in Radio Ink: Are You Liable If Your Station is Hacked?

This week, a South Carolina radio station’s listeners were surprised to find their regular programming interrupted by a political song with obscene lyrics. A hacker (from IP addresses in Russia and Taiwan) broke into Sunny 107.9’s transmitter and looped in the objectionable song.
While station officials certainly didn’t intend for this song to air, can the FCC still hold them liable? Womble Carlyle Telecom attorney John Garziglia addresses this question in a new column for Radio Ink.
Garziglia said the station is under no obligation to inform the FCC. However, a listener complaint still may subject the station to a $350,000 FCC fine.
"At the risk of delving too deeply into the subject, no one has any idea what will be the FCC’s stance under the new Chairman on indecency,” Garziglia writes. In recent years, he said the FCC has been inconsistent in its handling of on-air profanity.
He adds, “These hacking incidents are a good reminder to confirm that your errors and omissions insurance policy covers potential fines and defense costs should an FCC indecency complaint be filed. Also, please confirm that your internet connected device password is not ‘password’”.
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