Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) held an Open Agenda Meeting where a number of items were set for discussion. As Chairman Ajit Pai designated February “Innovation Month” at the FCC, the meeting agenda included, among others, the following issues which were geared at promoting that goal:
First, the FCC eliminated the requirement that low power TV, TV and FM translator, TV and FM booster stations, cable television relay station licensees, and cable operators with more than 1000 subscribers maintain paper copies of FCC rules.
The FCC considered modernizing outdated payphone rules, including eliminating the requirement that completing carriers file an annual report prepared by an independent third party auditor to verify their ongoing compliance with the FCC’s payphone call tracking system requirements. With fewer people using payphones, these audits can cost as much as, if not more than, the compensation they were meant to verify.
The FCC also considered an order addressing the remaining issues raised by the seven petitions filed seeking reconsideration of the Mobility Fund Phase II Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which was adopted last year and provides $4.53 billion in high-cost support over 10 years to extend mobile voice and broadband coverage to unserved areas. The proposed order would resolve challenges to the previously adopted order, including requests for clarification and modifications.
Additionally, the FCC considered a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning Section 7 of the Communications Act that sets forth a policy of encouraging the provision of new technologies and services to the public and requires the FCC to determine whether any new technology or service proposed in a petition or application is in the public interest within one year after such petition or application is filed. Because the FCC never adopted rules or procedures to implement this section, the proposed order would 1) adopt specific filing requirements and particular factors to be used to evaluate requests seeking consideration under Section 7, and 2) require the FCC to evaluate the request and determine within 90 days whether the proposed technology or service qualifies for Section 7 treatment. If adopted, the order would require the FCC to take swift action to evaluate the technology or service, serving the public interest.
Lastly, the FCC considered a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on proposed rules that would apply to the spectrum above 95 GHz for licensed services, unlicensed operations, and a new class of experimental licenses. Although the spectrum 95 GHz has been considered the outermost edge of the usable spectrum, the FCC has recently seen increased interest in these bands as a result of new technology and is thus considering rules to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to further develop technology that can effectively use this spectrum.
As stated by Chairman Pai, February's agenda reflected the FCC’s goal under the current administration to further unleash innovation, close the digital divide, and modernize the rules, which the FCC has been pushing to do over the past year.