The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is currently implementing the most aggressive reforms to its regulation of broadband and Internet services in decades. As the FCC and Congress begin implementing the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, many of the adopted reforms will be directed to businesses providing broadband networks and Internet services and applications. Previously unregulated companies encountering a high-level of regulatory oversight for the first time and those attempting to adjust their businesses to the new environment need experienced counsel to help them navigate the shifting broadband regulatory landscape. The CommLaw Group provides that expertise, combining experienced, well-reasoned legal analysis with pragmatic business advice to offer every client a clear path forward.
Our attorneys are experienced in a variety of issues affecting network builders and service providers engaged in the construction, operation and servicing of fixed, wireless and fiber optic broadband networks, including:
- System deployment and operating rights (licenses, franchises, easements, tower siting, poles and infrastructure, access to premises and interconnection)
- Acquisition or sale of network ownership interests
- Regulations and commercial agreements aecting telecommunications, cable television, wireless, Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”), and the Internet, from basic compliance to strategic alliances and business planning
- Piracy, theft of service, content and copyright protections
- Advocacy at the federal and state levels to shape regulations and policy
- State and local taxes and fees imposed on network revenues and services
- Federal preemption of state and local regulation
- Counseling and strategic planning advice for business operations and compliance
- Dispute resolution, negotiation, arbitration and complex litigation
Our lawyers advise, develop strategies, and negotiate a variety of licensing and usage agreements for clients engaged in the provisioning of services over the Internet, including:
- Software and technology licensing and transactions
- Procurement agreements for software, equipment and professional services
- E-commerce technology services and electronic payment systems
- Software as a service, hosting and co-location
- Data security
- Privacy regulation and protection
- Domain name disputes
- Telecom and Network-Related Agreements
- Custom Network Service Agreements
- Network Outsourcing/Managed Network Services
- Local Service Agreements
- International Agreements
- Peering and Other IP Agreements
- Carrier Purchases and market entry
- Wireless Service Agreements
National Broadband Plan and the Evolution of Broadband’s Regulatory Framework
On March 16, 2010, the FCC announced the release of the National Broadband Plan (the “Plan”). The Plan outlines sweeping proposals that will be implemented over the coming years to accelerate broadband access and adoption throughout the United States.
To implement the Plan, the FCC is launching a series of over 60 rulemakings and other proceedings seeking public comment and input as it looks to adopt rules and regulations which will, undoubtedly, transform the existing regulatory framework for broadband and telecommunications services alike. Broadband and telecommunications providers should expect the FCC to focus on these proceedings for the next several years, and that they will affect the industry well into the next decade.
The Plan’s chief recommendations include proposals giving the FCC and other policymakers an enhanced role in establishing and enforcing pro-consumer policies, including mandating heightened disclosure requirements for broadband service providers, publishing market-by-market analyses of broadband pricing and competition, and enhancing online privacy protections. The Plan also calls for the FCC to increase the amount of spectrum available for allocation through the use of incentive auctions; expand the amount of spectrum available for unlicensed use; and increase the transparency of spectrum allocation in general. Further, the Plan includes recommendations to speed the development and adoption of technologies that address a wide range of policy objectives from healthcare to public safety to energy efficiency.
The FCC also called for complete reforms to the Universal Service Fund (“USF”) and to intercarrier compensation (“ICC”). Regarding the USF, the Plan recommends the expansion of the USF contribution base over time to include, among other things, broadband services and providers, in order to contain USF assessments. Further, the Plan calls for the FCC to shift $15.5 billion from the current USF High-Cost program (designed to help subsidize rates for traditional wireline telecommunications services) to a new Connect America Fund (“CAF”) designed to support the provisioning of affordable broadband and eventually replace the USF’s “legacy” High-Cost component. The FCC also seeks to reform intercarrier compensation by eliminating per-minute charges over the next decade, and replacing those revenues with an “adequate cost recovery” provisioned through the CAF.
Preceding the National Broadband Plan, the Obama Administration allocated stimulus dollars to expand broadband infrastructure deployment to un-served and underserved areas of the nation. The broadband stimulus program presents a unique opportunity for corporations, non-profits, and state and local governments alike to secure needed funding to support broadband development. Through the provision of broadband grants and loans, the program offers an occasion to truly advance innovative broadband-based technologies, and mend and expand upon existing broadband infrastructure. Grant recipients will enable the construction of a more stable and accessible broadband network and facilitate universal broadband deployment.
The CommLaw Group can provide grant recipients professional advice on all matters affecting their activities going forward, including deployment of their approved networks and services and implementation of their business plans, as well as offering recommendations on all legal and regulatory requirements applicable to broadband communications providers. As part of our services, we can ensure compliance with FCC rules; provide advice on business planning and organization, taxes, and contracts; and advocate for clients’ interests before federal and state agencies.