Administrative action can be insufficient to satisfy an organization’s needs. Overly-zealous regulators might investigate or seek sanctions against a business. And numerous other legal issues can challenge a company’s current and future success. The CommLaw Group has successfully litigated a variety of federal and state telecommunications law matters in court and before federal and state regulatory agencies.
FCC and State Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) Enforcement Practice
A major part of The CommLaw Group’s Telecommunications & Technology Practice involves litigation before the FCC on behalf of its clients. This includes many different types of proceedings ranging from informal correspondence and meetings with FCC staff, paper proceedings, or mediations and FCC-supervised negotiations, all the way to formal discovery and hearings before FCC decision-makers and administrative law judges. Some of the most common types of litigation in which The CommLaw Group engages on behalf of its clients include:
- FCC Investigations – The FCC frequently initiates investigations of regulated common carriers and, in rare instances, non-regulated entities that are nevertheless subject to FCC rules by virtue of their participation in FCC programs, such as the USF. Our firm has unparalleled experience representing a wide variety of carriers, companies and individuals subject to FCC investigations. Our experienced attorneys understand the delicate processes involved and know the steps to take for clients faced with an FCC investigation.
- Complaint Proceedings – The FCC provides members of the public with procedures for bringing complaints against regulated common carriers. The penalties potentially posed by complaint proceedings can be very severe — the FCC may impose fines, condition licenses, or in some cases, award damages or revoke licenses in response to complaints by listeners, viewers, customers, or competitors. The CommLaw Group represents clients in many different kinds of FCC complaint proceedings, calling on its broad expertise in communications law and litigation. For example, our firm represented a competitive telecommunications carrier in two major complaint proceedings against one of the RBOCs regarding alleged violations of Sections 271, 201 and 202 of the Communications Act. Other complaint proceedings may be smaller in scope. The CommLaw Group’s attorneys are well equipped to guide and represent clients in virtually any FCC complaint proceeding.
- NALs, Forfeitures and Show Cause Proceedings – Our attorneys advise and represent clients who have received Notices of Apparent Liability (NALs) for monetary forfeitures from the FCC for alleged violations of the Communications Act or FCC Rules and Regulations. As part of this process, we review the seriousness of the violation and analyze the evidence to determine whether the rule was or was not violated, as well as evidence that might be offered in mitigation. Clients are also advised regarding disclosure and remedial strategies.
- USAC Audits, Defense and Appeals – Universal Service laws and regulations have been evolving since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, resulting in confusing regulations, forms and FCC orders. A private, FCC-chartered corporation, USAC, administers the program. USAC also publishes rules and regulations on its website, but only some of these are public; others are available only to program participants. The CommLaw Group’s specialized telecom attorneys have represented numerous providers with various types of USAC audits. From formal Internal Audit Division (IAD) audits to informal “desk audits”, few firms boast our depth and range of experience. To prepare for a USAC audit, we conduct our own audit for a client’s Form 499s, Form 498s, and other information, just as USAC would conduct one. Our attorneys will stand up to defend your rights before USAC and in the Administrative and Judicial appeals processes, as necessary.
In August of 2007, the FCC strengthened its oversight of the USF, disclosing that at least 460 compliance audits were underway, targeting contributors and recipients alike. The FCC’s goal is to attack fraud, waste, and abuse. Despite industry protestations regarding USAC’s abuse of its authority and calls for an overhaul of the USF system, USAC continues to aggressively enforce evolving Form 499 instructions with full FCC backing. In this uncertain and treacherous environment, your company needs counsel that is steeped in experience dealing with and responding to every aspect of a USAC audit. Our firm represents carriers aggrieved by adverse USAC audit decisions before the Wireline Competition Bureau of the FCC and is well versed in the byzantine Form 499-A instructions, including the Carrier’s Carrier Rule.
The CommLaw Group has represented, defended and litigated on behalf of clients before state regulatory agencies in nearly every state. From Utility Commissions to Attorneys General, our attorneys have relevant litigation experience to guide our clients towards cost-effective resolutions of regulatory and consumer actions. We also represent clients in all facets of Utility Commission proceedings, including arbitrations, mediations, formal and informal complaint proceedings, and rulemakings.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
While The CommLaw Group offers the services of experienced litigation attorneys, the most efficient and economical method of resolving a dispute does not always require resorting to the judicial system. We seek to tailor the dispute resolution procedure to meet the needs and interests of the client on a case-by-case basis, and are experienced in alternatives to traditional litigation that include:
- Binding and non-binding arbitration
- Private negotiation and court-supervised settlement conferences
Please visit our Dispute Resolution and Litigation practice page for more information.