This article is from the blog of law firm Fletcher
Heald & Hildreth.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning to
make some major overhauls at the FCC. Eight months into his term, Pai is
preparing to “modernize [the FCC’s] rules to match the realities of today’s
marketplace.” At this year’s Radio Show, Pai announced he would present to his
fellow FCC commissioners at least one Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
every month, starting in September.
monthly NPRMs are intended to address concerns that Chairman Pai has assessed
are part of those “outdated or unnecessary media regulations that
should be eliminated or modified.” Of course, one might ask whether it wouldn’t
expedite his objective by getting all of the reform initiatives going at once
rather than dribbling them out in a series of monthly NPRMs that will each
require separate comment cycles and separate commission analysis. If something
needs reform, why not do it right away?
Pai’s statements at
NAB focused on broadcasting, while his
statements via a blog post go into more detail on what’s ahead outside of the
broadcast industry. With
the tentative agenda for the commission’s upcoming September meeting
posted, it’s shaping up to be a busy time at the FCC for the foreseeable
what does this all mean for non-broadcasting entities? Quite a lot actually.
Chairman Pai aims to address the outdated rules governing the satellite
industry, where technology has outpaced the FCC’s rules. The chairman argues
that current regulations covering non-geostationary-satellite orbit, and
fixed-satellite services systems reflect designs and rules from the early
2000s. To meet the industry where it’s at, the chairman announced that the FCC
will vote in September on updating and streamlining several of the rules
governing the industry in NGSO FSS operations, which he hopes will have the
indirect effect of expanding satellite-based broadband access in rural areas.
improving 911 calling in centralized communications systems such as schools,
hospitals, offices, and hospitals will also be addressed. Chairman Pai
circulated a Notice of Inquiry to seek information on the lagging 911
capabilities which still require users to dial nine in order to place a call
outside of a specified building. So much for deregulation; this initiative will
add yet another unfunded mandate to private industry.
the commission will look into providing relief for small and rural wireless
service providers that are required by FCC rules to detail their efforts to
ensure wireless handsets are compatible with hearing aid devices. There are
indications that requiring providers, no matter how big or small, to do this is
having an adverse impact on the affected carriers. To address this, Chairman
Pai announced that the commission will vote on an item that will “seek comment
on whether we can eliminate or streamline the requirement for small carriers
while continuing to preserve the benefits of collecting this information from
Fourth, the chairman outlined how the commission
intends to revisit rules for certain toll-free numbers. He has asked for public
comment on whether or not to use a public auction to distribute the currently
available, unassigned toll-free numbers. This would also include setting aside
certain toll free numbers for public health and safety used by government and
Finally, the 20th Mobile Wireless Competition
Report will come before the FCC this month. The report is set to review facts,
trends, and other factors that analyze whether there is a comprehensive
competition into the marketplace for mobile wireless services. The report
previously was given to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, but was not put
up for public Commission vote. Before becoming his appointment, Chairman Pai
opposed this practice and is instead, as part of his ongoing campaign for FCC
transparency, putting the Report up for a public commission vote.
of this is to say, the lazy days of summer are definitely over. Chairman Pai
and the rest of the FCC are gearing up for a big fall.