Articles Posted in Telecommunications

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • FCC Orders Dismantling of Unlit Arkansas Tower
  • New York Man Ordered to Cease Operating Interference-Causing Device
  • Louisiana Corporation Fined for Engaging in Prohibited Communications during FCC Auction

FCC Orders Unlit, Unmarked Tower Dismantled

In a recent Order, the FCC directed the owners of a parcel of land where an unlit tower in Arkansas sits to dismantle the structure because it is not lit or marked according to the FCC’s Rules or the Communications Act (the “Act”).  The Federal Aviation Administration had declared the structure to be a “menace to aviation.” Section 303(q) of the Act allows the FCC to require the painting and/or illumination of radio towers where those towers are a menace to air navigation. That provision also requires that when a tower ceases to be licensed by the FCC, the tower owner must continue to maintain the painting and/or lighting of the tower, and the FCC can order it dismantled if the FCC determines the tower is a menace to air navigation.

The tower “owner” may include an “individual or entity vested with ownership, equitable ownership, dominion or title to the [tower] structure.” The FCC has determined that if the title holder of the tower does not own the land where the structure is located (i.e., if the tower owner has leased the land), the title holder of the structure is deemed the owner until the landowner acquires possession of the structure. After that occurs, the landowner will be considered the owner of the structure.

This particular situation was unusual in that the tower owner could not definitively be determined. In 1990, the then-current landowner granted an easement allowing an individual to build the tower structure and required an annual $12,000 payment for the easement. The easement was to run with the land, but the landowner could terminate the easement if the payments were more than 45 days late. In subsequent years, the tower was sold several times. Ultimately, it was registered with the FCC in 1998, given an Antenna Structure Registration number, and required to have a steady-burning obstruction light at the top of the tower.

The tower and associated station were later sold to an entity that is no longer in existence. Through public property records in Arkansas, the FCC determined the identity of the owner of the land and sent a letter to the owner in 2017. In her response, the landowner told the Commission that she jointly owns the land with two other individuals, has never received any payments for the easement, and that the electricity to the tower was disconnected in 2005 at her request. She also expressed interest in quieting title to the structure and indicated a desire to have it dismantled. The FCC sent letters to the two other landowners identified, seeking to confirm that no landowner had received the annual fee for the easement, but received no response.

In the Order, the FCC indicated that the landowners possess the structure for the limited purpose of invoking Section 303(q) of the Act, and ordered them to dismantle the structure. In case another party comes forward to challenge the dismantling of the tower, the FCC held that any person having a “remaining interest in the Structure” is subject to the Order as well. The Commission ordered the structure to be dismantled within 90 days of the release of the Order.

New York Resident Ordered to Cease Operating Interference-Causing Equipment

The FCC recently issued a Citation and Order (“C&O”) directing a New York man to stop operating a device at his home that was causing harmful interference to a wireless provider’s licensed operations. The Commission warned him that he may be liable for fines of up to $22,021 per day if he does not comply with the order.

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • Telecommunications Carrier Pays $3.8 Million To Resolve 911 Outage Investigation
  • FCC Reduces Fine for Late-Filed License Renewal Application
  • Arkansas Radio Station Faces $17,500 Fine for Unauthorized Silence and Public File Violations

77-Minute 911 Outage Results in $3.8 Million Penalty

A large telecommunications provider entered into a consent decree with the FCC last month to resolve an investigation into a one hour and 17 minute 911 service outage that occurred on September 28, 2020. Section 9.4 of the FCC’s Rules states that all “telecommunications carriers shall transmit all 911 calls to a PSAP [Public Safety Answering Point], to a designated statewide default answering point, or to an appropriate local emergency authority…” Additionally, Section 4.9(h) of the Rules requires a wireline communications provider experiencing a network outage that potentially affects 911 service to notify the designated official at the affected PSAP of the outage “as soon as possible but no later than thirty minutes after discovering the outage[.]”  The provider must “convey to that person all available information that may be useful in mitigating the effects of the outage.…”

The 911 outage began when two new Global Traffic Managers (“GTMs”) were introduced into the carrier’s next generation 911 (“NG911”) facilities. A configuration error occurred that placed the new GTMs into the carrier’s existing, operational environment with a “blank” configuration, meaning they contained no routing data. During the outage, thousands of calls to PSAPs in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah were unable to be completed for a period of one hour and 17 minutes, and the carrier failed to timely notify all affected PSAPs of the outage.

The carrier acknowledged that it was responsible for complying with the applicable FCC rules regardless of any alleged failures by its subcontractors, and ultimately entered into a consent decree with the FCC to resolve the investigation.

The terms of the consent decree require the carrier to pay a $3,800,000 civil penalty. Additionally, the carrier must implement a compliance plan “to develop and implement processes in the evolving NG911 environment” to identify risks that could result in 911 service disruptions, protect against such risks, detect 911 outages when they occur, respond to such outages with remedial actions, and recover from such outages as soon as practicable. The carrier is also required to report any material violations of the 911 rules or the terms and conditions of its consent decree within fifteen calendar days of discovering a violation.

Broadcaster’s Fine for Late License Renewal Application Reduced to $5,000

In a December 2021 Forfeiture Order (“Order”), the FCC reduced the fine issued to a Rhode Island broadcaster for failing to timely file a license renewal application for its FM translator station.  As we discussed in September, the FCC originally issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) proposing a $7,000 fine.

The broadcaster had acquired the translator after its prior owner received only a short-term license renewal for it, meaning that its license would expire earlier than those of other Rhode Island stations. Because of the shorter term, a license renewal application should have been filed by July 1, 2017, the first day of the fourth month prior to the license expiration date.  Unfortunately, the broadcaster did not file a license renewal application until September 11, 2020, and did not request Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) to operate without a license until September 16, 2020.  In its defense, the broadcaster informed the FCC that there was a discrepancy in the FCC’s LMS database, which indicated the translator’s license would expire on April 1, 2022, the same date as all other Rhode Island radio licenses.

The Commission granted the STA on October 2, 2020 for a period of six months, allowing the station to operate while the renewal application was processed.  However, the renewal processing took longer than six months, so the broadcaster timely filed for an extension of the STA in March 2021, which remains pending.

Ultimately, the FCC issued an NAL in September 2021, proposing a fine of $7,000 – $3,000 for failing to timely file a license renewal application and $4,000 for the resulting unauthorized operation. The NAL gave the broadcaster thirty days to either pay the fine or seek reduction or cancellation of it. In response, the broadcaster filed a Petition for Reconsideration asking the FCC to reduce or cancel the fine.

In the petition, the broadcaster argued that: (1) it acted in good faith and was not responsible for the previous licensee’s misconduct resulting in the short-term license renewal; (2) though it operated after the license expired, its broadcast was a public service which did not result in interference to any other station; (3) it has a record of compliance with the FCC’s Rules; (4) the FCC incorrectly discounted the LMS database error because, although LMS did not exist at the time of violation, the incorrect expiration of April 1, 2022 was also listed in the CDBS database which was in use at the time; (5) the violation was over a shorter period of time than was initially thought due to a covering license application being filed; and (6) the broadcaster was unaware the license expired because the station was still assessed regulatory fees and was listed as “licensed” in queries performed in the FCC’s databases.

In its Order responding to the Petition for Reconsideration, the FCC reduced the fine by $2,000, citing the broadcaster’s history of compliance with the Commission’s Rules. It reduced the fine by $500 for each of the two regulations violated (failure to timely file a license renewal application and the resulting unauthorized operation). The FCC then acknowledged that there was “a possibility, albeit remote,” that the incorrect date listed in the databases may have been a contributing factor. The Commission also noted that a Covering License granted in January 2020 also had the short-term license expiration date listed, but again acknowledged that some time after that January 2020 grant, the incorrect April 1, 2022 expiration date would have appeared in searches in LMS and CDBS. As a result, the FCC agreed to further reduce the fine by another $1,000, bringing the total amount down to $5,000.

FCC Fines Arkansas Broadcaster for Silent Radio Station and Public File Violations

The FCC fined an Arkansas radio station $17,500 for (1) discontinuing operation of its AM radio station and FM translator without first requesting authority from the FCC to do so, (2) Public Inspection File rule violations, and (3) failing to update certifications made in its license renewal applications.

In January of 2020, the broadcaster had filed license renewal applications for both stations in which it certified the stations were operating and had not been silent during the license term for more than 30 days. However, on March 6, 2020, the broadcaster’s AM station, and therefore the associated FM translator, went silent due to failure of the AM transmitter.  The FCC was alerted to this fact through an informal objection to the AM station’s pending license renewal application.

Shortly after the informal objection was filed with the FCC, the broadcaster submitted STA requests seeking authority for both stations to stay silent.  The FCC granted the STA requests on May 22, 2020, but noted that the requests had not been timely filed, as the stations were silent for thirty days as of April 6, 2020, and the grant of the STAs did not authorize the stations’ silence between April 6, 2020 and May 22, 2020.

The FCC’s rules require stations to notify the Commission within 10 days of discontinuing operations, and to obtain FCC authorization if the station will be silent for more than 30 days.  Here, both stations went silent on March 6, 2020, with the AM station resuming operations on July 29, 2020 and the FM translator resuming operations on September 25, 2020.  As a result, the broadcaster should have notified the FCC the stations had gone silent no later than March 17, 2020, and sought authority to remain silent by April 5, 2020.  Since the STA requests were not filed until May 22, 2020, the FCC found that the broadcaster had willfully and repeatedly violated Sections 73.1740(a)(4) and 74.1263(e) of its Rules.

Additionally, Section 73.3526(e)(11)(i) of the FCC’s Rules requires every station to place in its Public Files “a list of programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three month period.” The list must be placed in the Public Inspection File on a quarterly basis within ten days of the end of each calendar quarter. The FCC’s review of the AM station’s Public File revealed that the Programs/Issues Lists for six quarters were filed late, and eight were missing.

Finally, the FCC noted that under Section 1.65 of its Rules, applicants are responsible for the continuing accuracy and completeness of information furnished in pending applications. In this instance, the broadcaster certified in its license renewal applications that the stations were “currently on the air broadcasting,” that there had been no rule violations by the licensee, and that the stations had not been silent for more than 30 days. The FCC explained that the first certification became inaccurate when the stations went off the air on March 6, 2020 and the second certification became inaccurate when the broadcaster failed to notify the Commission the stations were off the air on March 16, 2020. The third certification became inaccurate on April 6, 2020, the 31st day the stations were silent.

The Commission’s base fine for unauthorized silence is $5,000. The base fine for failure to file required forms or information is $3,000, and the base fine for Public Inspection File violations is $10,000. In determining the amount of a proposed fine, the FCC may adjust its base fine upward or downward based upon the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation, in addition to the licensee’s degree of culpability and any history of prior offenses. In this case, the Commission concluded a proposed total fine of $17,500 was appropriate.

Fortunately for the broadcaster, the FCC did not find that the violations constituted a “serious violation” or pattern of abuse preventing renewal of the stations’ licenses. Barring other issues arising, the FCC indicated that both license renewal applications would be granted in separate Commission actions upon conclusion of the stations’ forfeiture proceedings. However, given the importance the FCC places on its Public Inspection File requirements, the FCC stated that any grant of the license renewal applications would be conditioned on the AM station submitting a report regarding its compliance with those requirements.

A PDF version of this article can be found at FCC Enforcement ~ January 2022.

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • Florida Broadcaster Pays $20,000 for Unauthorized Tower Construction Work
  • Colorado Broadcaster Issued Notice of Violation for Operating FM Translator on Wrong Frequency
  • Telecommunications Company Receives Cease-and-Desist Letter From FCC for Transmitting Illegal Robocalls

FCC Fines Florida Broadcaster $20,000 for Commencing Tower Construction Prior to Completing Required Environmental Review

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and a Florida broadcaster entered into a Consent Decree to resolve an investigation into whether the broadcaster began clearing land for a wireless telecommunications tower before it completed the required environmental review. Environmental reviews are required by the FCC’s Rules, including rules implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). To settle the matter, the broadcaster admitted violating the FCC’s environmental and antenna structure rules, and agreed to implement a compliance plan while making a $20,000 penalty payment.

The FCC’s Environmental Rules require applicants and licensees to assess whether proposed facilities may significantly affect the environment. Under Section 1.1307(a)(3) of the Commissions Rules, an applicant must prepare an Environmental Assessment for facilities that could have a significant environmental effect. When considering whether an action may have a significant environmental effect, one of the factors an applicant must consider is whether the proposed site may affect threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitats.

Additionally, the FCC’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) rules require the owner of a proposed or existing antenna structure to follow registration procedures prior to constructing or altering a tower. If an Environmental Assessment is required by the rules, it must be included in the ASR application.

In July and August of 2020, the broadcaster hired contractors to perform the necessary environmental review and construct a wireless communications tower located within the designated critical habitat of the endangered Florida bonneted bat. When the broadcaster filed its ASR application in November 2020, it included an Environmental Assessment depicting premature clearing and admitted to preconstruction activities.

Although the environmental review was later completed and the FCC authorized construction of the tower, the FCC issued a Letter of Inquiry to the broadcaster in April 2021 asking a series of questions related to its compliance with the Commission’s Environmental and ASR rules. The broadcaster responded in July 2021, admitting that it began construction by clearing vegetation from the tower site around August 3, 2020 – before it prepared an Environmental Assessment and before applying for an ASR.

To resolve the investigation, the broadcaster agreed to enter into a Consent Decree in which it admitted its actions violated the FCC’s Environmental and ASR rules. As part of the Decree, the broadcaster must designate a compliance officer, implement a multi-part compliance plan, including developing a compliance manual and compliance training program, disclose within fifteen days any violations of the Consent Decree or the Environmental and ASR rules, file annual compliance reports with the FCC for the next three years, and pay a $20,000 civil penalty.

FCC Issues Notice of Violation to Colorado Licensee for Operating FM Translator on Unauthorized Frequency

Earlier this month, the FCC issued a Notice of Violation to the licensee of a Colorado FM Translator asserting violations of Sections 1.903(a) and 74.14(a) of the FCC’s Rules by operating a station on a channel for which it wasn’t licensed.

Section 1.903(a) requires stations to be used and operated only in accordance with the rules applicable to their particular service and with a valid authorization granted by the Commission. Pursuant to Section 74.14(a), once an FM Translator has been built in accordance with the terms of its construction permit and a license application has been filed showing the station is in satisfactory operating condition, it may commence service or program tests.

On three different dates between October 2020 and January 2021, an agent of the Denver Office of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau observed the FM Translator operating on Channel 282 despite being licensed to operate on Channel 272. While the licensee had obtained a construction permit authorizing it to modify the station to operate on Channel 282, at the time of the three separate observations, it had not yet filed an FM Translator License Application. Until a license application is filed, the facility lacked authority to operate with the parameters outlined in the construction permit, and any such operation would violate Section 74.14(a).

The Notice of Violation seeks additional information from the broadcaster concerning these apparent violations. It instructs the broadcaster to submit within 20 days a written response fully explaining each apparent violation and all relevant surrounding facts and circumstances, including the specific actions taken to correct any violations and prevent them from recurring. The Notice also requires the broadcaster to include a timeline for completing any pending corrective actions.

FCC Issues Cease-and-Desist Letter to Telecommunications Company for Transmitting Illegal Robocalls

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a cease-and-desist letter to a telecommunications company for apparently transmitting illegal robocalls. The letter instructs the company to investigate, and if necessary, cease transmitting any illegal robocall traffic immediately and take steps to prevent its network from being used to transmit illegal robocalls.

The Enforcement Bureau issued the letter after an investigation revealed the company apparently originated multiple illegal robocall campaigns. The Bureau works closely with the USTelecom Industry Traceback Group (“Traceback Consortium”), which is the consortium selected pursuant to the TRACED Act to conduct tracebacks. The Traceback Consortium investigated prerecorded voice message calls that voice service providers and customers of YouMail flagged as illegal robocalls made without consent of the called party.

Between August 24, 2021 and October 15, 2021, the Traceback Consortium conducted tracebacks and concluded that the company originated over 80 calls that appeared to be illegal robocalls, including substantial numbers of government imposter scam calls such as posing as the Social Security Administration and the Federal Reserve, as well as calls threatening utility discontinuation, offering fake credit card rate reductions, and arrest warrant scams. Furthermore, the Traceback Consortium notified the company about the calls and provided access to supporting data identifying each call prior to the cease-and-desist letter being sent.

The FCC noted that in addition to the Traceback Consortium previously notifying the company, the numerous tracebacks to the company as an originator indicated that the company is apparently knowingly or negligently originating illegal robocall traffic. The letter instructs the company to take steps to “effectively mitigate illegal traffic within 48 hours” and inform the FCC and the Traceback Consortium within 14 days of the date of the letter of the steps it has taken to “implement effective measures” to prevent customers from using the network to make illegal calls.

If the company fails to properly take the actions listed in the letter or fails to take sufficient mitigating actions to prevent customers from using its network to make illegal robocalls, downstream U.S.-based providers may block calls transmitted by the company. Additionally, the FCC may find that the company’s certification in the Robocall Mitigation Database is deficient and direct the removal of its certification from the database. If its certification is removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database, all intermediate and terminating voice service providers would be required to immediately cease accepting calls from the company.

A PDF version of this article can be found at FCC Enforcement ~ November 2021.

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • FCC Proposes Largest Robocalling Fine Under TCPA
  • Tennessee Broadcaster Fined for Failing to File License Applications for FM Translators
  • FCC Fines Rhode Island Broadcaster for Late-Filed License Renewal Application

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • FCC Asserts Violation of Prohibition Against Owning Two Top-Four Stations in the Same Market and Proposes $518,283 Fine
  • FCC Admonishes Indiana Broadcaster for Failing to Timely File License Renewal Application
  • Noncommercial Broadcaster Fined $9,000 for Late-Filed Issues/Programs Lists

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • Online Drone Retailer Fined Nearly $3 Million for Marketing Unauthorized Devices
  • FCC Denies Motion to Quash Letter of Inquiry Concerning Unauthorized Operation of Nevada LPFM Station
  • Unauthorized License Transfers Lead to $104,000 Consent Decree for New Jersey Water Service Company

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • FCC Fines Colorado Wireless Operators for Use of Unauthorized Equipment and Unauthorized Operations
  • VoIP Provider Enters Into Consent Decree With $180,000 Penalty Over Failure to Meet FCC Filing Requirements
  • FCC Investigates Colorado Manufacturer’s Unauthorized Signal Booster

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • FCC Fines Long-Distance Carrier $4.1 Million Over Cramming and Slamming Violations
  • Wireless Internet Service Provider’s Unauthorized Operations Lead to Consent Decree
  • Mississippi and Michigan Radio Station Licensees Admonished for Late License Renewal Filings

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others.  This month’s issue includes:

  • Texas-Based Telemarketers Fined Record $225 Million for Robocall Campaign
  • Georgia AM License Renewal Designated for Hearing Over Extended Periods of Silence
  • Public File Violations Lead to Consent Decree for Arkansas Noncommercial FM Station

FCC Issues Record Fine of $225 Million Against Texas-Based Telemarketers for Illegal Robocalls

The FCC recently issued a $225 million fine, the largest in its history, against a Texas company and its owners for transmitting approximately one billion robocalls, many of which were illegally spoofed.

The Truth in Caller ID Act, codified at Section 227(e) of the Communications Act of 1934, and Section 64.1604 of the FCC’s Rules, prohibits using a caller ID service to “knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value”—a practice known as “spoofing.”  Additionally, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and the FCC’s implementing rules, prohibit prerecorded voice messages to wireless telephone numbers absent the subscriber’s express consent unless the call is for an emergency purpose.

In September 2018, a telecommunications industry trade group provided information to the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau regarding millions of robocalls that had been transmitted over its members’ networks.  The trade group estimated that 23.6 million health insurance robocalls crossed the network of the four largest wireless carriers each day and that many, possibly all, of those robocalls contained false caller ID information.  In response, the Bureau began an investigation to determine the origin of the spoofed robocalls.

The FCC found that many of the calls included false or misleading information about the identity of the caller and that the Texas company made the spoofed calls on behalf of its health care industry clients.  The pre-recorded messages at issue claimed to offer health insurance from well-known health insurance providers such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group, yet the FCC found no evidence that the company had any connection with these providers.  Part of the FCC’s findings were based upon recorded conversations between the owners, which included numerous discussions of the company’s robocalling operations, from a roughly three-month period when one of the owners was incarcerated for an unrelated matter.

Between January and May 2019, the company made more than one billion robocalls to American and Canadian consumers on behalf of its clients, a portion of which the Enforcement Bureau reviewed and confirmed were spoofed.  The trade group followed up with the company directly multiple times in 2019 to notify the owners that the robocalls appeared to violate prohibitions against unsolicited telemarketing calls and malicious spoofing.  In response, one of the company owners admitted to making millions of robocalls daily and even admitted to making calls to numbers registered to the Do Not Call Registry in an effort to increase sales.  Although the company informed the trade group that it ceased spoofing caller ID information in September 2019, the robocalls continued.

In June 2020, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL), proposing a $225 million fine against the company for violating the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules by spoofing caller ID information with the intent to cause harm and wrongfully obtain something of value.  The company responded to the NAL, claiming that: (1) it did not itself initiate any calls because it was acting as a technology consultant for its client’s calling campaigns; (2) it had only a limited role in the robocall campaigns, did not draft the messages, and believed that it had consent and therefore did not intend to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value; (3) the NAL impermissibly lumped the owners and the company (and its affiliates) together rather than attributing wrongful conduct to each party; (4) the owners cannot be held personally liable; and (5) the FCC failed to consider the company’s inability to pay and lack of any prior violations.

The FCC considered but was ultimately not persuaded by any of the company’s arguments.  In issuing the $225 million fine, the FCC noted that, among other things, the company did not contest that it spoofed more than 500 million calls and thus knowingly caused the display of inaccurate caller ID information.  While the company argued that it had only a limited role in initiating these calls, as it was acting in accordance with its client’s wishes, the FCC found that, even if the company was acting at a client’s request, it still knowingly agreed to display the inaccurate information.  The FCC also found that the company acted with wrongful intent by executing a telemarketing campaign in which call recipients were deceived by offers of health insurance from well-known providers.  Because the calls were spoofed, consumers could not identify the caller or easily choose to ignore or block the call and therefore the FCC concluded that the company employed spoofing in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme.

With respect to the owners’ personal liability, the FCC’s analysis of the company’s corporate structure and the public policy implications of broadly shielding individuals from liability for evading legal obligations led the FCC to conclude that it was necessary to hold the owners liable for their actions as officers of the company.  The FCC also distinguished this case from past decisions supporting reductions of proposed fines, noting that the decisions cited by the company did not involve spoofing.  Finally, the FCC noted that the company failed to provide the financial information required to support a claim of inability to pay.

The $225 million fine must now be paid within 30 days following release of the Order.  The FCC noted that if it is not paid within that time, the matter may be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.

Extended Periods of Silence Lead to Hearing Designation Order for Georgia AM Station

The Media Bureau has designated for hearing the license renewal application of a Georgia AM station based on the station’s extended periods of silence during the most recent license term.

Under Section 312(g) of the Communications Act of 1934, a station’s license automatically expires if the station “fails to transmit broadcast signals for any consecutive 12-month period.”  Where silent stations resume operations for only a short-period of time before the one-year limit passes, the FCC has cautioned that such stations will face a “very heavy burden in demonstrating that [they have] served the public interest,” noting that extended periods of silence are an inefficient use of the nation’s limited broadcast spectrum.

Section 309(k)(1) of the Communications Act provides that in determining whether to grant a license renewal application, the FCC must consider whether, in the previous license term, the licensee: (1) served the public interest; (2) has not committed any serious violations of the Act or of the FCC’s rules; and (3) has not committed other violations that, taken together, would constitute a pattern of abuse.  If the licensee falls short of this standard, the FCC can either grant the renewal application with conditions, including an abbreviated license term, or deny it after a hearing to more closely examine the station’s performance. Continue reading →

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Bringing to a close the process initiated with the adoption of the Secure and Trusted Communications Act of 2019, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released its list of communications equipment and services that it has deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security. U.S.-based service providers are prohibited from receiving federal subsidies for purchasing the listed communications equipment or services (Covered List), and service providers will be given an opportunity to receive federal funds to subsidize the removal and replacement of the communications equipment and services included on the Covered List.

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