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TMT Law Watch

Business, legal, and policy developments affecting the telecom, media, and technology sector.

Frequently Asked Questions About Net Neutrality

Posted in Other Topics

By Marc MartinJenny Paul, and Elyse Schoenfeld*

UPDATE 11/11/2014:  Below is an FAQ that explores various questions regarding net neutrality. The FAQs are useful background in light of President Obama’s statements yesterday that he supports Title II regulation for ISPs and is against paid prioritization. These topics are discussed in more depth below. Continue Reading

Ruling Confirms FAA Enforcement Authority Over Reckless Unmanned Aircraft Operations

Posted in Consumer Issues, Privacy & Data Security, Law Enforcement

By Tom DeCesar, Ed Fishman, Jim Insco, and Marty Stern

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled earlier this week that small, unmanned aircraft flights are subject to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules prohibiting careless and reckless aircraft operation, potentially subjecting small, unmanned aircraft operators to civil enforcement penalties for such operations.  The FAA appealed the closely watched case to the full NTSB after an administrative law judge (ALJ) reached the opposite conclusion in an earlier proceeding.

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Arbitration Provision Unenforceable in TCPA Class Action, Ninth Circuit Holds

Posted in Consumer Issues, Privacy & Data Security

By Andrew Glass and Roger Smerage

The Ninth Circuit recently held that a consumer’s TCPA class action against Sirius XM Radio Inc. (“Sirius XM”) was not subject to Sirius XM’s arbitration agreement.  The consumer brought suit alleging that the satellite radio provider violated the TCPA by placing automated calls to his cellular phone without his consent.  Sirius XM sought to compel arbitration on an individual basis.  The consumer countered that although he purchased a car that was preloaded with a trial subscription to Sirius XM radio, the purchase agreement made no mention of a contract governing the satellite radio service.  Rather, the consumer asserted that he did not receive Sirius XM’s terms and conditions until more than a month after he purchased the car, but that those terms required cancellation of service within three days of activation of the trial subscription.  Because of the manner in which Sirius XM delivered its terms and conditions to purchasers of cars with trial subscriptions, the Ninth Circuit found that the consumer could not have provided assent to be bound by the arbitration provision.  Thus, the Ninth Circuit ruled that neither the arbitration provision nor the class action waiver it contained was enforceable.  The decision was issued in a case styled Knutson v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., — F.3d —-, 2014 WL 5802284 (9th Cir. Nov. 10, 2014).

Eleventh Circuit Endorses Different TCPA Liability Standards for Faxes and Calls

Posted in Compliance Updates & Enforcement, Consumer Issues, Privacy & Data Security

By Molly K. McGinley and Joseph Wylie

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit recently ruled in Palm Beach Golf Center-Boca, Inc. v. Sarris that a company that contracted with a third party advertising firm to send fax advertisements could be directly liable under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for faxes sent by the third-party firm on the company’s behalf.  In so holding, the 11th Circuit adopted a framework advanced by the Federal Communications Commission that imposes broader liability for third-party faxing than for third-party calling made on a company’s behalf. Continue Reading

Eleventh Circuit Bolsters FCC Interpretation of “Prior Express Consent” under the TCPA

Posted in Compliance Updates & Enforcement, Consumer Issues, Privacy & Data Security

By Gregory N. Blase, Andrew C. Glass, and Samantha A. Miko

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently bolstered the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) interpretation of “prior express consent,” a key term under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).

In Mais v. Gulf Coast Collection Bureau, Inc., the plaintiff’s wife provided the plaintiff’s cellphone number on a hospital admittance form.  The form disclosed that any information supplied could be shared with the hospital’s affiliates and used for any purpose, including for billing.  After the plaintiff failed to pay a hospital affiliate’s invoice for treatment services rendered, the affiliate provided the plaintiff’s contact information to the defendant, which initiated collection activity, including contacting the plaintiff at the cellphone number that was provided on his admittance form by his wife.

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FCC Chairman Proposes to Give Online Video Providers Access Rights to Cable and Broadcast Programming

Posted in Multichannel Video & Programming

By Marc Martin, Jenny Paul, and Marty Stern

A recent proposal from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler could provide Internet-based streaming and carriage services the right to carry cable-owned programming and to negotiate retransmission deals with broadcasters.  According to the Chairman’s blog post, the  move would allow “over-the-top” video providers to more easily compete with established cable, telecom, and satellite TV services. Continue Reading

FCC Confirms ‘Opt-Out’ Notice Requirement for All Fax Advertisements

Posted in Compliance Updates & Enforcement

By Molly K. McGinley, Nicole C. Mueller, and Joseph C. Wylie II

The Federal Communications Commission recently released an Order in response to multiple petitions confirming that opt-out notices are required on all advertisements transmitted by facsimile, even those sent with the prior express permission of the recipient.  The FCC also granted retroactive waivers to petitioners that were reasonably uncertain, based on ambiguities in a 2006 Report and Order modifying the FCC’s junk fax rules, about whether the opt-out notice requirement applied to faxes sent at the invitation of the recipient.  The FCC indicated that it would also entertain retroactive waivers requests from similarly situated parties filed prior to April 30, 2015. Continue Reading

FCC Expands Enforcement Authority Over Privacy Violations

Posted in Compliance Updates & Enforcement

By Jenny Paul

The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday a proposed fine of $10 million against two telecom carriers for the alleged failure to protect the sensitive personal information of up to 305,000 of their Lifeline customers.  YourTel America, Inc. and TerraCom, Inc., two telecom companies that provide service to low-income consumers as part of the federal Lifeline program, apparently stored sensitive customer information required to prove Lifeline eligibility — including names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, and driver’s licenses — on unprotected Internet servers that could be accessed by the public through a search engine.  Continue Reading

Marriott agrees to $600,000 penalty for blocking personal hotspots

Posted in Consumer Issues, Privacy & Data Security, Wireless

Marriott International, Inc. recently entered into a Consent Decree with the Federal Communications Commission to end an investigation into whether the company intentionally disabled consumers’ personal Wi-Fi hotspot connections at its Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. As part of the Consent Decree, Marriott will pay a $600,000 civil penalty and must file compliance reports with the FCC every three months for three years. Continue Reading

Railroad to Pay $5.25 Million For Operating Licenses Without FCC Approval

Posted in Other Topics

 By Jenny Paul and Marty Stern

Canadian National Railway Company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5.25 million to settle the Federal Communications Commission’s investigation into its acquisition and operation of hundreds of wireless radio facilities without FCC approval.  The $5.25 million penalty is the largest fine levied in FCC history for unauthorized radio operations and transfers of control.
 

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DOT Initiates Process to Mandate Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Technology In New Vehicles

Posted in Other Topics

By Tom DeCesar, Ed Fishman, Cliff Rothenstein and Marty Stern 

A new federal proposal would require new passenger cars and trucks to contain vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology, which uses radio communications to allow vehicles to “talk” to each other and, for example, warn drivers of safety hazards.  Cars that have this technology installed can communicate without the active involvement of a driver or passengers.  Proponents believe this technology also can be used to reduce vehicle emissions, fuel consumption and traffic congestion.  V2V is seen by many as an important part of the new wave of intelligent transportation systems, which will offer improved safety and functionality in the U.S. surface transportation network.
 
 

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