FCC Eases Licensing for Broadband Access on Planes

By J. Bradford Currier and Marty Stern

Internet access on commercial and private aircraft will likely become more widespread under a recent Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC’s action creates new technical and licensing rules for what it terms “Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft” (“ESAA”), small aircraft-mounted antennas that communicate with satellites tied to ground-based Internet access networks allowing for the provision of broadband Internet access on-board aircraft. The new ESAA licensing procedures, which include detailed technical requirements for ESAA systems intended to prevent radio interference among ESAA systems and existing satellite systems, will replace an ad hoc approval process for in-flight satellite-based Internet services in place since 2001. The FCC expects that the new rules will allow it to process ESAA apllications up to 50 percent faster and meet growing consumer demand for Internet access while traveling.

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FCC Releases Hurricane Irene Emergency Communications Procedures

As Hurricane Irene threatens the Eastern seaboard with the potential to cause billions of dollars in damages, the FCC’s International Bureau released a public notice providing procedures for emergency communications in areas affected by the impending severe weather. Specifically, emergency requests for special temporary authority (“STA”) for satellite earth and space stations as well as submarine cables may be submitted by letter, e-mail, or telephone to be handled on an expedited basis by the International Bureau. Hurricane-related STA requests will be subject to the Commission’s “permit-but-disclose” ex parte rules. The International Bureau also designated special phone and e-mail contacts for satellite station and submarine cable operations during the emergency. 

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K&L Gates Global Government Solutions Report Includes Articles on Key TMT, Privacy and Patent Developments

K&L Gates recently published its Global Government Solutions 2011 Annual Outlook, which contains articles from around the firm on key governmental developments expected in 2011.

The Annual Outlook includes an article addressing developments affecting the Telecom, Media and Technology sector in 2011 by DC partners Marc Martin and Marty Stern, noting that the TMT sector enters 2011 with significant regulatory uncertainty and the FCC facing an uphill battle on many signature regulatory initiatives.

The article reviews the FCC’s net neutrality order and the challenges it faces in court and on Capitol Hill, discusses the recent FCC and Department of Justice approvals of the Comcast/NBCU transaction, and a number of additional issues getting significant focus in 2011. These include retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and cable/DBS providers and the FCC’s expected rulemaking proceeding on this issue, the Commission’s implementation of new communications accessibility requirements under the new 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and continued efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund and make it broadband-centric.

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New Disability Access Requirements for Advanced Communications and Video

By Marty Stern (Washington, DC), Carol Lumpkin (Miami) and Stephanie N. Moot (Miami).

The President signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 on October 8, 2010 (the “ComVid Accessibility Act” or “Act”). The ComVid Accessibility Act expands various disability access requirements to VoIP phones, browser-enabled smart phones, text messaging, Internet-enabled video devices, on-line video of TV programming, TV navigation devices, and programming guides and menus, among other things. 

Karen Peltz Strauss, who has the lead at the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) on implementing the ComVid Accessibility Act, appeared on a recent live program on Internet TV channel Broadband US TV and discussed the FCC's "enormous mandate" to implement the new Act.  Click here for a clip of Ms. Peltz Strauss' comments on the program.  (with permission from TV Worldwide).[1]  According to Ms. Peltz Strauss, “Every segment of the industry that has anything to do with broadband, television, including cable, satellite or broadcast, Internet-based television, as well as . . . Internet-based providers, traditionally regulated [telephone] companies, wireless companies” needs to be paying attention to the new Act.   “Virtually every segment that has anything to do with communications or video programming is covered.” 

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