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Telecommunications, Media & Technology 2016 Regulatory Outlook

February 03, 2016

Morgan Lewis is kicking off 2016 with a series of complimentary telecommunications, media, and technology (TMT) regulatory outlook presentations. The first installment looks at major issues before the US Congress and the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the coming year and how they affect service providers, customers, and investors in the space.

Topics covered during Telecommunications, Media & Technology 2016 Legal and Regulatory Outlook, our February 3 webinar, include the following:

  • Broadcast incentive auction
  • Broadband deployment initiatives
  • Transition to Internet Protocol networks
  • Spectrum policy
  • Mergers and the TMT deal outlook
  • Universal service
  • Special access pricing
  • Rural call completion
  • Privacy and surveillance issues

Q&A With Andy Lipman

Washington, DC, partner Andy Lipman, whose practice covers nearly all aspects of communications law, shared some highlights discussed during the webinar.

What is the hot topic before Congress that will have broad-reaching ramifications for clients?

Given that this is an election year in the United States, there is limited time to advance legislation in 2016. The Broadcast Incentive Auction is the most talked about item that Congress might affect, but I don’t see Congress altering the current schedule; Congress might intervene on behalf of broadcasters seeking additional time to transition to new channels, but only after the conclusion of the Incentive Auction repacking process. Privacy and cybersecurity is another issue that could rise to the top of the congressional agenda.

What changes should clients be aware of from the FCC this year?

The FCC is likely to be very active this year as its leadership tries to wrap up a number of priority items before the end of the Obama administration. Besides the broadcast spectrum incentive auction, which may extend through much of the year, we expect to see action on Lifeline reform, special access pricing (which affects the prices that the Bell Operating Companies can charge for high-capacity dedicated facilities), and high-cost support payments to rural telephone companies. In addition, anyone in the telecommunications/Internet space needs to be aware of the FCC’s aggressive enforcement program, which now includes jurisdiction over broadband Internet access as well as the traditional areas of landline and mobile telephones, cable TV, and broadcasting.

What developments would you advise clients in the communications space to prepare for in the areas of privacy and surveillance?

Issues surrounding privacy, cybersecurity, and surveillance affect us all and are under constant discussion in Congress; but I’m not convinced that we should look for any broad consumer privacy legislation. The FCC is likely to continue pushing to expand its jurisdiction over data privacy issues through enforcement actions against companies that it feels have misused or failed to take sufficient steps to protect customer information.