The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Briefing.
The FCC announced that the Office of Management and Budget has approved the revisions to its Lifeline rule that involves information collection requirements. TMI Briefing Service subscribers see Briefings dated 7/1/15 and 7/20/15. The revisions will become effective once the FCC announces the approval through publication in the Federal Register. That publication is expected to occur on or after February 4, 2016. The following rule will take effect once publication occurs:
- Updating the definition of eligible telecommunications carriers, direct service, and Lifeline;
- Updating instructions and number of respondents for FCC Forms 497 and 481;
- Retaining eligibility documentation for enrollment and dispute resolution;
- Revising the burden for consumer recertification;
- Revising FCC Form 555 for annual reporting of subscriber recertification;
- Requiring a uniform snapshot date for payment of low-income support;
- Revising the subscriber usage requirement;
- Requiring marketing and outreach plans;
- Updating the ETC audit requirements; and
- Allowing electronic signatures for Lifeline subscriber certifications.
The FCC released the text of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s response to a letter from several members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee expressing concern over the FCC’s enforcement actions. Chairman Wheeler said that one of his “main priorities as Chairman is that consumers are protected from such behaviors as intrusive robocalls, fraudulent charges from cramming and slamming, and 911 system outages.” Among other things, the Senators suggested that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau (EB) is “aggressively pursuing substantial, unprecedented, and seemingly arbitrary fines against licensees and non-licensees alike.”
In addition to outlining the FCC’s statutory authority for various enforcement actions and the associated penalties, the response explains how the EB operates. Among other interesting information in the response is the following:
- The FCC has delegated to EB the authority to assess forfeiture penalties of up to $100,000 for common carriers and $25,000 for other entities. Forfeiture penalties larger than these amounts must be approved by the FCC.
- The FCC has also delegated to EB the authority to enter into Consent Decrees. The EB enters into settlement discussions at any stage of the enforcement process.
- If the forfeiture is not paid 30 days after a demand for payment, the FCC will refer the case to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice may decide to file a civil action for non-payment. In addition, the subject of the forfeiture may pay the penalty but challenge the decision in court.
- Initial information about a possible violation can come from a number of sources, including: consumer complaints; referrals from other FCC Bureau’s and Offices, Congress, or other government entities; of informal information, written or oral, from an interested party, or from EB’s own review of media reports or staff research.
- To determine whether enforcement action is warranted, EB collects evidence regarding an entity’s or individual’s conduct using a variety of tools, including inspections, oral information requests or Letters of Inquiry (LOIs), site visits, consultation with other government entities, and other investigative techniques.
The FCC did not release tables responding to the Senators’ requests for information relating to all monetary penalties in excess of $1 million imposed over the last 10 years and the payment status of all forfeitures in excess of $100,000 proposed in notices of apparent liability since 2005.