Craig Gilley provides a broad range of services for regulated communications entities, as well as information technology, education technology, investment, and private equity companies. Craig's primary practice involves counseling cable operators, broadband providers, internet service providers, video programmers, satellite providers, and wireless/wireline telecommunications providers on a broad range of legal, regulatory, operational, and transactional issues. He also regularly provides transactional, operational, compliance, and strategic advice to information and educational technology firms. Craig also represents investment and private equity companies, providing transactional and compliance support to ensure that both their acquisitions and ongoing investments fully comply with regulatory requirements.

Last week, the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture proposing a $20 million forfeiture, essentially a fine, against two telecommunications service providers for failing to properly authenticate customers’ identity before providing online access to Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI). CPNI includes sensitive data, such as called phone numbers, the length and time of calls, and service features. FCC rules mandate that companies handling such information use “reasonable measures” to guard access to CPNI.

Because it would be easy for third parties to impersonate customers and gain access to their CPNI, FCC rules prohibit the use of readily available biographical information or account information. “Readily available biographical information” includes “information drawn from the customer’s life history and includes such things as the customer’s social security number . . . mother’s maiden name; home address; or date of birth.” Account information is “information that is specifically connected to the customer’s service relationship with the carrier, including such things as an account number or any component thereof, the telephone number associated with the account, or the bill’s amount.” FCC rules thus requires service providers to authenticate customer identity without the use of the above information and then require a password.Continue Reading FCC Proposes $20 Million Forfeiture Against Telecommunications Service Providers for Failing to Protect User Data

On Tuesday the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to specify an “all-in” total price for their video service, both in their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills.

The proposal is intended to help consumers understand the complete cost of video service, to provide consumers with the ability to comparison shop among competing service providers and to compare programming costs against those of alternative programming providers, such as streaming services.

The proposal builds upon the recently implemented Broadband Nutrition Label requirement, which demands that broadband Internet providers display easy-to-understand service performance labels akin to food labels. The proposal is also consistent with the broader federal effort driven by the White House to eliminate so-called junk fees across a variety of industries. Such fees are service provider mandatory fees that are not fully disclosed in provider marketing/advertisements and that later surprise consumers when they are billed.Continue Reading FCC Proposes “All-In” Video Service Advertising Rules for Cable and Satellite TV

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking intending to strengthen consumers’ ability to revoke consent to receive both robocalls and robotexts, in addition to strengthening callers’/texters’ obligations to honor such requests in a timely manner.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) restricts callers from making robocalls and robotexts unless they have received the prior express consent of the called party, subject to a couple of exemptions. The FCC’s proposed action would broaden a consumer’s ability to revoke consent in “any reasonable way.” For example, simply using words such as “stop,” “revoke,” “end,” or “opt out” in response to a call or text would create a presumption, absent contrary evidence, that the consumer has revoked consent.Continue Reading FCC Proposes Codifying New TCPA Consent Rules in Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

As part of a broader campaign to go after “robocall” violations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a $5,134,500 fine against a company and its owners for making 1,141 robocalls in 2020 that violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The company told recipients of the robocalls that if they voted by mail, their personal information would “be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.” The case is a strong reminder that political calling campaigns are also subject to the TCPA.

Both the TCPA and the FCC’s rules prohibit prerecorded voice calls to wireless telephone numbers without the recipients’ prior express consent, and this is true regardless of the caller’s intent. These restrictions apply equally to both telemarketing and informational calls, including all non-commercial and political calls. The only exception is for calls that are made for an emergency purpose.Continue Reading FCC Levies $5 Million Fine for Political Calling Campaign That Violated the TCPA

Last month, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law amendments to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA) that scale back the scope and reach of the statute, bringing it in line with federal TCPA standards and providing needed comfort to good faith marketing companies operating in Florida.

Since the last statutory changes in July 2021, the FTSA has severely impacted telemarketing and text marketing businesses marketing to Florida residents and otherwise conducting business in the state. Like the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the FTSA prohibits using automated dialers to call or text consumers without their consent.

The Florida law also enables consumers to recover $500 per call and provides for up to $1,500 in treble damages for willful or knowing violations, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. To date, the FTSA has also had much more lenient standards for bringing a claim, resulting in Florida being a hotbed of state-level litigation in the area.Continue Reading Florida Adopts Changes to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act

On January 19, 2023 the Third Circuit dismissed a TCPA class action lawsuit (Mauthe v. Millennium Health LLC) against a company that had sent a one-page promotional fax to consumers without their prior consent about a free educational seminar related to drug testing and medication monitoring.

The free seminar would “highlight national trends

On November 10, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released an aggressive new Policy Statement outlining the current FTC’s view on what constitutes “unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce” under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Section 5 of the FTC Act covers conduct that violates other federal antitrust laws but also other methods of unfair competition. How broadly that “penumbra” of Section 5 should be interpreted has been the subject of debate for years. Consistent with her stated intent to increase broadly the reach of the antitrust laws, FTC Chair Lina Khan has used the Policy Statement to advocate for an exceptionally aggressive view of the conduct that the FTC may challenge under its antitrust authority, eschewing economics-based analysis for conduct that the Commission believes is coercive, exploitative, or abusive. The Statement also dismisses past litigation setbacks where the FTC has asserted Section 5 authority but has been rebuffed by the courts, explaining that even when courts find against the agency on factual grounds, they have still generally affirmed the FTC’s broad and robust authority under Section 5.

FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson issued a detailed and scathing critique of the Policy Statement, citing the legal and policy problems she believes the Statement causes.Continue Reading What the FTC’s Aggressive New Policy Statement on Unfair Methods of Competition Means for Advertisers

Yesterday, the FCC modified its building inside wiring rules governing service provider access to apartment, condominium, and office buildings, otherwise known as multi-tenant environments or multiple dwelling unit buildings (MTEs). Note that in particular circumstances these rules can also apply to private real estate developments, trailer parks, and planned community developments located on private land.

Some background: Starting in 1993 FCC wiring rules have prohibited certain exclusive agreements between telecommunications providers and mul­tichannel video programming distributors and MTE building owners that grant the provider exclusive access to and rights to provide service to an MTE. Underpinning those rules is an FCC policy that exclusive access and service contracts harm competition and consumers by limiting service choice in MTE buildings.

Nonetheless, the rules had always made compromises that opened loopholes creating avenues to de facto exclusivity, and those loopholes were widely and creatively exploited. Over time, those loopholes have gradually been closed, and here the FCC takes its latest step to advance that closure.Continue Reading FCC Acts to Prohibit Exclusive Service and Wiring Arrangements in Office, Condominium, and Apartment Buildings