By Marjorie Spivak, Gregg Skall & Marty Stern
The introduction of new and innovative communications and consumer electronics technologies typically requires years-long FCC proceedings to change service rules and technical requirements applicable to the use of radio spectrum, the products authorized to operate on these frequencies, and requirements surrounding the operation and use of new wired communications technologies. Section 7 of the Communications Act, a barely noticed and little used provision enacted in 1983, was intended to speed the deployment of these technologies, by allowing innovators to petition to the FCC to authorize new technologies and services, placing the burden on opponents of a new service or technology to show that it should not be authorized.
Now the Commission, as part of its effort to improve the process for enabling the introduction of new technologies and services, has kicked off a proceeding,1 some 35 years after enactment of Section 7, to adopt rules and guidelines that would allow technology innovators to ask the Commission to authorize new and innovative technologies, and would put in place a process by which these petitions would be acted upon on an expedited basis. The FCC’s new rules would cover petitions for rulemaking, waiver requests, and applications for authorization of any type of technology or service, radio-based or wired, with set procedures and timetables for action on Section 7 requests. Those involved in the technology space should pay close attention to the proceeding and the development of the ensuing rules, which may allow for the expedited launch of new products or services that might have otherwise taken years to clear regulatory hurdles.
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1. See in the Matter of Encouraging the Provision of New Technologies and Services to the Public, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), GN Docket No. 18-22 (February 23, 2018).