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The Week Ahead: DOJ, AT&T trial begins; FCC to vote on 5G deployment reforms


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The Week Ahead: DOJ, AT&T trial begins; FCC to vote on 5G deployment reforms

The DOJ:

The legal battle over the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit seeking to block AT&T Inc.'s planned $106.40 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. will be heard in court this week, starting with up to two days of motions followed by opening arguments.

In its lawsuit, the DOJ argues that the marriage of AT&T and Time Warner's assets would give the resulting entity too much power in the pay-TV and online video marketplace, enabling the combined entity to raise prices for competing distributors and ultimately consumers. AT&T, however, disputes that claim, saying the government's case is based on hypothetical models that envision AT&T pulling Turner content from other distributors. Such a move, AT&T says, would result in "devastating, unrecoverable costs" for the company. Further, AT&T says the merger will benefit consumers by "enabling AT&T to introduce new video products better suited to mobile viewing."

The trial is set to last several weeks and will be argued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The FCC:

The Federal Communications Commission will hold its monthly open meeting on March 22. At the top of the agenda is an order aimed at speeding the deployment of next-generation 5G networks by streamlining the federal review process for certain infrastructure deployments. The order specifically focuses on deployments that are subject to review under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act, two U.S. laws designed to preserve historical and archaeological sites, as well as the environment.

The FCC's order would exempt small wireless facilities, or small cells, from the environmental and historic review procedures required under the two laws. Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has championed the order in recent weeks, has noted the legal requirements under the NHPA and NEPA were originally designed for large, macrocell towers. Small cells are cellular base stations and antennas that are frequently the size of pizza boxes, though the size of these cells can vary greatly. According to the commission, its revised approach to small cells stands to "cut the regulatory costs of deployment by 80 percent, trim months off of deployment timelines and incentivize thousands of new wireless deployments."

Among other things, the FCC's order would also adopt a shot clock for the commission's processing of environmental assessments, directly addressing complaints the commission received from wireless operators. In particular, T-Mobile US Inc. said that because environmental assessments required by the FCC were not subject to any processing timelines or dispute resolution procedures, "this lack of structure can cause new facility proposals to languish for extended periods of time."

Other items to be voted on at the March 22 meeting include a notice of inquiry examining location-based routing of wireless 911 calls to ensure calls are routed to the proper 911 call center; a notice of proposed rulemaking focused on the 4.9 GHz spectrum band; and a notice of proposed rulemaking that aims to streamline the reauthorization process for television satellite stations that are assigned or transferred in combination with a previously approved parent station.

Also at the FCC this week is the commission's March 19 deadline for filing comments in its proceeding seeking input on whether the agency should modify or eliminate the 39% national audience reach cap, which prohibits a single broadcast station group from owning TV stations that together reach more than 39% of U.S. TV households. In addition, the proposal asks about retaining or modifying the UHF discount, which allows stations broadcasting in the UHF spectrum — or on channels 14 to 51 — to attribute only 50% of their TV households in their designated market areas toward the overall cap.

The move to review the cap, which has attracted criticism from Democrats in Congress and on the commission, comes as the FCC is considering Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s proposed combination with Tribune Media Co. Without any divestitures, a combined Sinclair and Tribune would exceed the 39% national audience reach cap by about 6.5%. More recently, however, Sinclair amended the planned deal to include the sale of multiple stations to put it in compliance with the cap, though critics of the combination noted that Sinclair would still be connected to the divested stations through various agreements.

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March 20 The House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection will hold a joint hearing with the House Subcommittee on Information Technology on the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program, which provides the Department of Homeland Security tools to identify and prioritize cybersecurity risks on an ongoing basis. The hearing, titled "CDM: Government Perspectives on Security and Modernization," will begin at 2 p.m. ET.
March 21 The House Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled "American Infrastructure and the Small Business Perspective" at 11 a.m. ET. The hearing will examine how surface transportation and access to broadband promote economic growth among small businesses.
March 22 The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing at 10:15 a.m. ET titled "Legislative Hearing on Four Communications Bills."
The DOJ:
March 19 Trial will begin in the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against the AT&T/Time Warner deal.
FCC events:
March 22 The FCC will hold its monthly open meeting.
March 22 The 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee's informal working group for terrestrial services will chat at 1 p.m. ET. The advisory committee is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to provide the FCC with public views and recommendations in preparation for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference.
March 23 The FCC and FTC will hold a joint event titled "Fighting the Scourge of Illegal Robocalls."
Industry events:
March 20 - 22 The American Cable Association will hold its annual summit focused on regulatory topics and lobbying on Capitol Hill. Speakers include FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
March 20 The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's BroadbandUSA Program, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, will host a Broadband Summit titled "Creating Partnerships to Ensure Access for All."
March 20 The Washington Post will host "Transformers: Artificial Intelligence," a live news event focused on how policymakers and the business community are working to pave the way for new technology and the effect artificial intelligence will have on the workplace.
March 20 The Hudson Institute will host an event titled "5G: Will the United States Maintain its Lead in Wireless Technology?"
March 20 The Technology Policy Institute will hold a conference titled "Music Licensing – Proposals for Reform."
March 21 George Washington University Law's Global Internet Freedom Project will host an event on the law of net neutrality, including a Q&A with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
March 21 NTIA's BroadbandUSA will host a webinar titled "Broadband Public-Private Partnerships: Delivering Solutions for America's Communities."
March 22 The American Antitrust Institute will host an event titled "Applying the Antitrust Laws to Digital Platforms."
March 23 The Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution will hold a forum on smart transportation and discuss a white paper on "Smart Transportation in China and the United States."
More cybersecurity events:

March 19 - 20

Tech Regiment will host the Insider Threat 2018 Summit to discuss personnel security issues, including cybersecurity challenges and capabilities, continuous evaluation of privileged identities and ethical physical security considerations.
March 19 - 21 MIS Training Institute will host InfoSec World 2018, focused on the business of security.
March 20 The Federal Communications Bar Association and the American Bar Association will hold the 13th Annual Privacy & Data Security Symposium titled "The Changing Cybersecurity Landscape for Tech and Critical Communications Infrastructure: Are You Ready?"

Stories of note:

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Analysis: Blocked Broadcom deal highlights questions around government's 5G role

Dodd-Frank revision bill may be delayed, House wants bigger changes

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