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Over the last 10 years, the Federal Communications Commission has established rules governing how local governments may regulate cable companies. In 2007, the FCC barred franchising authorities from imposing unreasonable demands on franchise applicants or requiring new cable operators to provide non-cable services. The FCC also read narrowly the phrase “requirements or charges incidental to the awarding . . . of [a] franchise” (47 U.S.C. 542(g)(2)(D)), with the effect of limiting the monetary fees that local franchising authorities can collect. A petition for review was denied. Meanwhile, the FCC sought comment on expanding the application of the First Order’s rules—which applied only to new applicants for a cable franchise—to incumbent providers. In its Second Order, the FCC expanded the First Order’s application as proposed. Local franchising authorities again objected. The FCC finally rejected objections after seven years; the FCC clarified that the Second Order applied to only local (rather than state) franchising processes and published a “Supplemental Final Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis.” Local governments sought review, arguing that the FCC misinterpreted the Communications Act, and failed to explain the bases for its decisions. The Sixth Circuit granted the petition in part; while “franchise fee” (section 542(g)(1)) can include noncash exactions, the orders were arbitrary to the extent they treat “in-kind” cable-related exactions as “franchise fees” under section 541(g)(1). The FCC’s orders offer no valid basis for its application of the mixed-use rule to bar local franchising authorities from regulating the provision of non-telecommunications services by incumbent cable providers. View "Montgomery County. v. Federal Communications Commission" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Besse, a pharmaceutical distributor, sent a one-page fax advertising the drug Prolia to 53,502 physicians. Only 40,343 of these faxes were successfully transmitted. Sandusky, a chiropractic clinic that employed one of the physicians, claims to have received this “junk fax,” and, three years later, filed a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court denied Sandusky’s motion for class certification. It held that Sandusky’s proposed class failed to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3) because two individualized issues—class member identity and consent—were central to the lawsuit and thus prevented “questions of law or fact common to class members [from] predominat[ing].” In the absence of fax logs, no classwide means existed by which to identify the 75% of individuals who received the Prolia fax; “each potential class member would have to submit an affidavit certifying receipt of the Prolia fax.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Besse presented actual evidence of consent to the district court, which required the need for individualized inquiries in order to distinguish between solicited and unsolicited Prolia faxes. The court stated that it was unaware of any court that ever mandated certification of a TCPA class where fax logs did not exist. View "Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. ASD Specialty Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Susinno alleged that on July 28, 2015, she received an unsolicited call on her cell phone from a fitness company called Work Out World (WOW). Susinno did not answer the call, so WOW left a prerecorded promotional offer that lasted one minute on her voicemail. Susinno filed a complaint, claiming WOW’s phone call and message violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibition of prerecorded calls to cellular telephones, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The district court dismissed, reasoning that a single solicitation was not “the type of case that Congress was trying to protect people against,” and Susinno’s receipt of the call and voicemail caused her no concrete injury. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the TCPA provides a cause of action and that the injury was concrete. The TCPA addresses itself directly to single prerecorded calls from cell phones, and states that its prohibition acts “in the interest of [ ] privacy rights.” View "Susinno v. Work Out World Inc" on Justia Law

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Geraci, part of a police watchdog group, attended an anti-fracking protest at the Philadelphia Convention Center, carrying her camera and a pink bandana that identified her as a legal observer. When the police acted to arrest a protestor, Geraci moved to record the arrest without interfering. An officer pinned Geraci against a pillar for a few minutes, preventing her from observing or recording the arrest. Fields, a Temple University sophomore, was on a public sidewalk where he observed officers across the street breaking up a party. He took a photograph. An officer ordered him to leave. Fields refused; the officer arrested him, confiscated and searched Fields’ phone, and opened several photos. The officer released Fields with a citation for “Obstructing Highway and Other Public Passages.” The charge was later withdrawn. Fields and Geraci brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, alleging First Amendment retaliation. Although the Police Department’s official policies recognized their First Amendment right, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment on those claims, finding no evidence that plaintiffs’ “conduct may be construed as expression of a belief or criticism of police activity.” The Third Circuit reversed, noting that every circuit that has addressed the issue has found that the First Amendment protects the act of photographing or otherwise recording police officers conducting their official duties in public. View "Fields v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the FCC's order reversing a decades-old, rebuttable presumption that determined whether state and local franchising authorities may regulate cable rates. Under its new Order, the Commission presumes there is Competing Provider Effective Competition and places the burden upon the franchising authority that wants to regulate basic cable rates to prove there is not effective competition in its area. The D.C. Circuit denied the petition for review and held that the Commission's use of a rebuttable presumption to comply with the statutory requirement that it make a finding on the state of competition in each franchise area was a permissible construction of the statutory requirement that the Commission find effective competition before terminating rate regulation; the Commission reasonably interpreted the Communications Act to allow, after a finding of effective competition, termination of existing certifications without having to wait for a petition of the kind referenced in 47 U.S.C. 543(a)(5); and the court rejected arguments regarding the STELA Reauthorization Act. The court also held that the Commission's rule was not arbitrary nor capricious. View "National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Wilkes-Barre Hospital’s radiology department x-rayed Daubert. His bill was $46. Radiology Associates forwarded his medical report and cell phone number to its billing company, MBMS. Daubert’s health-insurer contributed $21. Daubert did not pay the remaining $25. MBMS transferred his account to a debt collector, NRA, sharing Daubert’s cell number. NRA sent a collection letter. Daubert alleged that, visible through the envelope's window, were the sequence of letters and numbers NRA used to track Daubert’s collection account and a barcode that, when scanned by the appropriate reader, revealed that account number. NRA also called Daubert 69 times in 10 months, using a Predictive Dialer. Daubert sued, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692, asserting that the information visible through the envelope could have revealed his private information and of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Daubert on his TCPA claim and awarded $34,500 ($500 × 69 calls); no reasonable jury could find that Daubert expressly consented to receive calls from NRA. The court reversed the rejection of his FDCPA claim; the use of the barcode was not a bona fide good faith error. View "Daubert v. NRA Group LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2007, undercover producers from NBC Universal, Inc., attended and surreptitiously recorded a seminar presented by plaintiff-appellant Brokers’ Choice of America, Inc. to teach insurance agents how to sell annuities to seniors. NBC used excerpts and information from the seminar in a “Dateline NBC” episode. Brokers’ Choice and its founder Tyrone Clark (collectively, “BCA”) sued for defamation. This appeal concerned the district court’s dismissal of the amended complaint after it compared the seminar recording with the episode and concluded the Dateline program was substantially true. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed because the Dateline episode was not materially false. View "Brokers' Choice of America v. NBC Universal" on Justia Law

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CenturyLink filed suit against Sprint for damages resulting from Sprint's refusal to pay $8.7 million in access charges. Sprint counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that it was not required to pay CenturyLink the higher statutory "tariff" rates under federal and state laws. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that Sprint was required to pay CenturyLink the challenged tariff-rate access charges. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in finding Sprint was operating as an interexchange carrier in providing its VoIP-to-traditional-format transfer service, rather than as an information-service provider. Therefore, Sprint was obligated to pay for the federal tariff rates billed by CenturyLink. The court noted that, because Sprint failed to raise preemption on appeal, the state law tariffs could not be challenged here. The court also affirmed the district court's conclusion that Sprint engaged in unjust and unreasonable practices when it retroactively clawed-back funds by not paying charges it undisputedly owed. View "CenturyTel of Chatham, LLC v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 preempted the Iowa Utilities Board's authority to compel Sprint to pay intrastate access charges to Windstream. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Board and Windstream and its determination that the Act preserved the Board's authority and that Sprint was not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief. View "Sprint Communications Co. v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

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The rock group “The Slants,” chose that name to dilute the term’s denigrating force as a derogatory term for Asians. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied an application for registration of the name under 15 U.S.C. 1052(a), which prohibits the registration of trademarks that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” The Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit in finding the clause unconstitutional. The Court first rejected an argument that the clause applies only to natural or juristic persons. The Court then held that the clause is subject to the Free Speech Clause, which does not regulate government speech. Trademarks are private, not government speech. "If trademarks become government speech when they are registered, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently.” The disparagement clause denies registration to any mark that is offensive to a substantial percentage of the members of any group. That is viewpoint discrimination. The “public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.” The disparagement clause cannot withstand even “relaxed” review. It does not serve a “substantial interest,” nor is it “narrowly drawn.” View "Matal v. Tam" on Justia Law