Practice/Industry Group Overview
The advent of new communications technologies over the past 30 years has fundamentally changed the way people in America and globally learn, shop, socialize and conduct business. The pace and scale of these changes, together with convergence of the underlying technologies and markets, has led to unprecedented legal tensions between legacy industries and the new economy, including unsettled regulations and ambiguous legislation. The 21st century will see even more accelerated convergence of the telecom, information technology and energy sectors, with data, voice and media content delivered via circuits and protocols that just a few years ago represented completely separate industries.
The legal skills necessary to navigate this complex technological landscape cannot be acquired overnight. Duane Morris has an array of attorneys with the depth of experience, in both private practice and government, required to counsel and advocate for clients positioned throughout the IT-communications-media spectrum. Whether the matter involves regulation, dispute resolution or corporate transactions, our group of versatile, multi-discipline attorneys can address such commercially complex challenges in an integrated, strategic and efficient manner.
The firm's telecommunications and media clients include telecommunications carriers, broadcast station owners, satellite communications systems, ISPs and Internet content distributors, wireless and optical equipment vendors and service providers, trade associations, financial institutions, venture-backed start-ups, schools and universities, entrepreneurs and government entities.
Regulatory and Advocacy
Duane Morris advises clients on interpretation of FCC and state public utility commission rules and policies affecting their operations, and counsels them on regulatory compliance. The firm's attorneys have extensive experience guiding common carrier, broadcast and corporate user clients on their rights and obligations, as well as preparing regulatory comments, license applications and other filings for submission to the FCC and state commissions.
Our media practice includes the preparation and prosecution of applications for new and modified broadcast facilities, and associated requests for rule waivers. We regularly provide advice regarding compliance issues such as with respect to equal employment opportunity, enhanced underwriting and translator protection. When client matters become contested, Duane Morris attorneys handle all aspects of the ensuing litigation.
The firm's lawyers have been active in telecommunications policy issues for decades and have frequently been called upon to represent the interests of industry participants, corporations and trade associations in connection with rulemakings and other regulatory proceedings. This work has entailed advocacy before the FCC, NTIA, state PUCs, Congress and its oversight committees (principally Judiciary and Commerce), state legislatures, other Executive Branch agencies (for instance, the FTC) and appellate courts throughout the country. Our lawyers have spearheaded the formation of coalitions and associations to advocate industry views and have developed innovative approaches to compliance with, or waiver of, applicable communications regulations when needed to facilitate client business expansion.
Duane Morris attorneys have been involved in nearly every major administrative rulemaking and associated judicial proceeding over the past three decades affecting telephony, Internet services and industrial radio systems, from United States v. AT&T to Iowa Utilities v. FCC and beyond. We have represented clients in connection with spectrum policy and auctions, local number portability, Voice over Internet Protocol regulation, broadcast licensing, wireless rate regulation preemption, cable open access and "net neutrality," alternative rate regulation and price caps, interconnection and interoperability, access charges, unlicensed equipment authorization, mobile and digital television, universal and e-rate services, calling cards, payphone compensation and broadband over power line services.
Duane Morris lawyers are also routinely active in both international radio spectrum regulation and domestic governmental advisory committees. For instance, one of our partners has served as a U.S. Delegate to World Radiocommunication Conferences and has represented client interests in proceedings before the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva. Another was appointed to the North American Numbering Council, an advisory group for the FCC on telephone numbering resource allocation, and the Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee, which fashioned disability access standards for telecommunications and Web services.
Litigation and Enforcement
The firm regularly represents telecommunications and media clients in FCC and state administrative enforcement proceedings, trial and appellate courts, international forums and arbitrations. Our lawyers' experience in regulatory enforcement includes defense of Fortune 500 companies involving alleged violations of communications regulations and federal and state laws, industry participants seeking to protect their intellectual property and standards, and emerging growth companies pursuing licenses or spectrum waivers needed to develop and commercialize new communications technologies.
Duane Morris' federal court experience includes, among others, a landmark 2004 appellate reversal of the FCC's media concentration rules, the first federal litigation challenging the regulated status of VoIP technology, and representation of high-tech trade associations and consumer groups in challenges to the assertion of new FCC regulatory powers. Other issues which Duane Morris attorneys have litigated include local competition rules, reciprocal and intercarrier compensation, access charges and universal service regulations, cable set-top box integration, interconnection and unbundling, the filed rate doctrine, the 1996 Telecommunication Act's rural exemption and FCC-imposed merger conditions and sanctions.
The firm's experience in international forums includes assistance to clients in connection with foreign radio licensing matters, 3G and other wireless network development and negotiations with regulators in the European Union, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
Duane Morris represents corporate clients in transactions involving the purchase or sale of communications properties, mergers and acquisitions, privatizations, project finance and infrastructure development. On behalf of both buyers and sellers, the firm's lawyers have handled multimillion-dollar deals for cellular systems, broadcast stations and cable and satellite providers. We coordinate all aspects of the transactions - from the letter of intent to contract negotiation and drafting, through preparation of applications for regulatory approval to the closing table. Working with public companies, we have handled stock swaps and other arrangements, advised on SEC and FCC issues regarding mergers and acquisitions, and prepared regulatory and risk disclosure materials for proxy statements, 10-K and S-1 filings. Our attorneys also represent venture capitalists, lenders and borrowers on issues relating to investment in and securitization of loans to communications companies.
The firm regularly assists clients in procuring telecommunications network facilities, IRUs and quality-of-service agreements. We frequently handle capacity and infrastructure transactions and supervise negotiation of leases for capacity on educational broadband microwave systems and agreements for radio system rebanding (e.g., 800 MHz). Our attorneys represent clients in negotiating SLAs and other contracts among telecom carriers, corporate users and Web-based content providers. We advise on wholesale and end user service agreements, including Voice over Internet Protocol service agreements, managed service and outsourcing contracts, ATM broadband, fiber optic and wireless network connectivity issues, various interconnection agreements between carriers, and a variety of other corporate and commercial transactions.
International transactions involving telecom entities is another area in which Duane Morris attorneys have significant experience. We've counseled U.S. clients on their foreign telecom holdings and cross-border joint ventures in Europe, represented clients outside the United States regarding telecom transactions and establishing operations in new foreign markets, and worked with foreign governments and corporations on telecommunications privatization transactions and international license tenders.
We have also represented communications providers on rights-of-way and conduit access issues, developed revenue optimization strategies for both incumbent firms and new entrants in shared use of telecom facilities, and negotiated numerous agreements for the lease, sale and multilateral exchange of telecommunications capacity. And when bankruptcy and financial restructuring issues are required to further our clients' business objectives, Duane Morris brings unique experience to the table, counseling creditors, debtors, investors and operators in connection with the FCC aspects of reorganization and adversary proceedings under the Bankruptcy Code.