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Limited Relief from FCC Ruling on Auto-Dialing/-Texting

(August 7, 2015) (EDUCAUSE telecommunications policy advisor, John Windhausen of Telepoly Consulting, provided the primary content for this post.) In early June, I wrote about the then-pending action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the application of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to contemporary auto-dialing/auto-texting systems, including those used by colleges and universities. The FCC ruling has since been released, and it only partially addresses the concerns raised by Blackboard and several others who filed petitions with the FCC seeking guidance about their potential liability for communications sent via such systems.

EDUCAUSE Supports Call to Make Federally Funded Ed. Materials OER

(August 4, 2015) A group of 90 higher education and related organizations, including EDUCAUSE, released a letter today calling on the Obama Administration to establish a new government-wide policy on educational, training, and instructional resources developed with federal funds. The proposed new policy would make any such materials open educational resources, and therefore freely available for anyone to use or adapt as needed. As the letter states:

Senate ESEA Amendment Calls for Student Privacy Commission

Summary: (July 21, 2015) The Senate recently passed its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act. It includes an amendment calling for the formation of a commission to study how to update federal student privacy laws and regulations in light of contemporary technologies and related issues. Such an effort would likely impact student privacy requirements at the higher education level as well. So, even though the prospects for a final ESEA bill to take shape and become law are unclear, the possibility that a student privacy commission could emerge from it makes this year's ESEA reauthorization of greater than usual interest to higher education.

Non-Distance Ed. State Authorization Regs. Still Impact Distance Ed.

Summary: U.S. Department of Education (ED) regulations governing the state authorization that institutions have to have to participate in federal student aid programs took effect on July 1, 2015. Those regulations only address authorization by states in which an institution is physically located; regulations specific to state authorization of distance education remain on hold. The regulations now in force still have implications for distance education, though; they require an institution to provide its students, including distance education students, with information on where they can go in their states of residence (not just the state in which the institution is physically located) to file a complaint against the institution if needed.

Net Neutrality Rules Take Effect

As reported by numerous media outlets (for examples, see here and here) as well as the Federal Communications Commission itself, a federal court denied the request to block the FCC from enforcing its network neutrality rules pending the outcome of the cases filed to overturn them. As a result, the rules, which the FCC approved in February and released in March, took effect on Friday, June 12, 2015.

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TEACH Act Update

Last October, I posted about the agreement between higher education associations (including EDUCAUSE), the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to develop a compromise version of the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act. Since that time, the goal of our effort has been to design a bill that will lead to voluntary guidelines for accessible postsecondary instructional materials and related technologies while avoiding the concerns generated by the original bill (which I discuss in my earlier post).

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FCC to Rule on Auto-Text/Auto-Call Liability

(EDUCAUSE telecommunications policy advisor, John Windhausen of Telepoly Consulting, provided the primary content for this post.)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scheduled to adopt a ruling on June 18 to limit “robocalls” placed by automated dialers as well as to address a variety of other issues about telemarketing calls. The FCC is authorized to protect consumers against such calls by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which Congress passed in 1991. One of the issues that the FCC may address is whether educational institutions - such as EDUCAUSE members - are potentially liable when they auto-call or auto-text someone who has not given prior consent to receiving such communications. This can happen if a student or parent initially provides a mobile phone number and agrees to those communications, but then drops the number and it is subsequently re-assigned to another consumer.  

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Higher Ed/Library Views Impact Final Net Neutrality Order

The FCC recently posted the full text of the network neutrality order it passed in late February. (Please see “FCC Votes to Restore Strong Net Neutrality Protections.”) An outline released after the vote highlighted the “no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization” rules that the order would impose. While those align with the views of the higher education/libraries coalition in which EDUCAUSE serves as a core member, the coalition looked forward to seeing if the order would address the other concerns it raised. And the order does.

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FCC Votes to Restore Strong Net Neutrality Protections

(UPDATE, 03/19/15: Please see "Higher Ed/Library Views Impact Final Net Neutrality Order" for information on how higher education/library concerns mentioned below are addressed in the full text of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order, which was released roughly two weeks after this post.)

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a new Open Internet Order last week on a 3-2 vote, with all Democratic Commissioners voting in favor and both Republicans opposed. The Order establishes network neutrality rules that will keep the major retail broadband providers from pursuing practices that would seriously disadvantage higher education online. The major providers, however, will work to overturn the FCC’s action in Congress and the courts.

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U.S. Dept. of Ed. Links State Authorization and Gainful Employment Regs.

Russ Poulin, Deputy Director of Research and Analysis at WCET, has posted an initial update on the U.S. Department of Education's new gainful employment regulations and the suprising link they include to the department's regulatory efforts on state authorization (http://wcetblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/gainful-employment/). The department has not yet issued new regulations for distance education state authorization, so the state authorization requirements applied to gainful employment programs would not yet impact distance learning programs. However, the gainful employment document released by the department includes a reference to a future connection with as-yet-to-be-issued distance education state authorization requirements, which Russ highlights at the conclusion of his post.