Article written for Barst Mukamal & Kleiner LLP

In the wake of recent policy changes within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Co-counsel Deborah Notkin and Troy Palmer are calling the agency out on their unlawful denial of an H-1B petition in which the job in question meets one or more of the criteria for a specialty occupation. The plaintiffs are a United States employer and its long time employee whose Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, was denied in what the complaint calls “the government’s arbitrary and unlawful decision to deny an extension of an employment-based immigration status (H-1B) to a valued employee.” 

H-1B visa classification gives the recipient the ability to work in the U.S. for a specialty occupation, a job that requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, for up to six years. 

This visa, however, may be extended past the six-year limit if the employee is applying for employment-based permanent residence (commonly referred to as the “green card”), since that application is a multiyear process.

The employee in this case was seeking such an extension of their H-1B visa classification so that they could remain working in the U.S. while they awaited the approval of their green card. They obtained a Master’s of Science in the U.S. in 2008 and were recently promoted to Assistant Project Manager at the company, a job which the Council says meets the criteria of “specialty occupation.”

Filing for extension of the H-1B was the only option in order for the employee to retain employment while waiting for such approval. After being denied H-1B classification by the USCIS, the employee cannot work in the United States and faces the possibility of having to leave the country.


Article published on the TechDecisions blog


The Center for Public Integrity reports that as 4G begins to overload and slow down due to an increase in data usage, wireless providers are moving towards adopting 5G streaming as soon as possible to provide faster internet to their customers. Wireless companies like Verizon and AT&T are installing small cells throughout communities in order to implement this new 5G internet, but are receiving significant pushback from citizens and local governments.

5G depends on millimeter waves, which are high-frequency, easily blocked signals that don't travel very far, so unlike 4G, for which you need one large cell tower that can reach dense communities from a remote location, the network of small 5G cells needs to be close together and more numerous. Concerned citizens claim these bulky, unattractive cells that are placed within 500 feet of each other will decrease property value and be an eyesore in their communities.

Ajit Pai, FCC chairman and champion of net neutrality's death, claims the concerns stem from an overzealous ‘Not In My Backyard’ mentality. But the unsightly bulkiness of the cells and their threat to property value is the most basic of people’s concerns. The real problem is much bigger, as the small cell debacle highlights telecom providers’ disregard for community desires as well as the often unchecked power companies like Verizon and AT&T have over government officials.

Cities are experiencing an exponential increase in the amount of applications that they receive for these cell permits and simply cannot process them fast enough if they are going to be thorough and law-abiding. Wireless companies, frustrated with the slow pace of bureaucracy, want to eliminate the regulations on small cells, claiming that the cells are not intrusive enough to need such a rigorous application process. The FCC is on telecom's side in this fight, as they are considering new rules that would both reduce the time that municipalities have to review applications and limit the input cities would have on the design of small cells.

AT&T and Verizon have both filed numerous complaints regarding the slow approval process, saying that local officials are being excessively restrictive in the process on matters regarding property notification requirements, public safety concerns, radio-frequency exposure, property value influences, and cell designs.  Cities and counties have countered, targeting cell-provider Mobilite, who continually files applications that are incomplete or riddled with blatant safety concerns, and has a record of negatively affecting communities that it becomes involved in.

In an interview with the Center for Public Integrity, Jason Caliento, senior vice president for network strategy for Mobilite, claimed that the best solution for these issues was for the wireless industry and individual cities to work together to form a more efficient process, but Mobilite’s head of government affairs Kirk Jamieson went to FCC headquarters in Washington just days later to advise the FCC to limit application fees and limit cities’ abilities to regulate small cell application and implementation.

Pai was an attorney for Verizon before being appointed to the FCC, and created a committee comprised of mostly wireless industry employees to develop ways to speed up the permit process and make the application and implementation process cheaper for small cell providers. Pai claims this committee brings together "a range of perspectives," but former member of the committee and Mayor of San Jose, California Sam Liccardo claims that the committee blatantly favored the interests of telecom corporations, who have "sought to create a set of rules that will provide it with easy access to publicly-funded infrastructure taxpayer-subsidized rates, without any obligation to provide broadband access to underserved residents.”

Though telecom providers are seeking to bypass government regulation in pursuit of profit, they claim that cities are being greedy with application charges and rent for publicly owned telephone poles. They are asking the FCC to limit the amount that governments can charge for applications, saying that cost of application should be in correlation with the cost of labor to process permits and maintain the right of way. They also say that they should not have to pay annual rental fees for the poles where they will be setting up small cells.

5G will create enormous profits for the already too-big-to-fail telecom providers, whose many lobbyists are paying top dollar to promote the 5G push in the FCC. The wireless industry's main concern is how the city and county governments' high fees, design requirements, and slow permit processing will hinder their own profits, instead of how these implementations will affect public safety, local communities, and, of course, their customers.


Article published on the TechDecisions blog

According to Engadget, a coalition of 23 attorneys general have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission on the grounds that the decision to abolish net neutrality is illegal and unconstitutional.  The coalition originally filed a lawsuit at the beginning of 2018, but withdrew the suit with the promise to file again once the FCC published the repeal in the Federal Register. The FCC published such a document on February 22nd, and the coalition is upholding its promise to fight back against what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls “an illegal rollback.”


Though the FCC’s publication is called the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” the coalition believes that the order does anything but restore freedom to American consumers. Engadget reports that the suit claims the FCC’s order to be against federal law, in violation of various notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements, and "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act.”


The suit is calling for the courts to vacate the action, meaning the attorneys general want federal courts to deem the order null and void.  Federal courts have already struck down two similar attempts to repeal net neutrality in the past decade, but this particular order could go all the way to the Supreme Court.  


The coalition is not the only group making neutrality efforts, as the Senate needs one more vote to pass a bill that formally disapproves of the FCC’s decision, restoring the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality order and preventing future repeals with similar intentions.

The fate of net neutrality will affect every web user. The federal government currently considers high-speed internet a public utility, so Americans pay for web access like they pay for their electricity or gas bill, allowing total access to the entire internet with just one payment.  But the repeal of net neutrality would allow Internet Service Providers to segregate access to certain content, forcing the consumer to pay a separate fee for access to things like music streaming, video streaming, and social media. The repeal would also allow ISPs to slow down or block certain websites altogether, filtering the information that Americans have access to depending on which content their ISP prefers.  


The repeal of net neutrality puts the consumer’s online experience in the hands of ISPs, as it allows providers to pick and choose what content can be accessed, at what speed, and at what cost. States like New Jersey, New York, and Montana have already begun putting policies in place that will discourage ISPs from doing so.


If both the Senate and the coalition are unsuccessful in reversing the FCC’s repeal, the order will go live on April 23rd, effectively killing federal net neutrality and putting the internet back into the hands of ISPs.