NTIA ‘Concerned’ about Effects of Discontinuance Streamlining
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Friday, July 20, 2018

NTIA ‘Concerned’ about Effects of Discontinuance Streamlining

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has told the FCC that it is “concerned” that the streamlined process for carriers to transition from legacy to new technologies “may place federal departments and agencies that rely on services subject to discontinuance in the untenable position of losing access to critical national security and public safety communications functionality.”

In a WC docket 17-84 ex parte letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dated yesterday, NTIA Administrator David J. Redl said that the agency has “consistently supported network modernization” and believes that, “in most instances,” the transition will be “seamless” for customers, which led it to support the FCC’s decision last year to extend the streamlining of its service discontinuation rules to data services operating at speeds below 25 megabits per second downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

“Further, NTIA welcomes the Commission’s decision to retain the ‘adequate replacement test’ it adopted in 2016 as a precondition, in certain circumstances, to streamlined processing of carrier applications to discontinue legacy voice services,” Mr. Redl wrote, adding that “NTIA encourages the Commission to put in place a process to enable expanding as necessary the list of protected key applications and functionalities.

“We also anticipate that the Commission will soon address NTIA’s pending request [TR Daily, Dec. 9, 2016] to expand the list of ‘low-speed modem devices’ identified in the 2016 Technology Transitions Order to include similar devices commonly used by federal agencies,” Mr. Redl said.

Noting that some federal agencies have offices in remote locations that must purchase communications services outside of General Service Administration contracts in markets that lack “competitive pressures,” Mr. Redl said that NTIA was encouraged by the FCC’s statement in its 2017 report and order in the WC docket 17-84 docket on accelerating wireline broadband deployment that it expects that carriers will “continue to collaborate with their [enterprise or government] customers, especially utilities and public safety and other government customers, to ensure that they are given sufficient time to accommodate the transition to [next-generation services] such that key functionalities are not lost during this period of change” — an expectation that the FCC reaffirmed in its second report and order last month (TR Daily, June 7), he noted.

“NTIA appreciates that if carriers’ conduct impairs … agencies’ critical national security and public safety functions, the Commission retains ‘flexibility to address these circumstances on a case-by-case basis’” and that it has stated that customers may file oppositions to discontinuance applications, Mr. Redl said.

“We construe that language as a commitment to sanction conduct impinging on those critical functions when it occurs,” he added. “In particular, the Commission should hold in abeyance any copper retirement if a federal user credibly alleges that the carrier’s proposed retirement date does not give the user ‘sufficient time to accommodate the transition to new network facilities such that key functionalities are not lost.’” —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

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