In an effort to improve rural call completion, the FCC today established a registry for intermediate providers — that is, providers that handle calls between the originating and terminating providers — and required intermediate providers to register with the FCC “before offering to transmit covered voice communications.”
The third report and order and order in Wireline Competition docket 13-39 also rejects a request by the U.S. Telecom Association for a stay of certain provisions of the rural call completion order that the FCC adopted earlier this year (TR Daily, April 17). Specifically, USTelecom had sought a stay of provisions requiring covered providers to monitor intermediate providers, pending completion of the rulemaking proceeding to implement the directives of the Rural Call Completion Act signed into law by President Trump in February. The RCC Act called for the establishment of the intermediate provider registry as well as service quality standard for those providers.
In today’s third report and order and order, the FCC said that it will adopt the service quality standards for intermediate providers that the RCC Act calls for in a subsequent order.
The deadline for intermediate providers to register will be 30 days after the FCC publishes a public notice announcing that the Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection associated with the registration requirement, the FCC said.
“We find, and the record supports, that a 30-day timeframe will allow existing intermediate providers adequate time to come into compliance with our registry rules. In addition, as we explained in the Third RCC FNPRM, this phase-in period is consistent with the filing timeframe for Form 499-A, which requires that new filers register with the Commission within 30 days. Pursuant to sections 262(a) and (b), upon expiration of the initial 30-day registration window, new intermediate providers will be required to register with the Commission before beginning to transmit covered voice communications for covered providers,” the FCC said.
“Intermediate providers that fail to register with the Commission on a timely basis, as required by our rules, shall be subject to enforcement under the Act and our rules, including forfeiture. For the Commission to exercise its forfeiture authority for violations of the Act and the Commission’s rules without first issuing a citation, the wrongdoer must hold (or be an applicant for) some form of license, permit, certificate, or other authorization from the Commission, or be engaged in an activity for which such a license, permit, certificate, or other authorization is required. Because intermediate providers that provide service to covered providers are required, under section 262(a)(1), to register with the Commission, we conclude that an intermediate provider offering such services is engaged in an activity for which Commission license or authorization is required under sections 503(b)(5) and 262(a)(1) of the Act,” it added.
The item adopts rules requiring “covered providers” — that is, the originating providers that select intermediate providers to handle calls — to “use only registered intermediate providers to transmit covered voice communications” and “to maintain the capability to disclose the identities of any intermediate providers relied on in the call path to the Commission.”
“Requiring covered providers to know and disclose to the Commission only the identities of the intermediate providers with which they immediately contract would be administratively inefficient, insofar as it would require the Commission to expend scarce resources in an effort to piece together the identities of all parties in the path of a given call,” the order says.
Originating providers must comply with the requirement to use only registered providers “within 90 days after the date by which intermediate providers must register with the Commission,” the order says.
The order exempts “covered providers from the prohibition on the use of unregistered intermediate providers in circumstances where, due to force majeure for which the covered provider invokes a disaster recovery plan, no registered intermediate providers are available to transmit covered voice communications to their destination.” It notes that this limited exemption “is similar in nature to exemptions found in [the FCC’s] copper retirement rules.”
In denying USTelecom’s petition for stay, the FCC said that the trade group failed to demonstrate irreparable injury in the absence of a stay. “We find that the speculative potential incurrence of an unquantified amount of costs to renegotiate contracts does not rise to the level of a ‘certain and great’ injury,” it explained.
“We also find that USTelecom has failed to demonstrate that granting a stay is in the public interest and will not harm other parties to the proceeding. Indeed, we find that staying the effectiveness of section 64.2111 would be contrary to the public interest and would threaten harm to consumers by needlessly undermining the effectiveness of our rural call completion rules,” it said.
The earlier order took effect June 11, and covered providers were afforded a six-month transition period to implement the monitoring requirement.
In a statement responding to the FCC’s action, NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield said, “On behalf of small, rural communications providers and the millions of rural Americans they serve, NTCA is deeply grateful to the FCC for taking steps today to implement the Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act as signed into law earlier this year. The provisions of that law — as reflected in the measures that the FCC has adopted today — will enable much greater visibility and transparency into how calls are routed, helping we hope to ensure that more calls to rural Americans are completed. The order is also an important and necessary complement to new ‘monitoring procedures’ that the FCC has reinforced to promote improved and sustained performance in call completion. NTCA looks forward to continuing our work with the FCC and all stakeholders as these rules are implemented toward the goal of ensuring that every American can have confidence in the quality and reliability of the communications networks that serve them.”
A USTelecom spokesperson said, “Rural call completion remains an important issue to our member companies and industry. Clearly aligning monitoring obligations, however, is critical to moving forward efficiently and effectively.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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