AT&T, Bandwidth.com, Inc. and Vonage Holdings, Corp. each submitted comments last week in response to the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau’s (WCB) January 31 report regarding the results of the VoIP numbering trials. (See TMI previous Blog Postings Update on VoIP Numbering Trial: War of Words Continues ; and The Regulatory Mix – Tuesday, February 4, 2014). The WCB report found that the trials demonstrated the technical feasibility for interconnected VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly from the numbering administrators and did not identify technical problems regarding number exhaust, number porting, VoIP interconnection, or intercarrier compensation. However, the report noted that some carrier disputes arose regarding interconnection and porting that caused some issues during the trials.
Vonage, who pushed for and was a participant in the numbering trials, offered overwhelmingly positive comments about the WCB report and the trial outcome, stating: “The Bureau’s Report confirms what Vonage and others have asserted from the beginning—there are no technical obstacles to Vonage’s request for direct access to numbers,” and that such access by VoIP providers “brings important public interest and consumer benefits.” According to Vonage, these benefits include: facilitating IP interconnection and the IP transition; number portability; the transition to bill-and-keep; enhanced visibility into number utilization; increased competition; reduced costs for consumers; and enabling VoIP providers to improve their services and offer advanced services.
Vonage pointed to its success in negotiating an IP interconnection agreement with Verizon as evidence of the benefits of direct number access for promoting the transition to IP networks, commenting that the agreement will “enable Vonage to offer other enhancements without first obtaining permission from their CLEC partners.” Vonage also agreed with the findings in the WCB report that the trials demonstrated no harmful effects from providing interconnected VoIP providers with direct access to numbers on traffic routing, number porting, and intercarrier compensation. It concluded its comments by urging the FCC to “move quickly to expand numbering rights to all eligible interconnected VoIP providers.”
Bandwidth.com, Inc., which has opposed providing interconnected VoIP providers with direct access to numbers in advance of resolving broader issues involving the IP transition and numbering resources, had a different take on the WCB’s report and lessons learned from the numbering trials. It emphasized the “considerable legal and policy challenges that must be resolved before non-carriers could obtain direct access to numbering resources without significant risk of creating problems for existing services and with the upcoming IP Transition.” Bandwidth.com said that the trials demonstrated that “ultimately ESPs must still partner with carriers to have viable and compliant service offerings,” and “starkly demonstrate that numbering administration is inherently embedded in the core of the Commission’s IP Transition initiative.”
In its comments, Bandwidth.com raised several legal and policy concerns about awarding non-carriers (i.e., interconnected VoIP providers) the same rights as carriers with respect to numbering resources. It argued that because the Telecom Act limits number portability obligations to telecommunications carriers (and interconnected VoIP providers have not been classified by the FCC as such), those carriers “cannot be required under the statute to port numbers to other providers who are not telecommunications carriers.” Bandwidth.com disputed the FCC’s suggested statutory bases for direct assignment of numbering resources to non-carriers, citing legal precedent that undermines the FCC’s proposed reliance on those broader grants of authority (e.g., ancillary authority under Title I, Section 4(i) of the Act and Section 706(a)).
From a policy perspective, Bandwidth.com noted that issues surrounding numbering resources are “inseparably intertwined” with the IP transition and asserted that “undertaking piecemeal rulemaking efforts, like non-carrier access to telephone numbers, in parallel with comprehensive reform will be counterproductive.” Bandwidth.com concluded its comments by arguing that “there is no compelling reason to continue to attempt to resolve non-carrier requests for special numbering status separately from the Commission’s considerable efforts to comprehensively advance the industry toward complete adoption of all-IP networks and services.”
AT&T’s comments focuses on more pragmatic issues. It noted that, of the five trial participants, only Vonage took full advantage of AT&T’s Operating Support System/Local Number Portability (OSS/LNP) Agreement that enabled direct porting of numbers through AT&T’s OSS or indirect porting via a service bureau. According to AT&T, neither Millicorp nor SmartEdgeNet completed the documentation required to obtain logins and passwords needed to issue direct port requests, and Level 3 ES chose to continue porting numbers through its carrier partner, Level 3. IntelePeer did not complete negotiations for an OSS/LNP agreement with AT&T before the trial period ended. AT&T stated that it was successful in opening number codes in its network to enable Vonage, Level 3 ES, SmartEdgeNet and Millicorp to exchange traffic with AT&T.
AT&T noted that, because the trial participants were not carriers, AT&T had to “trick” its systems into treating them as CLECs, in order to accept and process port request, while at the same time “guarding” against the trial participants obtaining features and services that they were not entitled to as non-carriers. According to AT&T, “all of this required considerable back-room manual oversight, intervention and effort.” AT&T concluded that “any permanent and long-standing change in the present numbering access mechanism would require significant time and investment…to handle the challenges posed by non-carrier participants in the number-related processes…AT&T cannot simply flip a switch and accommodate all IVP [interconnected VoIP] comers and achieve the same level of positive results (or better) enjoyed during the trials.”
See all of our VoIP Numbering Trial Blog postings below:
More on the VoIP Numbering Trial 11/12/13