Preserving competition when a legacy service is discontinued: The FCC recognizes that small and medium-sized businesses, schools, hospitals, and other government institutions often rely on services delivered by competitive broadband and phone providers. However, these providers may be unable to reach these same customers if incumbent carriers withdraw certain “last mile” services. Accordingly, the NPRM:
- Tentatively concludes that carriers seeking to discontinue a service used as a wholesale input should be required to provide competitive carriers equivalent wholesale access going forward.
- Proposes to update the FCC’s rules so that competitive carriers receive sufficient notice of when copper networks are being shut off, so that they can continue to serve their customers effectively.
Ensuring there is notice of removal or replacement of legacy services: The FCC recognizes that many consumers and small businesses rely on services that may not be supported after the IP transition is completed. It said that the “expected frequency of network changes and discontinuances requires the FCC to modernize its rules regarding consumer notice and input in the event of network changes and discontinuances.” The NPRM:
- Proposes greater transparency, consumer protection, and opportunities for consumer input when carriers are planning to retire their existing copper networks.
- Sets in motion a process to ensure that new services meet the needs of consumers before carriers are allowed to remove legacy services from the marketplace.
- Asks for facts and data about whether carriers are, in effect, retiring copper networks without giving notice simply by failing to maintain them.
- Asks about allegations that carriers are not being clear with consumers about the options available when the copper network is shut down.
Protecting consumer’s ability to reach 911 during a power outage: Because copper wires are powered separately by the phone company, traditional phone service on copper networks usually works even during broader power outages. However, because they do not provide power to the handset, modern fiber and cable networks do not work during a power outage. Instead, consumers must rely on a battery back-up in their own homes. To address this situation, the NPRM:
- Proposes a framework to establish reasonable expectations for when providers should bear responsibility for providing a backup power solution for the communications equipment at a customer’s home during a power outage.
- Seeks comment on different back-up power technologies and solutions in the marketplace today.
- Examines potential strategies for providing back-up power during lengthy commercial power failures.
The FCC also adopted a Declaratory Ruling that clarifies that circumstances in which a carrier must seek approval to discontinue a service depend upon the practical impact of its actions, not “the fine print of an aging tariff filing.” The FCC said this will “ensure that there will be a public process to evaluate a proposed discontinuance before a choice is removed from the market, regardless of how the carrier has written its tariff.”
TMI Regulatory Bulletin Service subscribers, watch for a bulletin when the text of the NPRM is released.