FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced through a blog posting and Fact Sheet that he will be circulating two items in connection with the FCC’s proceeding on the IP transition. See our blog FCC To Consider Rules For The IP Transition. TMI Bulletin subscribers, see Bulletin dated 12/22/14. The items will be on the FCC’s August 6, 2015, agenda.
The first item is a Report and Order to ensure that consumers have the information and tools necessary to maintain communications during an emergency. The rules would require that providers of IP-based phone services offer consumers the option to buy backup power. (This is an important change from the proposal released in 2014, which would have mandated that carriers provide the first 8 hours of back-up power.) Specifically, providers would be required to ensure that a technical solution for 8 hours of standby backup power was available for consumers to purchase, either directly or from a third-party retailer, at the point of sale. Within three years, providers would also be required to offer an option for 24 hours of standby backup power. To ensure that consumers understand their options, providers would be required to inform both current and new customers about service limitations from electricity outages and the steps they can take to address those risks through backup power, including how to keep their service operational during a multi-day power outage.
The second item is a Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It would address issues associated with retirement and discontinuance of copper networks. As proposed, the item would:
- Require that consumers be notified of plans to retire copper networks. Notice would be required approximately six months in advance for non-residential customers and three months in advance for residential customers.
- Define “retirement” in such a way to prevent retirement of networks by neglect (sometimes referred to as “de facto” retirement).
- Require notice to interconnecting carriers for retirement of all parts of the copper network that are critical to providing their customers with service
- Retain carrier flexibility to retire copper networks in favor of newer facilities without prior FCC approval as long as no service is discontinued, reduced, or impaired.
Significantly, the item recognizes that competitive carriers often combine their own facilities with the last-mile services of ILECs to reach small and medium-sized businesses and institutions (e.g., schools, libraries, health care facilities, and government offices). To preserve competition in the enterprise market, the proposal would:
- Require that replacement services be offered to competitive providers at rates, terms, and conditions that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy services. This would be an interim measure, pending the completion of the FCC’s special access proceeding which is examining these issues more broadly.
- Clarify that a carrier that plans to discontinue a service that has only carrier customers must still follow the statutory process for discontinuance if the action would negatively impact retail users served by those carrier customers. While a carrier’s discontinuation of a wholesale service may not always discontinue service to retail end users, the carrier still must undertake a meaningful evaluation to determine whether the statutory discontinuance process is triggered.
The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will attempt to codify, for the first time, the criteria that should be used to evaluate and compare replacement and legacy services when a legacy service is being discontinued, reduced, or impaired. Comment would be sought on potential criteria to be adopted, such as:
- Support for 911 services and call centers;
- Network capacity and reliability;
- Quality of both voice service and Internet access;
- Interoperability with devices and services, such as alarm services and medical monitoring;
- Access for people with disabilities, including compatibility with assistive technologies;
- Network security in any IP-supported network that is comparable to the legacy network; and
- Coverage throughout the service area, either by the substitute network or via service from other provider.