At its August 6, 2015, Open Meeting the FCC adopted two items regarding the IP transition. The first item is a Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing various issues associated with retirement and discontinuance of copper networks. The second item is a Report and Order to ensure that consumers have the information and tools necessary to maintain landline home telephone service during emergencies. See our blog FCC Moves Forward On IP Transition Rules dated July 13, 2015. The text of the Orders have not been released. However, based on the discussion at the Open Meeting and the FCC’s News Releases the following requirements were adopted.
Regarding copper network retirements:
- Providers must directly notify interconnecting carriers of their plans to retire cooper networks at least six months in advance.
- Providers must directly notify retail customers (both residential and business) of plans to retire copper networks at least three months in advance.
These requirements will apply to all parts of the copper network essential for providing service. Carriers retain the flexibility to retire their copper networks in favor of fiber without prior FCC approval – as long as no service is discontinued, reduced, or impaired.
The Order also addresses the discontinuance of ILEC services used by competitive carriers as inputs to their own services to small and medium-sized businesses and institutions (e.g., schools, libraries, health care facilities, and government offices). ILECs discontinuing special access services at DS1 and above or commercial wholesale platform services will be required to offer replacement services to competitive providers at rates, terms, and conditions that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy services until new special access rules are in place.
Finally, the Order clarifies 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.
When carriers plan to discontinue, reduce, or impair service, Section 214 of the Communications Act requires that they first receive FCC approval. However, the FCC has never codified the criteria used to evaluate and compare replacement and legacy services. Therefore, the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking tentatively concludes that both consumers and industry would be served by clarifying these standards, and seeks comment on criteria, which include:
- 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;
- Coverage throughout the service area, either by the substitute network or via service from other provider; and
- Plan for outreach to affected consumers.
The second item is a Report and Order to ensure that consumers have the information and tools necessary to maintain landline home telephone service during emergencies. The rules require that providers of facilities-based, fixed, voice residential service that is not line-powered (modern home voice services) ensure that a technical solution for eight hours of standby backup power is available for consumers to purchase at the point of sale. Within three years, providers will also be required to offer an option for 24 hours of standby backup power.
Providers must inform both new and existing current customers about service limitations during electric outages and the steps they can take to address those risks, including how to keep their service operational during a multi-day power outage. Notice for existing customers will need to be made annually. The requirement will sunset in 10 years.