Despite issues over the FCC's jurisdiction in light of the Comcast decision, the FCC's Public Safety Bureau took a step toward possible extension of the FCC's outage reporting requirements to broadband service providers and providers of interconnected VoIP services. In a Public Notice issued on July 2, the Bureau seeks comment "in advance of" a possible Commission rulemaking proceeding. The comment request in many ways presumes that the outage reporting rules should apply, and asks a number of questions about how they could apply and what changes might be necessary in light of the different technologies involved. Clearly, the Bureau is seeking to do its homework before the Commission initiates a rulemaking proceeding.
In addition to general questions about whether the rules should be applied to broadband or interconnected VoIP providers, the Public Notice seeks comment on a number of specific questions, including:
- What constitutes outages for a service provided by an interconnected VoIP provider? For example, we know anecdotally that interconnected VoIP service users can collectively experience an outright loss of service comparable to the loss of service experienced by traditional time division multiplex (TDM)-based users. Are there also levels of service degradation specific to interconnected VoIP service that should be considered?
- Would an outage reporting requirement based on some threshold [as applies to telecom providers] also be appropriate for interconnected VoIP service providers? If so, what would be a reasonable reporting threshold?
Broadband Internet Access
- How should the differences between traditional networks and the packet switched Internet alter what constitutes a reportable ISP outage in the Commission's Part 4 rules? Should the Commission alter its view of a reportable outage to include events that result in significant degradations to performance as perceived by end-users?
- What special considerations should be given to services provided via Internet access to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)?
- If the Commission were to determine significant performance degradations to be outages that should be reported by broadband ISPs, how should the Commission define a significant degradation so as to trigger the reporting requirement? For example, would a threshold for Internet service based on "generally useful connectivity" be an appropriate construct? If so, how should the Commission define "generally useful connectivity" so that an objective reporting threshold can be established?
Comments are due August 2; replies on August 16. For further information, please contact your Kelley Drye attorney or any other member of the firm’s Communications practice group.