FCC Proposes to Require Interconnected VoIP and Broadband Service Providers to File Outage Reports

As we noted earlier this week, the FCC is moving ahead to expand its reporting obligations for telecommunications outages. Touting the outage reporting rules as a 911 service protection, the FCC proposed to expand its outage reporting rules to require interconnected VoIP and broadband Internet service providers to submit reports to the FCC, as wireline, wireless, cable and satellite providers must today. Indeed resilience” and reliability” were the buzzwords of the presentation before the Commission.

5/16 UPDATE: The FCC released the text of its proposal, which would set a service quality standard for IP-enabled services for the first time.

Unfortunately, the presentation was short on specifics, and the FCC did not release the text of its NPRM today. (The Bureau asked for editorial privileges” on the item). Only the Press Release was made available yesterday. So far, here is what we know:

  • Providers will be required to file outage reports as provided in Section 4 of the Commission’s rules already. Generally, this requires an Electronic Notification, an Initial Outage Report and a Final Outage Report for each incident above the threshold levels.
  • The rules will apply to interconnected VoIP providers, broadband Internet service providers and to broadband backbone providers.
  • Both facilities-based and resale providers will be obligated to make reports of outages.
  • The threshold level of outage that triggers a report has not been determined. This will be the primary area of comment on the rules.

In addition, because the classification of both interconnected VoIP and broadband-based services is in doubt, the FCC’s authority to apply the rules also is an issue. The NPRM proposes to use the FCC’s ancillary authority under Title I. Commissioner Copps agreed with this approach, but reiterated his view that the services are Title II telecommunications services, and said that proceeding under Title II would be his preference. Commissioner McDowell, on the other hand, refused to join this portion of the NPRM, saying only that he welcomed a discussion of the Commission’s authority in response to the rulemaking proposal. Welcome to Comcast Junior.”

Meanwhile, interconnected VoIP and broadband service providers should take note of these rules. In the past, the FCC has set significant fines for failing to file the required outage reports. It has proposed a base forfeiture of $40,000 for failing to file the Electronic Notification, $20,000 for failing to file the subsequent Outage Reports and $25,000 for filing incomplete or inaccurate reports. (All of this was determined with a base forfeiture of $3,000 for failing to file a required report, an inconsistency we’ve commented upon before.)