Federal Communications Commission Moves to Adopt Rules Easing Certain Tariff Filing Requirements

On Friday, October 4, 2019, Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a draft Report and Order (“Order”) that would adopt two uncontroversial changes to the FCC’s tariff filing requirements. Specifically, a 2018 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Interim Waiver Order (“Notice”) teed up the potential elimination of the requirement to file annual short form tariff review plans (“short form TRP”) and of the prohibition on tariff cross-references. That 2018 Notice also granted an interim waiver of the tariff cross-reference prohibition while the short form TRP has been the subject of separate waivers for each of the past few years. As a result, the proposed Order essentially would simply be codifying the regulatory status quo.

First, the Order would amend the FCC rules to allow carriers to cross-reference their own or their affiliate’s tariff filings. The Order states that the rules, put in place long before the advent of electronic tariff filing, prohibited tariff cross-references to prevent difficulties in following cross-references within the hard copies of tariff filings. Now, electronic tariff filings make such references simple to find and thus eliminate the need for a prohibition on cross- references, according to the Order. These changes should be particularly beneficial to incumbent local exchange carriers that often are managing multiple federal tariffs and might want to cross-reference to their own or their affiliate’s tariffs. Competitive local exchange carriers are less likely to be managing multiple federal tariffs but still may find the rule change useful for cross-referencing an affiliate’s tariffs.

Second, the Order eliminates the FCC requirement that price cap local exchange carriers (“Price Cap LECs”) file short form TRPs 90 days before their annual interstate access tariff filings are effective. These tariff review plans provided material such as exogenous cost adjustments related to Telecommunications Relay Service and North American Numbering Plan Administration expenses among others but, as the FCC explained in the Notice, the necessary information was not always available or could change, thereby potentially rendering the plans of little value. According to the Order, electronic filing and the general decrease in the complexity of the annual access charge filings have diminished the usefulness of the short form TRPs and support eliminating the filing requirement. Recognizing that the data necessary to prepare the short term TRPs would not be available in time for the filing deadline, the filing requirement has been waived for each of the past three years.

Because the short form TRP filing requirement and tariff cross-reference prohibition are subject to waivers, the requirements are not currently in effect. Therefore, the FCC’s Order would simply codify the current tariff filing practices. To ensure that carriers can continue to benefit from the waiver of the tariff cross-reference prohibition, that waiver will remain in effect until 30 days after the Order is published in the Federal Register and the Order takes effect.