The FCC has proposed new rules to eliminate several obscure telecommunications charges that were either mandated or authorized for price regulated local exchange carriers and then mirrored by many competitive telecommunications providers. At its March 2020 Open Meeting, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would eliminate the FCC’s regulation of the Subscriber Line Charge, and several other end-user access charges largely created as cost-recovery mechanism during access charge reforms in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The NPRM also would prohibit all carriers from both listing these charges in their tariffs and breaking out these charges into separate line items on customer bills. These moves are touted by the Commission as relieving carriers of price regulation and increasing transparency for consumers.

Continue Reading FCC Initiates Rulemaking to Deregulate End-User Charges and Simplify Customer Bills

The thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba continues to spark Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) action to relax regulations – and thereby further open opportunities for carriers – on the U.S.-Cuba route.  On Friday, the FCC proposed yet another measure to ease regulatory requirements on carriers seeking to provide international telecommunications to Cuba.  By Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the FCC is soliciting comment on a proposal to eliminate one of a few remaining restrictions on facilities-based switched voice service to Cuba.  Specifically, the FCC is considering removing the nondiscrimination requirement of its International Settlement Policy (ISP) which is typically also imposed as a condition on carriers seeking to pay above-benchmark settlement rates to Cuban carriers.  The FCC also seeks comment on other related issues such as whether operating agreements between U.S. carriers and Cuban carriers should continue to be routinely available for public inspection.  Comments and reply comments on the NPRM will be due 30 and 45 days, respectively, after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes Further Easing of Regulations on Telecommunications Service Providers on the U.S. – Cuba Route

Barbara Miller co-authored this post.

This week, the Fourth Circuit issued an important decision concerning the jurisdiction and role of federal courts in the interpretation and enforcement of state-approved Interconnection Agreements (“ICAs”).  In Central Telephone Co. v. Sprint Communications Co., the Fourth Circuit held that plaintiffs are not required to bring claims relating to the interpretation and enforcement of state-approved ICAs to a state commission before they can be heard in federal court.  Instead, the court ruled that a party may bring a claim for breach of contract in federal court directly.  This decision opens a new option for parties seeking to interpret and enforce ICAs, at least in the states within the Fourth Circuit (which encompasses Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia).  

Continue Reading Appeals Court Rules that Federal Courts May Hear Interconnection Agreement Claims in the First Instance

Compliance with the FCC’s revised intercarrier compensation rules adopted in its USF/ICC Transformation Order continues to be a work in progress for many carriers. The rules have generated several waves of questions as the July 1, 2012, deadline for reducing certain intrastate terminating switched access rates fast approaches. On June 6, 2012, the Wireline Competition Bureau released an Order designed to answer a number of questions that had arisen regarding this transition. The Bureau clarified and revised a number of rules that had been troubling both carriers and state commissions as they tried to make sense of the FCC’s rules and comply with the transition requirements. Carriers preparing their July 1, 2012 tariff revisions should review this order to ensure their filings are consistent with the FCC rules.

Continue Reading Wireline Competition Bureau Clarifies and Revises the FCC’s Rules as Carriers Prepare to Make Transitional Intrastate Access Reciprocal Compensation Rate Reductions

This post was drafted by Chip Yorkgitis.

On Friday, February 3, 2012, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau jointly released an order revising and clarifying certain aspects of the sweeping universal service and intercarrier compensation reform order adopted last November. The clarifications address the rates applicable to VoIP-PSTN traffic, access stimulation

Responding to complaints by rural LECs that call blocking has increased, the FCC yesterday issued a clarification and a stern warning to carriers not to block, choke or restrict calls to other carriers’ customers. While call completion issues can occur for a variety of reasons, allegations of “blocking” have arisen in a number of access charge disputes and other forms of telecommunications litigation that we track.

The FCC’s declaratory ruling serves as a warning that carriers involved in such disputes should not intentionally block or restrict the ability of callers to reach their intended destinations. It also appears to create affirmative obligations to correct call completion problems that are occurring.

Continue Reading FCC Issues Clarification, Warning about Call Blocking Practices

A long time ago, we posted about a decision of the US District Court in DC declaring that VoIP traffic was not subject to access charges and the strange coalition that asked the Court of Appeals to review the case.  Now, after a nearly two year delay caused by one of the litigants’ bankruptcy, the appeal is moving forward.  Since the FCC refuses to rule whether access charges applied to VoIP (even as it has recently applied interstate access rates to VoIP prospectively), this case could have an important impact on many current access charge disputes.

Continue Reading VoIP Access Charge Appeal To Proceed After Nearly Two Year Delay

This morning, the FCC’s November 18, 2011 High-Cost USF and Intercarrier Reform Compensation Order was published in the Federal Register triggering an effective date of December 29, 2011 for all parts of the Order and rule changes adopted therein, except for the information collection requirements contained in some of the rules adopted.   Those information collection

Late yesterday, the FCC released the text of its USF Reform and Intercarrier Compensation Reform Order, which it adopted on October 27.  The FCC’s rules, among other things, transition terminating access charges to zero, apply access to VoIP-PSTN traffic, adopt rules addressing access stimulation (prevalent in free conferencing, for example), and tackling the problem of phantom traffic.  

The order is 759 pages long, with over 2,500 footnotes and 84 pages of rules.  As we warned, the impact of these rules on individual business plans is highly fact-specific.  We encourage you to contact your advisor to learn more. 

Continue Reading FCC Releases Text of Intercarrier Compensation Order

Since 2002, purchasers of special access services from the incumbent local telephone companies have been asking the FCC to revise its pricing rules for the services.   Last month, CompTel (the leading trade association for competitive carriers) and a coalition of others asked the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to require the FCC to resolve its pending special access proceeding within six months.  The CompTel petition is a petition for mandamus — a court order compelling action by the agency.  The FCC has not yet responded to the petition. 

This is not the first time competitive carriers have gone to the court for action.  Back in 2003, the old AT&T (pre-acquisition by SBC) asked the same court to compel the FCC to act on AT&T’s Petition for Rulemaking filed in 2002 to revise the special access rules.  In reliance on the FCC’s representations that it was diligently working the proceeding, the court required the FCC to file periodic status reports.  The court eventually dismissed the AT&T mandamus petition after the FCC issued the current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in early 2005.  Six years later, the FCC has not completed that proceeding and CompTel asks the court to require a resolution. 

Continue Reading CompTel Asks Court to Compel Action on Special Access