At its August Open Meeting, the FCC adopted a Report and Order (“Order”) implementing portions of two recent statutes—Kari’s Law and the RAY BAUM’s Act—that address ensuring greater access to 911 and emergency services for members of the public. Kari’s Law requires multi-line telephone systems (“MLTS”), like those in hotels and offices, to have the capability for a user to dial 911 directly without having to press “9” (or some other access code) first to call out.  Section 506 of the RAY BAUM’s Act requires the FCC to consider adopting rules to ensure a 911 caller’s dispatchable location is properly conveyed from an MLTS to the public safety answering point (“PSAP”). The Commission took the opportunity of implementing these two Acts to also expand 911 dialing requirements for certain VoIP, TRS and mobile text-to-911 services.

With these new requirements, the FCC continues its trend of expanding the availability of emergency services calling to newer technologies. As these new forms of communication become more mainstream – and as they grow as replacements for, rather than complements to, traditional telecommunications services – the FCC has been inclined to make emergency services a “must have” feature of the service. Providers of new communications technologies should carefully review their service offerings to determine how to handle customer attempts to reach emergency services.


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In June, the FCC approved a package of regulatory measures – Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”), and Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) – directed at reforming the IP Captioned Telephone Service (“IP CTS”) program to address concerns about its sustainability. IP CTS is a form of telecommunications relay service (“TRS”) that enables people with hearing loss to communicate by speaking while listening with any remaining hearing ability and reading real-time captions. IP CTS is paid for by the FCC through its TRS Fund and has experienced significant usage growth, now representing almost 80 percent of the costs covered by the Fund. The FNPRM and NOI, which propose fundamental reforms to the IP CTS program, were published in the Federal Register on July 17, 2018, which set the upcoming comment deadlines. Comments on the FNPRM are due by September 17, 2018 and replies by October 16, 2018. Comments on the NOI are due by October 16, 2018 and replies by November 15, 2018.

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On September 16, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”) against PTT Phone Cards, Inc., (“PTT”) for a litany of alleged violations of rules applicable to international telecommunications carriers in general and one applicable to pre-paid calling card providers in particular. In short, the NAL alleges that, for over three years, PTT violated “virtually all of [the] regulatory obligations” applicable to international carriers and one specifically applicable to pre-paid calling card providers. The proposed forfeiture of $493,327 was arrived at through a straightforward application of the Commission’s base forfeiture amounts or penalties that the agency has recently applied for similar violations. While the Commission normally considers mitigating and aggravating factors to adjust penalties downward or upward, in the NAL it did not expressly do so, despite what it called “PTT’s apparent pattern of noncompliance” and “the seriousness, duration, and scope of PTT’s apparent violations.”  Instead, it simply proposed standard penalties for each apparent violation, giving a casebook glimpse into what awaits entities that provide international and/or calling card services without first obtaining necessary FCC authority and without making requisite filings with the Commission, contributions into applicable federal funds, and payments of federal regulatory fees.
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The FCC recently announced revisions to its debt collection process for those carriers that are delinquent in contributing to the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (“USF”), Telecommunications Relay Services Fund (“TRS”) and North American Numbering Plan Fund (“NANP”) (collectively the “Funds”). Under the new procedures, the Fund administrators will forward delinquent accounts directly to the United States Department of Treasury (“Treasury”) for collection (where a 28% collection fee is added), rather than forwarding them to the FCC first. In addition, the FCC will no longer send delinquency notices to contributors for these types of debts.

These revisions could have a significant impact on telecommunications providers, who now may receive only a single notice before an outstanding debt is transferred to Treasury for collection. Contributors will have to exercise greater diligence to ensure that they receive notices of delinquent obligations to the Funds and do not mistakenly incur collection fees.
 


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As it does every year, the FCC released its update to the annual Form 499-A.  The Form 499-A is used to report revenues for purposes of the federal Universal Service Fund and also for calculating associated revenue-based contribution obligations such as TRS, NANP, LNP and FCC Regulatory Fees.  The Public Notice describes changes to the

Back in October, the FCC released an order implementing the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).  Among other things, the order expanded the pool of contributors to the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund to include virtually all VoIP providers, including those that did not fit the FCC’s definition of "interconnected" VoIP.

To implement this contribution requirement, non-interconnected VoIP providers are required to register with the FCC by filing FCC Form 499-A, which is better known as the form used for universal service fund contributions.  (The Form 499-A is used for other revenue-based support funds as well.)  Providers must file this form no later than December 31, 2011.  At this time, it appears that fewer than a dozen new providers have registered to date.  


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In late May, the Voice on the Net Coalition ("VON") held a series of meetings with FCC Commissioner’s offices concerning VoIP regulations.  The Coalition discussed topics affecting 21 pending FCC dockets, and, according to the summary of the meetings, "expressed concern that additional regulation of the IP communications industry could deter investment and innovation …"