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Nationwide Competitive
Local Exchange Carrier

 
 

Tele-Tech Updates

January 2013

Special Access Data Collection Underway

As promised, the FCC in December released a mandatory data collection order in its special access for price cap LECs proceeding, four months after temporarily suspending any new grants of pricing flexibility.

Comments are also being sought on any new rules that would be crafted as a result of this market analysis. Click here to view a copy of the order.

The Commission is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of competition in the special access marketplace, after determining that current rules are not working as intended.

The Commission will collect two years' worth of data for market structure, price and demand; specifically, 2010 and 2012 pricing data on a monthly basis. All providers and purchasers of special access service are required to submit this data, with some exceptions. Companies with fewer than 15,000 customers and fewer than 1,500 business broadband customers will not have to provide data regarding their best efforts business broadband Internet access services.

Additionally, the order indicates that rate-of-return carriers, which are not subject to pricing flexibility rules, will not be considered a provider for the purposes of participating in the data collection when they provide special access services within their own rate-of-return service areas.

Special access refers to the dedicated wireline service that provides physical voice and data connections between an interexchange carrier (IXC) and its customer locations. These services give mobile providers a way to link cell towers to wireline networks, supplies Internet access to small businesses and fulfills communication infrastructure needs for banks, along with medical, school and government institutions.

These lines are typically owned by the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), which leases the lines to the IXC at regulated, preset prices. However, the 1999 Pricing Flexibility Order allows an ILEC to negotiate unregulated prices through a contract tariff, if it demonstrates the existence of competition in the marketplace.

The Commission made assurances it does not intend to re-regulate special access, stating in the order that "...we propose to adopt rules that will allow for the relaxation or even the elimination of price cap regulation where we find the presence of actual or potential competition sufficient to ensure that rates, terms and conditions for special access services remain just and reasonable."

While Commissioner Ajit Pai cast a consenting vote, he did so with reservations; his primary concern being that the data collection is overbroad and will likely place a substantial burden on the industry.

AT&T Senior VP Bob Quinn also released critical comments on the company's corporate blog. Quinn reiterates that measuring competition for aging, TDM-based 1.5 Mbps services is "misplaced". Quinn believes that data "will show vibrant competitive activity, innovation, and importantly, a transition away from TDM-based services to the IP-based broadband services that customers more and more are demanding."

Meanwhile, many competitive carriers welcome the in-depth analysis. TW Telecom has long voiced its concern that ILECs lower prices artificially for the largest providers that yield higher margins, while impeding the efforts of competitive providers for the same services. ILECs deny such allegations.

However, the complaint is shared by many smaller carriers, which is why the FCC is also requesting information about the terms and conditions offered by price cap LECs as part of its proceeding.

Survey Shows Call Completion Complaints Rising

A recent survey conducted by rural telecom associations shows call completion issues continue to be a problem.

The National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) conducted the survey over a three-week period in October 2012. More than 200 local exchange carriers in 39 states participated.

The survey indicated that volumes of call completion related complaints are steady or rising in 62% of respondents' service areas, when comparing complaints between two test periods (March 2012 - September 2012 and August 2011 - February 2012).

Read a redacted summary of the survey here.

The rural associations are calling for better enforcement and new solutions to "combat this mounting epidemic". The group is also working on a collaborative test call project designed to identify and trouble-shoot call completion issues in real time.

FCC Opens Rulemaking Process for Interstate Inmate Calling Rates

The FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks comment on capping rates for interstate interexchange inmate calling services (ICS).

While local and intrastate ICS rates are set by the states, the federal government currently does not regulate interstate ICS rates.

The Commission is taking action on two petitions that request the following:

  1. Prohibit exclusive inmate calling service agreements and collect call-only restrictions at privately-administered prisons and require such facilities to permit multiple long distance carriers to interconnect with prison telephone systems.
  2. Require debit calling, prohibit per-call charges and establish rate caps for all interstate ICS.

Currently, inmates make collect or debit-based calls from payphones. Collect calls typically incur a per-call setup charge and a per-minute charge, while debit calling incurs a per-minute charge. The per-call charge varies from $0.50 to $3.95 and per-minute charges can range from $0.05 to $0.89.

Comments are due 60 days after publication in Federal Register.

Projected Exhaust for Toll Free Resources is End of 2015

The organization that oversees management of toll free resources recommends the FCC open the 844 NPA around February 15, 2014.

SMS/800, Inc. is forecasting that existing toll free numbers will be exhausted by 4Q15, with 90% of the existing toll free resource in use during 1Q14.

NANPA in December issued Planning Letter 443 for implementation of the 844 NPA.

NANPA Q4 Recap

  • Washington:  FOX ISLAND rate center consolidated under GIG HARBOR, effective February 15, 2013.
  • Nevada: NPA 725 to overlay NPA 702, effective June 2014.
  • Wisconsin: NPA 274 to overlay NPA 920, postponed.
 
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