FCC Extends Outage Reporting Obligations to Interconnected VoIP Providers
The Federal Communications Commission recently released its Report and Order adopting rules by which interconnected VoIP providers must report service outages. In a reversal of what the FCC had proposed in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC declined to impose similar obligations on broadband providers, determining that the issue "deserves further study." The new rules will be effective 90 days following Office of Management and Budget approval of the information collection procedures, a date that the FCC will announce by public notice.
Here is a brief summary of the outage reporting rules that will apply to interconnected VoIP providers:
Facilities-based and non-facilities-based interconnected VoIP providers are subject to new reporting obligations. In contrast to the more onerous rules initially proposed by the FCC, providers will only need to report significant outages where customers lose service or connectivity, and are therefore unable to access 9-1-1 services. The FCC reasoned that interconnected VoIP providers have the ability to monitor VoIP-enabled end-user devices to determine whether connectivity is lost. The FCC does not expect that interconnected VoIP providers will need to purchase any equipment or software in order to comply with the new reporting rules.
The definition of "outage" will be the same definition that is in Part 4 of the FCC's rules: "a significant degradation in the ability of an end user to establish and maintain a channel of communications as a result of a failure or degradation in the performance of a communications provider's network." A "significant degradation" is one that results in "the complete loss of service or connectivity to customers."
When Outage Reports will be Required:
- An interconnected VoIP provider will be required to electronically notify the FCC within 24 hours of an "outage" it has experienced, on any facilities it owns, operates, leases or otherwise utilizes that is at least 30 minutes long and potentially affects (1) at least 900,000 user minutes of service and results in a complete loss of service, and (2) any special offices and facilities. Examples triggering this notification include a complete loss of an access router and a loss of all facilities connecting the access router to the backbone.
- An interconnected VoIP provider also will be required to file an electronic report within 240 minutes of discovering it has experienced on any facilities it owns, operates, leases or otherwise utilizes an outage of at least 30 minutes that potentially affects a 9-1-1 special facility. In addition, for this second category, the interconnected VoIP provider must contact by telephone of other means the point of contact for the 9-1-1 special facility, and shall convey information that might be useful to managing the affected facility in mitigating the effects of the outage on efforts to communicate with that facility. Examples would include loss of all facilities connecting a router to the Public Safety Answering Point (“PSAP”) and the complete loss of the ability to provide location information for interconnected VoIP calls.
Outage reports will be filed electronically using the FCC's Network Outage Reporting System (NORS). In addition to the initial reports, interconnected VoIP providers also must file a final report within 30 days after discovering the outage. The NORS system uses an encrypted technology to ensure the security of the reported information. The information reported will be "presumptively confidential."
In adopting the rules, the FCC emphasized the "public's increased reliance" on interconnected VoIP services and the critical needs of communications infrastructure for public safety goals. The new rules are merely the latest in a series of FCC actions to apply traditional telephone service regulations to Interconnected VoIP providers.