The FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to extend outage reporting requirements, currently imposed on legacy circuit-switched telephone and paging services, to interconnected VoIP providers and broadband ISPs, was published today in the Federal Register, thus setting the comment period for this proceeding, but more importantly, establishing yet another attempt to regulate Internet networks through the Commission's ancillary jurisdiction.
The FCC found that these outage reports have led to improvements in the engineering, provisioning, and deployment of telecommunications infrastructure and services. By extending the reporting obligation to interconnected VoIP providers and ISPs, the FCC hopes that such reports will similarly help to track and analyze information on outages affecting broadband networks, and help determine the extent of nationwide problems and recurring issues, among other things.
The FCC concedes that extending the outage reporting requirements would impose an additional burden on interconnected VoIP providers and ISPs, but concluded that because these providers already collect outage information for internal use, providing the same information to the FCC on a confidential basis would have a minimal burden.
Not surprisingly, the FCC seeks comment on its authority to extend the outage reporting rules to interconnected VoIP or broadband ISPs. Specifically, the FCC relies on interconnected VoIP providers' statutory duty to provide E911 service as the basis for arguing that outage information is "reasonably ancillary" to the VoIP 911 mandate. And because interconnected VoIP "by definition" depends on broadband networks, the FCC found that extending the reporting requirements to broadband ISPs was also "reasonably ancillary" to a VoIP providers' E911 obligations. It remains to be seen whether the FCC's indirect association between outage information and E911 will hold water, which may in turn depend in part on how hard VoIP providers and ISPs push back against the FCC's proposal.
Comments are due August 8, 2011, and reply comments are due October 7, 2011. For more information about the FCC's outage reporting rules and how they may impact VoIP and broadband companies, please contact Michael Sloan or Brian Hurh.