Washington -- Cable and phone trade associations and
companies have told the Federal Communications Commission that they have
problems with the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau's proposal to
mandate outage reporting requirements on interconnected voice-over-Internet
protocol and broadband-service providers.
Currently, those reporting requirements apply to traditional
phone service, but not the cable operators and others serving the growing cadre
of phone cord-cutters using broadband voice. The idea is to extend those rules
to the new technology.
Driving the issue is the robustness of broadband 911
service, which the FCC mandated five years ago, and ensuring continued communications
According to an ex parte filing with the FCC, the American
Cable Association, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association,
CTIA-The Wireless Association and others met last week with top FCC staffers to
outline their concerns about extending outage reporting requirements to VoIP,
as the FCC proposed doing in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in May.
Rather than providing the industry flexibility, the industry
groups said, the proposed outage requirements in the NPRM are unduly broad and
impose "significant economic burdens" on ISPs and other VoIP
The FCC was wrong
when it suggested that applying traditional phone-outage reporting requirements
to VoIP wouldn't be burdensome, because providers already collect the data, the
"To the contrary," they said, "broadband
service providers and VoIP providers do not routinely monitor network
performance at the level of granularity that would be required by the rules
proposed in the notice, and it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for
the industry to implement such a regime, costs that will ultimately have an
impact on consumers."
The FCC also asked in that rulemaking if the reporting
should be voluntary. The groups said it should be, and that the reporting
regime should be worked out in concert with stakeholders and should not
"ignore the technical realities of broadband networks" or place undue
burdens on them with "limited countervailing benefit."
As is the case with many arguments over regulatory
modifications, the groups evoked President Obama's executive order regarding
review of new regulations, saying not to take that cost-benefit analysis into
account would be "in contravention of the president's directive."
(Technically, the president's order does not apply to individual agencies,
although Obama has strongly urged them to follow it.)
The FCC voted unanimously last May to propose requiring the
outage reporting, although Republican commissioner Robert McDowell concurred in
part, saying he had issues with the FCC's authority to support the proposed
The FCC is asserting ancillary authority in proposing the
broadband regulations, as it did in adopting its network-neutrality rules last