FCC To Drill Deeper Into Rural Data


Washington— Federal regulators — moving to better track next-generation broadband and local telephone competition in rural and underserved markets — have approved a plan to collect more information from hundreds of additional facilities-based carriers, large and small, requiring detailed accounts of their service.

While reporting thresholds had exempted some carriers from filing with the Federal Communications Commission, the rules adopted Nov. 9 would extend such requirements to hundreds of rural incumbent local-exchange carriers, wireless Internet-service providers and municipalities.

The reporting requirements began in May 2000 as part of an effort by the commission to move toward compliance with the competitive and deregulatory provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“By excluding any providers, we necessarily face the possibility of understating the amount of competitive activity and broadband deployment in smaller, rural areas,” the commission said in its order explaining the action.

In the order, the FCC also required broadband providers to compile and release detailed information on the speed and nature of their service.

The rules move broadband-over-power line into a separate category, so it can be more closely tracked.

And incumbent telephone and cable companies now must report detailed accounts of how much DSL and cable-modem service is available where the companies also provide telephone or video service.

The rules also require local telephone companies to report the number of dual local and long-distance subscribers. The result, the FCC hopes, will be a greater ability to understand how bundling affects local telephone competition.

The FCC extended its data-gathering program for five years beyond the March 2005 expiration date. That gave it a means to consider further policy revisions in broadband deployment and local telephone competition.

In comments filed in June, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association agreed with the need for a five-year extension of the data-gathering program, but warned against excessively intrusive reporting obligations.

“I remain sensitive to overly burdensome data-gathering requirements,” FCC chairman Michael Powell said in a statement.

“But I am convinced the improvements the commission adopts are necessary to ensure that the commission can continue to effectively evaluate broadband and local competition developments as they affect all Americans,” he said.

States News Service