Selected portions of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, and/or the BloostonLaw Private Users Update — newsletters from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP are reproduced in this section with the firm's permission.
|BloostonLaw Telecom Update||Vol. 17, No. 23||June 11, 2014|
Matrix to Pay $875K, Implement Compliance Plan to Resolve Call Completion Investigation
On June 4, 2014, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued an Order and Consent Decree resolving allegations that Matrix Telecom, Inc. failed to complete long-distance calls to rural areas on a just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis. The Consent Decree includes a settlement requiring Matrix to pay $875,000 to the U.S. Treasury and to implement a three-year compliance plan. The Bureau noted that after Matrix received notice of the investigation, Matrix significantly reduced the number of intermediate providers it used to deliver long-distance calls to rural areas and made investments to upgrade its network and related operations to improve rural call completion performance. According to the Bureau, as a result, Matrix’s call completion performance to rural areas substantially improved.
In its Consent Decree with the Enforcement Bureau, Matrix has agreed to:
- Make a voluntary payment of $875,000 to the U.S. Treasury;
- Develop and implement a comprehensive compliance plan designed, among other things, to ensure future compliance with applicable laws;
- Designate a senior corporate manager to serve as a compliance officer focusing on rural call completion issues;
- Cooperate with the FCC and rural local exchange carriers to establish a testing program to evaluate rural call completion performance whenever complaints or data indicate problems;
- Notify intermediate providers (companies that Matrix uses to deliver calls) that may be causing call completion problems and analyze and resolve such problems as soon as practicable;
- Cease using intermediate providers that fail to improve their performance;
- Report to the FCC any noncompliance with the Consent Decree within 15 days; and
- File an initial compliance report in 90 days, and annual reports thereafter for a period of three years.
The Bureau initiated its investigation of Matrix (and companies Matrix had acquired, including Excel Telecommunications and Vartec Telecom) as a result of serious allegations about the company’s ability to reliably complete long-distance calls dialed to rural areas. These included complaints from consumers and from rural carriers, responses by inter-exchange carriers to complaints served by the FCC’s Rural Call Completion Task Force, and performance data from other carriers that used Matrix as an intermediate provider. During the course of the investigation, the Bureau obtained and examined months of call completion data from Matrix’s retail and wholesale operations. After it received notice of the investigation, Matrix significantly reduced the number of intermediate providers (often called “least cost routers”) that it used to deliver long-distance calls to rural areas. As a result of those routing changes, Matrix’s call completion performance to rural areas substantially improved. In addition, Matrix made significant investments to upgrade its network and related operations to improve rural call completion performance. In combination with the changes that Matrix made as a result of the Enforcement Bureau’s investigation, the Consent Decree resolves the Bureau’s investigation into Matrix’s practices and performance in completing long-distance calls over its own network or through the use of intermediate providers.
Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released the following statement on the FCC’s announcement regarding the Matrix Consent Decree:
“I applaud the FCC for taking action to investigate and resolve yet another of the many instances of long distance calls failing to be completed in rural areas. This is a timely action by the FCC, particularly after two FCC Commissioners visited South Dakota last week to hear about and observe the challenges rural carriers face. However, this is only the third enforcement action in 15 months by the FCC to combat this persistent problem. The inability of individuals and businesses in rural America to have reliable telephone service is inexcusable. I have urged Chairman Wheeler and the FCC to continue their enforcement against telecommunication companies who cut corners and expect that additional enforcement actions will be taken in the future.”
Similarly, Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) was encouraged by the announcement of the Consent Decree with Matrix as part of the FCC’s rural call completion investigations.
“Today’s settlement is an important step forward, and I applaud the FCC for sending another clear message that the bad actors failing to complete calls to rural areas will be held accountable,” said Johnson. “The ongoing call completion problems create serious economic and public safety concerns for rural communities in South Dakota and across our nation. These problems threaten the integrity of our nation’s communications network. I will continue to monitor the FCC as the agency continues its investigations and will do all I can to ensure these problems are fully resolved.”
According to Senator Johnson, since he first learned about rural call completion problems from a health clinic in Canistota, South Dakota, he has been working to raise awareness about the seriousness of the call completion problems and to develop solutions to resolve the issue. In March, he introduced the Public Safety and Economic Security Communications Act (S. 2125). This bill would build upon the FCC’s ongoing efforts and current enforcement proceedings by directing the agency to establish basic quality standards. It would also require providers that transport voice calls to register with the FCC and comply with basic service quality standards. These quality standards would be established by the FCC within 180 days of enactment and would help prevent the discriminatory delivery of calls to any and all areas of the country.
Law & Regulation
FCC Issues Agenda for June Open Meeting
On June 6, 2014, the FCC issued the agenda for its June 13 Open Meeting. In addition to a number of FM broadcast station orders, the FCC will hear:
- a presentation on the efforts to transition circuit-switched networks to IP networks, which will include a status report on the voluntary experiments proposed by AT&T designed to assess how the transition to IP networks affects users, and
- a presentation on the continuing efforts to launch new and diverse voices to the American public via increased access to Low Power FM radio stations.
The Open Meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m., and will be webcast live www.fcc.gov/live .
Senate Holds Hearing on Public Safety Implications of IP Transition
On June 5, 2014, the U.S Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a hearing examining network reliability and the public safety implications of network technology transitions. The witness panel for the hearing consisted of: Ms. Colette D. Honorable, Chairman and President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; Mr. Jonathan Banks, Senior Vice President of Law and Policy for USTelecom; Ms. Jodie Griffin, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge; Ms. Gigi Smith, President of APCO International; and Mr. Henning Schulzrinne, Chief Technology Officer of the FCC.
Topics discussed during the hearing included obstacles to investment; network resilience and reliability; the continuing importance of basic voice service; technology neutral approaches; and location information.
Copies of the witness’ written testimony, along with a full recording of the hearing, can be found here .
The hearing came on the heels of a letter from Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.); Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Internet and Technology; and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Science and Space, to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting the GAO to determine how the communications sector will ensure the reliability of the nation's communications networks in an IP-environment.
Specifically, the senators asked:
- To what extent has the communications sector transitioned from traditional copper-based networks to IP networks?
- As part of the nation's critical infrastructure, what action has the federal government taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of communication networks that have transitioned to IP?
- What key challenges do IP network operators face during times of crises and how do the challenges affect consumers?
- To what extent do priority-access programs for emergency preparedness communications exist for IP networks?
Virginia Selected for Pilot Program on Broadband Pricing
On June 3, 2014, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia has been selected to participate in a pilot project to help school divisions lower the cost of high-speed Internet access and increase digital learning opportunities for students.
According to Gov. McAuliffe, EducationSuperHighway — a San Francisco-based non-profit dedicated to improving Internet access in schools — selected Virginia because of the Commonwealth’s leadership in digital learning and because of data suggesting that Virginia schools are paying more than the national average for Internet access and network connectivity. Specifically, ESH stated that the average monthly megabits-per-second costs for Virginia school divisions are $26 for Internet access and $7 for network connectivity, compared with respective national averages of $22 and $3. ESH data also indicate that the percentage of Virginia schools with “less-than-ideal access and bandwidth” exceeds the national average.
In addition to the pilot project, ESH also operates an online portal through which school districts can report detailed information on Internet access and broadband pricing. After analyzing the data, ESH will produce a comprehensive report in early 2015 on access and pricing for all participating school divisions.
New Wired Prepaid Broadband Model Wins Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award 2014
The Wall Street Journal reports that Frontier Communications Corporation and Wipro Ltd., a leading global Information Technology, Consulting and Outsourcing company, have jointly won the Global Telecoms Business (GTB) Innovation Award 2014 in the 'Business Service Innovation' category for the Wired Prepaid Broadband Partnership Project. Global Telecoms Business is a leading UK-based publication covering the telecom industry.
According to the Journal, “a large unserved or underserved market of potential customers in the United States has not yet adopted available broadband for financial reasons;” and “the [FCC] has been driving initiatives such as Connect2Compete to encourage U.S. broadband adoption.” The Journal further reports that “Wipro and Frontier believe that educating seasonal users, students, travelers, lower income and potentially credit-challenged customers about the convenience and flexibility of pre-paid broadband service would improve broadband adoption. The benefits flow both ways: A prepaid broadband product that enables customers to choose broadband plans without concern about income levels or credit checks can help carriers tap an unserved market without adversely impacting their own financial standing.”
In further describing the service, the Journal states that “Wipro's managed services solution Accelerate™ sidesteps billing systems and helps rapidly deploy a pre-configured cloud-hosted service to address this market. Accelerate™ allows carriers to support and quickly enable targeted and highly flexible products such as prepaid services, data caps, bandwidth management and specialized content offers. Accelerate™ helped Frontier Communications dramatically reduce development and time-to-market cycles, giving it a 'first-mover' advantage. Frontier is testing various offerings across the state of Ohio and looks to rapidly expand this offer to the rest of its 27-state market.”
"We are excited to receive this recognition from Global Telecoms Business. Prepaid broadband is expected to bring a new segment of customers and encourage retention by offering greater payment flexibility and convenience for the under-banked customer or for part-time and seasonal use. Through Accelerate™, Frontier can tap into a significant opportunity in the United States to connect future customers to the broadband services they need," said Ann L. Burr, President New Product Trials and Integration, Frontier Communications.
"Frontier Communications has been an excellent partner as we focus on prepaid broadband. With a fast time-to-market and ability to quickly trial new offers, we hope to support Frontier's drive to offer new customer segments an essential service. This accolade from GTB is a great compliment to our partnership," said Wipro's Steve Snyder, Global Head of Business Innovations. "Wipro's creative solution has provided flexibility, affordability and bundling of products, while helping unserved customers connect to the Internet. We truly believe this will be a winning market proposition."
Jun. 13 – Comments are due on Third White Paper on Communications Act Update.
Jun. 16 – ILEC Tariff filings made on 15 days’ notice are due.
Jun. 16 – Connect America Fund ICC Data Filing (Access Recovery Charge changes) is due for tariff filings made on 15 days’ notice.
Jun. 18 – Retransmission consent rules become effective.
Jun. 23 – Petitions to suspend or reject tariff filings made on 15 days’ notice are due.
Jun. 24 – ILEC tariff filings made on 7 days’ notice are due.
Jun. 24 – Connect America Fund ICC Data Filing (Access Recovery Charge changes) is due for tariff filings made on 7 days’ notice.
Jun. 26 – Replies to petitions to suspend or reject tariff filings made on 15 days’ notice are due.
Jun. 26 – Petitions to suspend or reject tariff filings made on 7 days’ notice are due.
Jun. 27 – Replies to petitions to suspend or reject tariff filings made on 7 days’ notice are due.
Jul. 1 – FCC Form 481 (Carrier Annual Reporting Data Collection Form) is due.
Jul. 1 – FCC Form 690 (Mobility Fund Phase I Auction Winner Annual Report) is due.
Jul. 3 – FCC Application Filing Fees increase.
Jul. 10 – Comments are due on T-Mobile Data Roaming Petition.
Jul. 14 – Comments are due on Citizens Broadband Radio Service FNPRM.
Jul. 15 – Comments are due on the Open Internet NPRM.
Jul. 15 – Comments are due refreshing the record on the 2010 Broadband NOI.
Jul. 31 – FCC Form 507 (Universal Service Quarterly Line Count Update) is due.
Jul. 31 – Carrier Identification Code (CIC) Report is due.
Aug. 1 – Reply comments are due on Citizens Broadband Radio Service FNPRM.
Aug. 11 – Reply comments are due on T-Mobile Data Roaming Petition.
Sep. 10 – Reply comments are due on the Open Internet NPRM.
Sep. 10 – Reply comments are due refreshing the record on the 2010 Broadband NOI.