NARUC Proposes Resolutions on Lifeline Waivers, Access to Etc Data

November 2, 2016–The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners is slated to consider four telecommunications resolutions when it convenes later this month in Palm Springs, Calif., for its annual meeting.

The draft resolutions slated for the Telecommunications Committee’s Nov. 14 agenda include a resolution supporting waivers of the effective date of the federal Lifeline eligibility criteria, and another resolution calling on the FCC to ensure timely access to Connect America Fund (CAF) eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) reporting data. Also up for debate will be a resolution to assure states a “meaningful opportunity” to comment on voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) applications for telephone numbers, and a resolution concerning more ubiquitous 10-digit dialing when ordering an all-services overlay in an effort to help facilitate the IP transition.

The first proposed resolution supports a petition filed last month by the U.S. Telecom Association for a limited-time waiver of portions of the Commission’s Lifeline and Link Up reform and modernization order approved earlier this year in light of what it said are the “legitimate concerns” of multiple stakeholders “regarding the inconsistencies between federal and state eligibility criteria resulting from the Lifeline order.” USTelecom said in its petition that it explained those inconsistencies in a June 23 petition for reconsideration of the Lifeline order, and said its most recent petition “seeks a limited-time waiver of the revised rules 54.400(j) and 54.409(a), and applicable sections of the Lifeline order, to permit Lifeline providers to continue enrolling consumers in the federal Lifeline program based on state-specific program and income eligibility criteria” in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The NARUC resolution points out that several state commissions and industry associations agreed with the USTelecom request’s concerns about the effective date of the new federal eligibility criteria and the “unavoidable impact on state programs that were based on the prior FCC policy.” Further, the Lifeline Order will require some state commissions to revise their regulations and some state Legislatures to update state Lifeline laws, according to the resolution.

The resolution, therefore, “urges the FCC to grant the requested waivers of the effective date of the federal eligibility criteria to provide a better opportunity for parties to address the differences between state and federal Lifeline programs, obtain answers to the numerous questions that still remain, and provide additional time for all parties to work together to ensure a smooth, efficient, and effective transition.”

According to the draft resolution, “granting the requested waivers would serve the public interest, given the significant misalignment between the federal eligibility requirements and those in affected states.”

A second resolution urges the FCC to ensure timely state access to CAF ETC reporting data, and “preserve state, tribal, and territorial authorities’ universal service oversight and annual certification function.”  The resolution notes that it is unclear whether state, tribal, or territorial entities will be able to access the data that will be reported through the online portal being developed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) or whether that data will be made available in time for the annual state certification process.  According to the resolution, “any delay in accessing data reported by CAF ETCs will certainly impact state, tribal, or territorial authorities’ ability to annually certify those carriers’ use of universal service support by October 1.”

The draft resolution urges the FCC to “(1) preserve State, Tribal, and Territorial authorities’ universal service oversight and annual certification function; and (2) ensure those authorities’ continued timely access to CAF ETC reporting data.” It says that the FCC can best accomplish this by, at a minimum, “(1) not eliminating the Section 54.313 requirement that CAF ETCs report data directly with relevant State, Tribal, and Territorial authorities; (2) revising Section 54.316 to explicitly require CAF ETCs to also report this data directly to “the relevant state commission[,]” Tribal and Territorial authorities; (3) otherwise specifying that data reported by CAF ETCs under the FCC’s regulations must be made available to these relevant authorities upon request; (4) specifying what the law (and an efficient enforcement regime) already require – that State, Tribal and Territorial authorities may require the submission of additional information they judge necessary to ensure that CAF ETCs are using universal service support consistent with federal law; (5) directing USAC to implement a process in consultation with NARUC to ensure that State commissions and other relevant authorities will be notified of data revision requests made by USAC to CAF ETCs and to any revisions to data made by CAF ETCs; and (6) clarifying how State commissions and relevant Tribal and Territorial authorities may dispute the accuracy of data being reported by CAF ETCs to USAC and the FCC.”

Another draft resolution urges the FCC to require interconnected VoIP providers requesting numbering authorization to file on a non-confidential basis the areas they will be seeking numbering resources to allow state commissions the opportunity to comment.  In addition, the FCC should not permit “nationwide” applications unless the VoIP provider is seeking numbering resources to be used in all states, according to the draft resolution.

And the FCC should require interconnected VoIP providers to follow state numbering procedures in states where such procedures exist. The resolution also calls on the FCC to require interconnected VoIP providers to file the 30-day notification with the relevant state commission for the number of thousands-blocks in each rate center where it requests numbers.

And the fourth resolution supports the adoption of a “best practices” to implement a more “ubiquitous 10-digit dialing for State Public Utility Commission efforts.” The resolution points out that the all-services area code overlay is the preferred method for area code relief.

The implementation of more ubiquitous 10-digit dialing: (a) will simplify the dialing of telephone numbers minimizing call routing issues, and (b) supports the extension of the life of the current North American Numbering Plan by minimizing need for grandfathered numbers associated with the split reform of relief, the resolution says.

The resolution urges state commissions, when faced with area code exhaust, to consider using an overlay rather than an area code split. “The NARUC acknowledges that the opportunity to implement more ubiquitous 10-digit dialing, including the elimination of previous 7-digit dialing patterns, during area code relief activities will support both consumers and carriers in the transition to all IP network technology,” according to the draft resolution.

The board of directors meets Nov. 15 to vote on whether to give final approval to the draft resolutions. – Carrie DeLeon, carrie.deleon@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily