Court Dismisses NARUC Petition in VoIP Numbering Case

March 24, 2017–The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision today dismissing a petition filed by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners that challenged a 2015 FCC order giving VoIP (voice-over-Internet-protocol) service providers direct access to numbering resources directly from the North American Numbering Plan administrators, rather than through third-party service providers. The court said in its decision today that NARUC had failed “to demonstrate an injury-in-fact, and thus failed to establish Article III standing to challenge” the FCC’s order. “The court lacks jurisdiction and the petition for review is dismissed,” it said.

NARUC argued in “NARUC v FCC” (case 15-1497) that the FCC in its 2015 order had given VoIP service providers the benefits of being telecommunications carriers by giving them direct access to numbering resources without subjecting them to the obligations of telecommunications carriers, including certification and service quality oversight by state utility commissions.

The FCC argued, however, that NARUC’s members are not injured by the numbering policy changes adopted by the order, and if they are injured by the failure to classify VoIP service providers as telecommunications carriers, that is an issue being adjudicated separately. The FCC has not to date classified VoIP providers as either telecom carriers or information service providers.

During oral argument before the court earlier this year (TRDaily, Feb. 8), appeals court judges asked NARUC General Counsel Brad Ramsay about the issue of standing, and he said states had an interest in the issue related to loss of control with respect to area code exhaustion and numbering conservation efforts, as well as oversight of VoIP providers regarding interconnection agreements. The oral argument was heard by Chief Judge Merrick Garland, Circuit Judge Karen Henderson, and Circuit Judge Judith Rogers.

The decision issued today says, among other points, that while NARUC offered theories as to why it had standing in the case, the judges found them not to be persuasive.

“We are pleased that the D.C. Circuit has upheld the FCC’s decision to provide VoIP providers with direct access to telephone numbers,” an FCC spokesman said today. “This is good for consumers and competition because it will allow VoIP providers to continue assigning telephone numbers to their customers without paying middlemen to obtain those numbers.”

NARUC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the court’s decision. – John Curran, john.curran@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily