BloostonLaw Telecom Update
Published by the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP
[Selected portions reproduced here with the firm's permission.]
11, No. 24
FCC Adopts Additional Form 477 Reporting for Virtually All Wireline and Wireless Carriers
The FCC has modified the reporting requirements for the FCC Form 477 Local Competition and Broadband Reporting Form, to include requiring the percentage of residential broadband connections. The FCC now requires wired, terrestrial fixed wireless, and satellite broadband service providers to report, for each Census Tract and each speed tier in which the provider offers service, the number of subscribers and the percentage of subscribers that are residential. For terrestrial mobile wireless broadband service providers, which only report broadband connection at the state level under the Form 477 Order, the FCC does not modify the obligation for such providers to report percentage of residential broadband connections at the state level. As in the Form 477 Order (see separate story), the FCC finds that granting a blanket exemption to small carriers would undercut the benefits of its revised information collection by depriving the Commission and other parties of adequate information on broadband deployment and adoption in rural, unserved, and underserved areas of the nation, the areas where additional information is most needed and would be likely to have the greatest impact. As previously reported, the FCC greatly expanded the filing requirement in 2004; the new requirement only continues this trend. Virtually all of our clients need to file Form 477s. Additionally, the FCC notes that all Form 477 filers must submit, for each state in which they provide service, the percentage of their broadband subscribers that are residential. The FCC concludes that any incremental burden associated with providing this information on the Census Tract basis is outweighed by the utility of the data it will obtain. It thus applies the revised requirement to all broadband service providers, regardless of size. Form 477 is due March 1 and Sept. 1 of each year.
BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FCC Finally Releases Text Of Form 477 Order & FNPRM
The FCC has released the text of its WC Docket No. 07-38 Form 477 Report & Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to improve data collection that it adopted at its March 19 open meeting. The Commission modified FCC Form 477, the Local Competition and Broadband Reporting Form, to require broadband providers to report the number of broadband connections in service in individual Census Tracts. In order to generate an even more complete picture of broadband adoption in the United States, it proposes additional methods to add to the data reported by Form 477 filers, including a voluntary household self-reporting system, and a recommendation to the Census Bureau that the American Community Survey questionnaire be modified to gather information about broadband availability and subscription in households.
To further improve the quality of collected data, the FCC adopted three additional changes to FCC Form 477. First, it now requires providers to report broadband service speed data in conjunction with subscriber counts according to new categories for download and upload speeds. These new speed tiers will better identify services that support advanced applications. Second, it amended reporting requirements for mobile wireless broadband providers to require them to report the number of subscribers whose data plans allow them to browse the Internet and access the Internet content of their choice. Finally, it required providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to report subscribership information on Form 477.
Then, on reconsideration, it added a requirement that filers include the percentage of residential broadband connections (see separate story [above]).
FNPRM: In the FNPRM, the FCC sought comment on developing a nationwide broadband availability mapping program. It also sought comment on ways in which it might effectively capture information about actual, delivered speeds of broadband Internet access services, and about prices of broadband services. In addition, it sought comment on whether to require Form 477 filers to report the number of voice telephone service connections either at the ZIP Code level or on the basis of another geographic unit. Further, it sought comment on methodologies for consumer broadband surveys, and on methods for preserving confidentiality when sharing the information collected on Form 477. More specifically, the FNPRM sought comment in the following areas:
A. Reporting Number of Lines and Channels: Currently, local exchange carriers that file Form 477 are required to report the total number of voice-grade equivalent lines and wireless channels provided to end users. This information is provided on a state-by-state basis. In the Order, the FCC extended this obligation to providers of interconnected VoIP service. In the FNPRM, the FCC seeks comment on whether to require local exchange carriers and interconnected VoIP service providers to report the number of voice telephone service connections, and the percentage of these that are residential, at the 5-digit ZIP Code or Census Tract level. This increased granularity of data would enable the Commission to better assess adoption of particular technologies and competition using particular technologies in localized areas. The FCC seeks comment on the benefits and burdens associated with this additional reporting requirement.
B. Broadband Availability Mapping: In the past, the FCC acknowledged the success of the ConnectKentucky initiative and its interactive mapping program. It noted that the ConnectKentucky program, along with other efforts at the state level, has facilitated identification of areas without broadband service, and that this identification has resulted in public and private resources being focused to provide service to unserved areas. In order to provide an information resource that will facilitate similar focus nationwide, the FCC seeks comment on the adoption of a national broadband mapping program with the objective of creating a highly detailed map of broadband availability nationwide. The FCC seeks comment on ways such a program can provide useful information to other broadband initiatives undertaken by federal and state agencies and public-private partnerships, such as ConnectKentucky. The FCC seeks comment on whether and to what extent it might work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service in developing and using this mapping program, so as to combine the expertise of the Commission and its staff with that of the RUS in supporting rural infrastructure deployment. The FCC tentatively concludes that the Commission should collect information that providers use to respond to prospective customers to determine on an address-by-address basis whether service is available. It seeks comment on this conclusion, and on what standardized formats could be used to collect the information. The FCC seeks comment on whether and how a nationwide broadband mapping program can incorporate the data collected on Form 477, including information on broadband service subscriptions by Census Tract and by speed tier. The FCC also seeks comment on whether there are other sources from which the Commission should collect data to improve the output of the broadband service availability mapping program. The FCC seeks comment on how to maintain the confidentiality of broadband service information while still providing a rich resource for use by other federal agencies, states, localities, and public-private partnerships in focusing resources on expanding broadband availability in a manner similar to the focusing of resources enabled by the ConnectKentucky project. The FCC said it will apply an expedited comment cycle on this issue, and intends to issue a responsive Order within four months.
C. Delivered Speed Information Gathering: The FCC previously sought comment on whether to require reporting of actual broadband connection speeds experienced by customers rather than the theoretical maximum that a given network can support or the particular service configuration allows. The FCC said the record indicates that factors beyond the control of service providers may compromise the ability of service providers to report actual speeds experienced by consumers. Also, comments in the record point to the existence of other methods of collecting this information. In the FNPRM, the FCC seeks comment on how it might require service providers to report this information, and any alternative means, in addition to or other than requiring such service provider reporting, for effectively capturing meaningful information about actual speeds of Internet access services experienced by consumers.
D. Broadband Price Information: The FCC seeks to supplement and enrich the record on broadband price information. It seeks comment on requiring providers to report, for each state or each Census Tract in which they offer service, the monthly price the provider charges for standalone broadband service in each of the speed tiers used for Form 477 reporting, not including any temporary promotional price discounts or any discounts for bundled services. If a provider offers multiple broadband services with different service characteristics within a speed tier (e.g. services that include either a static or a dynamic IP address), or charges different prices for a service for customers in different portions of a state or Census Tract, the FCC seeks comment on whether it should require the provider to report the lowest and the highest prices available to consumers within the state or Census Tract, in order to identify the range of prices that a consumer may have to pay. In the alternative, the FCC seeks comment on whether it should require providers to report the lowest price for standalone service available to consumers within the state or Census Tract within each speed tier. If a provider has only national pricing for a service, the FCC seeks comment on permitting the provider to report the monthly national price for such a service, in lieu of individual state reports. The FCC also seeks comment on whether there are any methods to derive a standalone price for broadband service when only bundled services are offered by a provider. Specifically, if a provider does not offer standalone service, but does offer bundled service, the FCC seeks comment on whether we should require the provider to report the total monthly price of the least expensive bundle of services that includes the broadband service. The FCC seeks comment on whether it should also require providers to report the Average Revenue Per User, or ARPU, for their services. The FCC seeks comment on any additional metrics or standards that we may adopt to collect meaningful comparative broadband price information in the presence of widespread service bundling, promotional pricing, flux and variability in broadband service prices, and the variety of optional features associated with services. And finally, the FCC seeks comment on whether and in what form the Commission should use the reported service price information.
E. Preserving Confidentiality: The FCC seeks comment on ways in which it can preserve confidentiality when sharing the information collected on Form 477, the voluntary registry, and other sources with agencies such as the RUS and with public-private partnerships such as ConnectKentucky and similar ventures, for example by sharing the data in a less granular or aggregated form than the level at which it is collected.
F. Broadband Customer Surveys: The FCC seeks comment on whether it should conduct and publish periodic surveys of broadband customers to obtain information about the price, technology, and speed of their connections and to obtain information about the applications and services that they use over the connections. It asks commenters to provide information on the appropriate methodology for conducting such surveys.
Comments on Section B (Broadband Availability Mapping) will be due 15 days after publication of the item in the Federal Register, and replies will be due 15 days thereafter. Comments on all other sections of the FNPRM (Sections A, C, D, E, and F) will be due 30 days after publication of the item in the Federal Register, and replies will be due 30 days thereafter.
In a separate statement, Chairman Kevin Martin said the Order “will require detailed subscribership information on a local level and detailed information about the download and upload speeds of broadband services offered to consumers. Specifically, we will collect information in the following tiers of service:
- First Generation data: 200k up to 768k
- Basic Broadband : 768k to 1.5mbps
- 1.5mbps to 3.0mbps
- 3.0mbps to 6.0 mbps
- 6.0mbps and above
“Additionally, we conclude that we will obtain and map additional information about broadband service availability to better direct resources toward unserved and underserved areas. Armed with this additional broadband data, the Commission will be better able to assess and promote the deployment of broadband across the nation.”
Concurring in part, Commissioner Michael Copps said: “I will spare you all my full broadband data stump speech today, except to say that it is truly shocking that we still rely on an absurdly dated definition of broadband speed and a 5-digit ZIP code methodology that didn’t pass the red face test even when we introduced it many years ago.”
Also concurring in part, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said: “I am disappointed that we fail to take affirmative steps to improve our understanding of broadband affordability. To maintain our productivity edge, we must give our citizens communications tools that are equal or greater than those available to our global competitors. Particularly given the growing evidence that citizens of other countries are getting a much greater broadband value, in terms of price per megabit, it is regrettable that the Commission misses an opportunity to collect useful information about the actual prices available to American consumers. In addition, particularly as availability increases, affordability is likely to be an increasingly important factor influencing broadband adoption. I hope that the Commission can take up these issues, relegated to a Further Notice in this item, in the near future.”
In her statement, Commissioner Deborah Tate said: “While I fully recognize and support the need for the Commission to continue to update the evolving speeds and definitions of broadband as the marketplace develops, we must also be cognizant of any unintended consequences to programs that rely on our current definitions. To insure that everyone--even those with lower speeds or older technologies--is counted, and also to insure that by adopting new definitions today we do not disrupt any of the funding opportunities- whether through the FCC, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Appalachian Regional Commission, or even State grants--I would have preferred to move this to the Further Notice so that we could be certain these definitional changes are only for the positive. Thus I concur in this section of the Order.”
Dissenting in part, Commissioner Robert McDowell said that “unfortunately, today the majority is playing with fire by attaching subjective and, perhaps, misleading terminology and definitions to various speeds. In short, what started out with a sleepy bureaucratic Order may end up being a change of tectonic proportions. The majority has not thought through the unintended consequences of its actions today. Instead of allowing consumers to determine what is a sufficient speed for their desired purposes, the government is drawing an arbitrary line that may favor some technologies that are currently considered “broadband.” While the concept of what is “broadband” should constantly improve and evolve, these decisions are best left to consumers and the marketplace, not unelected bureaucrats. It certainly should not be a political decision. I fear that what the majority has wrought this morning may very well come back to haunt us. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent from this portion of the item.”
BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
Commission Releases Fifth Section 706 Report On Broadband Deployment
Although adopted at its March 19 open meeting, the FCC waited until last week to release its Fifth Report to Congress on the availability of advanced telecommunications capabilities to all Americans (Section 706 Report). As in previous reports, the FCC defines “broadband” or “advanced services” as those with upstream and downstream transmission speeds of more than 200 kbps. And it defines “high speed” as services with over 200 kbps in at least one direction. But the Fifth Report acknowledges that services are evolving, and the companion Form 477 Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) is an effort to improve broadband data collection in this regard (see separate stories [above]).
Some of the highlights of the Fifth Report include: The Commission estimates that high-speed cable modem service is available to 96 percent of the households to which cable system operators could provide cable TV service. As of June 2007, there were over 23.3 million broadband DSL connections. As of June 2007, 35.3 million mobile wireless devices capable of accessing the Internet over high-speed lines were in use, versus almost none at the end of 2003. In addition, the Commission estimates that, as of mid-2007, providers have deployed mobile broadband networks to areas of the country containing 233 million people, or 82 percent of the U.S. population. There are approximately 36 Broadband over Power Line (BPL) deployments around the country in both rural and suburban areas, nine of which are commercial deployments and the remaining 27 of which are either pilot or trial deployments. Currently, most BPL systems provide symmetrical speeds upwards of 2 mbps to the customer.
The number of high-speed lines — those lines with speeds of over 200 kbps in at least one direction – has increased from 27.7 million in December 2003 to 100.9 million in June 2007. A granular inspection of the June 2007 high-speed line counts reveals that, in the faster direction, 27.9 million of these lines offer service at speeds greater than 200 kbps but less than 2.5 mbps; 37.7 million of these lines offer service at speeds greater than or equal to 2.5 mbps but less than 10 mbps; 3.8 million of these lines offer speeds greater than or equal to 10 mbps but less than 25 mbps; nearly 92,000 of these lines offer speeds greater than or equal to 25 mbps but less than 100 mbps; and over 21,700 of these lines offer speeds greater than or equal to 100 mbps. Further, the number of advanced services lines – those lines with speeds of over 200 kbps in each direction – has also increased from 19.9 million in December 2003 to 69.6 million in June 2007, of which 61.1 million are residential advanced service lines.
High-speed deployments in rural communities also have continued to increase since the Commission’s Fourth Report. With respect to the lowest density zip codes – those with fewer than six persons per square mile – there has been a significant increase in subscribership. The percentage of the lowest density zip codes with at least one high-speed subscriber increased from 73.5 percent in December 2003 to 90.5 percent as of June 2007. Further, based on the 2007 NTCA Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report, 99 percent of the NTCA respondents offer broadband service to some part of their customer base. In addition, an OPASTCO membership survey found that on average, respondents make broadband available to over 90 percent of their customer base. Ninety percent of the respondents in that survey reported being able to deliver data speeds of at least one mbps in one direction. Over 75 percent of the respondents also indicated that they compete against two or more providers in the broadband market.
BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FCC REQUIRES TELEMARKETERS TO HONOR DONOT- CALL REGISTRY INDEFINITELY: The FCC has amended its rules to require telemarketers to honor registrations with the National Do-Not-Call Registry indefinitely. The previous rules provided that registrations would expire after five years. This action is consistent with Congress’s mandate in the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which prohibits the removal of numbers from the Registry unless the consumer cancels the registration or the number has been disconnected and reassigned or is otherwise invalid. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has already committed to retain numbers on the Registry indefinitely. This FCC rule change serves to minimize the inconvenience to consumers of having to re-register their phone numbers every five years and furthers the underlying goal of the Registry to protect consumer privacy rights. To enhance the accuracy of the Registry, the Commission encourages telephone companies to convey information on disconnected and reassigned numbers to the FTC, the administrator of the Registry, in a timely and accurate manner. The Commission also said it will continue to coordinate with the FTC on additional ways to improve the Registry’s accuracy. Since the inception of the Registry in June 2003, more than 157 million numbers have been listed. BloostonLaw contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and Mary Sisak.
FCC Meetings and Deadlines
June 19 – Deadline for reply comments on Progeny’s request for waiver of M-LMS construction rule (WT Docket No. 08-60).
June 19 – Short-form application filing deadline for Auction 78 (unsold AWS-1, broadband PCS licenses). June 20 – Deadline for comments on 700 MHz D Block Second NPRM (WT Docket No. 06-150).
June 23 – Deadline for petitions to suspend or reject annual access tariffs filed on 15 days’ notice (carriers proposing to increase any of their rates).
June 24 – Deadline for ILECs filing annual access tariffs on seven days’ notice (carriers proposing to decrease all of their rates).
June 26 – Deadline for replies to petitions to suspend or reject annual access tariffs filed on 15 days’ notice (carriers proposing to increase any of their rates).
June 26 – Deadline for petitions to suspend or reject annual access tariffs filed on seven days’ notice (carriers proposing to decrease all of their rates).
June 27 – Deadline for replies to petitions to suspend or reject annual access tariffs filed on seven days’ notice (carriers proposing to decrease all of their rates).
June 27 – Deadline for comments on FNPRM concerning DTV consumer education initiative (MB Docket No. 07- 148).
June 30 – Annual ICLS Use Certification is due.
June 30 – Deadline for comments on NOI on fraudulent 911 calls made from wireless NSI phones (PS Docket No. 08-51).
July 1 – Effective date of annual access tariffs.
July 2 – Deadline for comments on Kentucky homeowner association restrictions on antennas (CSR-7925-0)
July 7 – Deadline for reply comments on 700 MHz D Block Second NPRM (WT Docket No. 06-150).
July 14 – Deadline for reply comments on FNPRM concerning DTV consumer education initiative (MB Docket No. 07-148).
July 17 – Upfront payment deadline for Auction 78 (unsold AWS-1, broadband PCS licenses).
July 17 – Deadline for reply comments on Kentucky homeowner association restrictions on antennas (CSR-7925-0)
July 21 – FCC Form 497, Low Income Quarterly Report, is due.
July 29 – Deadline for reply comments on NOI on fraudulent 911 calls made from wireless NSI phones (PS Docket No. 08-51).
July 31 – FCC Form 507, Universal Service Quarterly Line Count Update, is due.
July 31 – FCC Form 525, Competitive Carrier Line Count Quarterly Report, is due.
July 31 – Report of extension of credit to federal candidates is due.