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Cable Ops Take Issue With VoIP Outage Reporting Proposal

Cable and phone trade associations and companies have told the FCC that they have problems with the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau's proposal to mandate outage reporting requirements on interconnected VoIP and broadband service providers.

Currently those reporting requirements apply to traditional phone service, but not the cable operators and others serving the growing cadre of phone cord-cutters using broadband voice. The idea is to extend those rules to the new technology. Driving the issue is the robustness of broadband 9/11 service, which the FCC mandated five years ago, and insuring continued communications in emergencies.

According to an ex parte filing with the FCC, The American Cable Association, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, CTIA, and others met last week with top FCC staffers to outline their concerns about extending outage reporting requirements to VoIP, as the FCC proposed doing in a May Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last spring.

They say that rather than providing the industry flexibility, the proposed outage requirements in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are unduly broad and impose "significant economic burdens" on ISPs and other VoIP providers.

They argue that the FCC was wrong when it suggested applying the traditional phone outage reporting requirements to VoIP would not be burdensome because they already collect the data. "To the contrary," they said, "broadband service providers and VoIP providers do not routinely monitor network performance at the level of granularity that would be required by the rules proposed in the Notice, and it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for the industry to implement such a regime, costs that will ultimately have an impact on consumers."

The FCC also asked in that rulemaking whether the reporting should be voluntary. The groups said it should be, and that that reporting regime should be worked out in concert with stakeholders, and should not "ignore the technical realities of broadband networks, place undue burdens on them with "limited countervailing benefit." As is the case with many arguments over regulatory modifications, the groups evoked the President's reg review executive order, saying not to take that cost-benefit into account would be "in contravention of the President's directive." (The President's order does not apply to individual agencies, though the President strongly urged them to follow it.)

The FCC voted unanimously last May to propose requiring the outage reporting, although Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell concurred in part, saying he had issues with the FCC's authority to support the proposed regulation. It is asserting ancillary authority in proposing the broadband regs, as it did in adopting its network neutrality rules last December.