In the Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order On Reconsideration adopted on May 26 (the “Network Outage Order”), the FCC revised its Network Outage Reporting rules and proposed new requirements for broadband and VoIP networks. Comments and Reply Comments regarding the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be due 45 days and 60 days, respectively, after publication of the Network Outage Order in the Federal Register.

The Network Outage Order will have an impact on wireline and wireless telecommunications providers, VoIP providers, and internet service providers. The most important changes and potential changes in the rules for providers (other than wireless providers) include:

  1. An update in the reporting metric and threshold for communication disruptions impacting major transport facilities from a DS3-based to an OC3-based standard using a threshold of 667 OC3 user minutes.
  2. A reduction in the reporting window for simplex events (transmission line disruptions) from five days to four days, with compliance requirements beginning no later than 6 months after OMB approval of the new information collection.
  3. A determination that a “loss of communications” to a PSAP occurs when a network malfunction or higher-level issue occurs that significantly degrades or prevents 911 calls from being completed to PSAPs, defined as when at least 80% or more of a provider’s trunks serving a PSAP become disabled to the point they cannot support 911 call delivery in accordance with the Commission’s rules.The Commission clarified that “a 911 service provider would not need to report when 80 percent of its trunks go down if the remaining 20 percent could support delivery of 911 calls, including the number and location information, but it must report if not all 911 traffic can be re-routed, or if the re-routed traffic cannot be delivered without stripping it of number or location information.”
  4. A revision of the outage reporting rules affecting “special offices and facilities,” — now defined as those enrolled in Levels 1 or 2 of the Telecommunications Services Priority Program; i.e., national security and military communications — including among other things (i) narrowing the types of airports that are considered “special offices and facilities,” to those classified by the FAA as providing Primary Commercial Service, and (ii) limiting outage reporting from airports to critical communications only.Compliance with this requirement is to begin no later than 18 months after OMB approval.
  5. A determination that other federal and state agencies should have direct access to the Commission’s Network Outage Reporting System, and directions the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to investigate issues regarding adequate safeguards to maintain the security and confidentiality of sensitive information and to develop recommendations for the successful implementation of the Commission’s proposals to share information with other federal and state agencies.

With regard to broadband and interconnected VoIP networks, the Commission is seeking comment on detailed new proposed rules including:

1. Proposals to address broadband network disruptions, including packet-based disruptions based on network performance degradation.The Commission’s proposals include extending comprehensive outage reporting and measurements to broadband providers that would encompass:

  1. all customer market segments (i.e., mass market, small business, medium size business, specific access services, and enterprise-class, including PSAPs, governmental purchasers, carriers, critical infrastructure industries, large academic institutional users, etc.);
  2. all providers of such services on a technology neutral basis; and
  3. all purchasers (end users) of those services without limitation.

2. Detailed proposals regarding changes to the rules governing interconnected VoIP outage reporting and measurements to

  1. include disruptions based on network performance degradation,
  2. revise the outage definition to address incidents involving specified network components, and
  3. modify the VoIP outage reporting process to make it consistent with other services.

3. Requirements for reporting of call failures in the radio access network and local access network, and on geography-based reporting of wireless outages in rural areas, and

4. Revising the covered critical communications at airports subject to part 4 reporting.

The foregoing is a very brief summary of the Network Outage Order, in particular with regard to the very detailed and burdensome new proposed requirements for broadband and VoIP providers. The amended rules will become effective thirty (30) days after publication in the Federal Register with the exception of those rules containing new or modified information collection requirements, which will become effective only after the FCC publishes a notice in the Federal Register announcing approval of those rules by the Office of Management and Budget.