On June 22, 2015, the FCC released an order authorizing interconnected VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly from the Numbering Administrators, rather than through intermediaries or wholesale carriers. Generally, the FCC will now require interconnected VoIP providers to follow the same requirements applicable to traditional TDM-based carriers seeking to obtain numbers.

Those interconnected VoIP providers without a state-issued certification may pursue a three-step process to obtain direct access to numbers:

  1. File a VoIP Numbering Authorization Application with the FCC requesting direct access to numbers, which may be “deemed granted” on the 31st day after filing;  
  2. After FCC grant, provide state commissions with 30 days’ notice of any attempt to access numbers (along with contact information and the like); and  
  3. After the 30-day state notice period, establish an “Operating Company Number” with the Numbering Administrators and request numbers on a state-by-state basis.

Although these topside steps appear simple, obtaining numbers may be administratively complex. First, the FCC (or more specifically, the Wireline Competition Bureau) may suspend the “deemed granted” period if the Bureau has questions or needs more information. Once suspended, there is no mechanism ensuring a grant.

Second, state commissions similarly may have the authority to hold up the release of numbers even after the FCC grants an application. The Commission is silent on whether the Number Administrators can grant numbering requests opposed by a state commission.

Third, interconnected VoIP providers will have to comply with a number of other obligations previously reserved for traditional carriers, including making N11 (e.g., 911, 711, 511, etc.) calling available to consumers. Interconnected VoIP providers also are expected to comply with Local Number Portability requirements and all administrative requirements associated with telephone numbers, such as filing Number Resource Utilization Reports and the like.

At bottom, the FCC is essentially treating Interconnected VoIP providers seeking direct access to telephone numbers as traditional, TDM-based carriers. Although no specific state licensing is required, providers do have to comply with any state-specific requirements that might exist. All this said, interconnected VoIP providers are under no obligation to obtain numbers directly. They can continue to access numbers through carrier partners.