On March 15, 2019 the FCC adopted its Fourth Report and Order (“Order”) establishing rural call completion service quality standards for intermediate providers. While the Order remains largely unchanged from the draft circulated prior to the FCC’s March Open meeting (see our prior post) for more details on the draft Order), the FCC made one significant change that should interest intermediate providers handling calls destined for termination outside of the United States. The adopted Order clarifies that the new rules do not apply to non-U.S. intermediate providers on calls terminating outside of the United States. As a result, the Order eases compliance requirements for the final U.S. intermediate provider in a call path destined for foreign termination.

As written, the FCC’s registration and service quality standards rules apply to all intermediate providers handling calls originating from, or terminating to, a connection using a North American Numbering Plan (“NANP”) number. Not only must intermediate providers register with the FCC but they also are required to ensure that any other intermediate provider to which they hand off traffic is registered. Because the FCC’s rural call completion rules apply to calls that terminate outside of the United States, the last U.S. intermediate provider in a call path would be required to ensure that the foreign carrier intermediate provider to which the call was handed off also is a registered intermediate provider. In response to industry concerns about this result, the Commission clarified that the intermediate service provider service quality rules and registration requirement do not apply to those non-U.S. intermediate providers handling foreign-terminating calls. The clarification, tucked away in a footnote, emphasized the Rural Call Completion Act’s (“RCCA’s”) focus on U.S. customers, noting the RCCA’s goal of ensuring integrity of call completion to “customers in the United States” and of preventing “discrimination among areas of the United States.”

As we noted previously, the Order will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register although it remains to be seen if the FCC’s intermediate provider registration rule will have received OMB approval and be in effect by that time. Be sure to check back for updates.