The FCC voted unanimously at its monthly open meeting last Thursday to launch proceedings on proposed rule changes that would free providers of international phone service from the requirement to submit annual traffic and revenue reports to the FCC. As part of the same proceeding, the FCC will also consider ways in which it can streamline requirements that pertain to the submission of annual reports of international circuit capacity. 

Providers of international telecommunications services are required to file annual reports with the FCC that outline traffic totals and associated revenues for international voice, private line and miscellaneous services. Additionally, international service providers must file annual reports with the agency that identify their submarine cable, satellite and terrestrial capacity between the United States and foreign destinations. Citing the competitive state of the international telecommunications market, the FCC indicated in a press release that “these reports many no longer be necessary in their current form.” The FCC also highlighted the burdens borne by carriers and by the FCC in compiling, submitting and analyzing the information contained in these annual reports. Noting that providers “spend almost 15,000 hours each year preparing these reports,” the FCC acknowledged that “the costs of the data collection—which are significant for both filers and the Commission—now exceed the benefits of the information.”

Recommending that annual traffic and revenue reporting requirements be scrapped altogether, the FCC is requesting stakeholder input on ways in which the agency can “minimize regulatory burdens while retaining the ability to collect information that would address specific instances of anticompetitive conduct on U.S.-international routes.” With respect to the annual circuit capacity reporting requirement, comment is sought on “whether alternatives or substitutes for the Commission’s data are available” and “whether there are ways to reduce reporting burdens and . . . [resolve] discrepancies between capacity reported by cable operators and capacity reported by cable capacity holders.”

Casting his vote in favor of the item, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai voiced hope “that the resources currently devoted to complying with these unnecessary reporting requirements will be applied to more productive use—namely, connecting American consumers now and in the future.” As AT&T senior vice president Joan Marsh agreed that the reporting requirements at the heart of the rulemaking proceeding “are ill suited for a highly competitive global marketplace,” U.S. Telecom Association CEO Jonathan Spatler predicted that eliminating or streamlining these requirements “will enable providers to focus less on filling out unnecessary paperwork, and more on building, maintaining and upgrading America’s broadband networks.”