As the Commission is proposing to expand its outage reporting rules, the Enforcement Bureau is moving closer to establishing base forfeitures for violations of the outage reporting requirements. A settlement released on Friday suggests that the Commission has settled on a two-tiered approach to failures to provide outage reports.
The case in question involves Alpheus Communications. In July 2010, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability against Alpheus for violations of the FCC's network outage reporting rules. In the NAL, the Enforcement Bureau proposed a two-tiered approach to outage violations. The Bureau proposed a $40,000 fine for failing to file the outage Notification that is due within 2 hours after a carrier discovers that a qualifying outage has occurred. Failures to file the follow up reports -- one due within 72 hours and a final report due within 30 days -- would be subjected to a lesser amount of $20,000 per violation.
Using this two-tiered approach, the FCC proposed to fine Alpheus $60,000 for (1) a failure to file the Notification (due within 2 hours) and (2) failure to file the initial report due within 72 hours. In the Consent Decree, Alpheus agreed to pay $55,000 to resolve the NAL. The consent decree also contains provisions requiring Alpheus to develop a compliance manual, to perform training of its personnel and to report future violations to the FCC.
Because the FCC received close to the amount it originally proposed, we would not be surprised to see the FCC use the same two-tiered approach in the future. This two-tiered approach would apply only to failures to file the outage reports, however. A pending Verizon case suggests that the Bureau views the filing of inaccurate or incomplete reports as more serious than the failure to file. In that case, the filing of a report that did not "completely and accurately describe the outage" garnered a $25,000 proposed fine (more than if Verizon had not filed the report).