FCC SUSPENDS 39 RURAL ILEC TARIFFS

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it has suspended the tariffs of 39 rural carriers, allegedly due to concerns over excessive termination fees. Most of them are believed to be in Iowa.

The FCC did not release the entire list or order to the public, although we are attempting to obtain a copy of it. As of press time, we have not received a response from the FCC. It is unlikely that we will receive any further information on this story until after the July 4th holiday. Most Federal offices are closed on Wednesday.

At issue in the matter seems to be rural ILECs in Iowa that have taken advantage of a loophole in FCC regulations by setting up free conference bridges, faxing services, VoIP re-origination services, etc. Carriers such as AT&T and Sprint have refused to pay many of these carriers for termination fees that they feel are excessive. A number of carriers have throttled or entirely blocked calls to rural areas in Iowa as a result. Until now, the FCC had only stressed that such charges were indeed legal, although some FCC staffers have admitted that such loopholes need to be closed by way of regulation.

It is unclear exactly how these rural ILECs are being directly affected, especially in regards to their continued offering of local telephone service. With their tariffs revoked, it would seem to be putting them in the position of not being able to legally provide any type of long distance service. We'll have more news as we receive it. Until then, below is the official press release sent out by the Federal Communications Commission on the matter.

PRESS RELEASE

Washington, D.C. – The Wireline Competition Bureau today released an Order clarifying that carriers may not resort to the “self-help” remedy of blocking calls to avoid potentially inflated termination charges resulting from alleged access stimulation activities. This action affirms that all customers will continue to be able to connect with anyone on the network that they so choose. Noting that the ubiquity and reliability of the nation’s telecommunications network is of paramount importance, the Bureau emphasized that the Commission has several mechanisms, including tariff investigations, to address allegations of unreasonable access charges.

To address concerns expressed by long-distance and wireless companies, the Bureau suspended the tariffs of 39 rural carriers due to substantial questions raised about the lawfulness of the rates filed, in light of possible efforts by the carriers to stimulate long-distance access traffic.

The Bureau will commence an investigation of the tariffs. The specific issues that will be the subject of the investigation will be identified in an upcoming designation order.

Action by the Wireline Competition Bureau, June 28, 2007, by Declaratory Ruling and Order (DA 07-2863), and by Order (DA 07-2862).

Docket No.: 07-135 (Declaratory Ruling and Order)

WCB/Pricing No.: 07-10 (Tariff Suspension Order)

Wireline Competition Bureau Staff

Contact for Declaratory Ruling and Order: Lynne Engledow, 202-418-1520, lynne.engledow@fcc.gov.

For Tariff Suspension Order: Doug Slotten, 202-418-1520, doug.slotten@fcc.gov.

About the Author: 
Originally posted by the former Editor-in-Chief of TheDigest.com, Randy Swisher.