Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Consumer Code Bill Shock Provision

CTIA has posted the Bill Shock language as added to the Consumer Code for Wireless Service (Section Eleven).  It states that signatories will provide a notification:

1)      To consumers of currently-offered and future domestic wireless plans that include limited data allowances when consumers approach and exceed their allowance for data usage and will incur overage charges;
2)      To consumers of currently-offered and future domestic voice and messaging plans that include limited voice and messaging allowances when consumers approach and exceed their allowance for those services and will incur charges;
3)      To consumers without an international roaming plan/package whose devices have registered abroad and who may incur charges for international usage.

Wireless providers will generate the notifications to postpaid consumers based on information available at the time the notification is sent.  These notifications are to be free of charge as well as automatically provided to the consumer.  Wireless providers will provide at least two of these alerts by October 17, 2012 and all of these alerts by April 17, 2013.  Wireless providers are also directed to clearly and conspicuously disclose tools or services that enable consumers to track, monitor and/or set limits on voice, messaging and data usage.

These rules were developed through industry-led efforts, rather than FCC regulation, and represent a compromise between CTIA and the FCC.  The Commission has agreed to take a “trust, but verify” approach to this issue, and therefore puts any rulemaking on hold.  The FCC, however, will be closely monitoring industry practices to make sure that all carriers provide this information to consumers, and if the Commission does encounter non-compliance, it promises to take action.

Monday, October 17, 2011

CTIA and FCC announce Bill Shock Rules

On Friday, CTIA filed a written ex parte notice with the Commission regarding CTIA’s Bill Shock Rules, which were introduced today, but have yet to be released to the public.  The notice informs the FCC that CTIA adopted as part of its “Consumer Code for Wireless Service,” a new usage alerting initiative for subscribers with limited voice, data and messaging plans, and for subscribers that use their devices internationally.  The notice explains that under this initiative, participating wireless providers will generate free notifications to help wireless subscribers manage their usage to avoid billing surprises, while allowing providers to competitively differentiate their offerings and business practices.  The notifications will cover data, voice, text messaging and international roaming.  Specifically notifications will be provided to consumers with limited allowances as they approach and exceed their allowance limits for such covered practices.  Finally, these notifications will be automatic in the sense that customers will not have to opt in for these services. 

By October 17, 2012 participating carriers will be required to provide customers with at least two out of the four notifications for data, voice, text and international roaming and must provide all of the alerts by April 17, 2013.  Compliance guidelines for wireless carriers are going to be posted on the FCC’s website, along with CTIA’s code of conduct, which will reflect the bill shock agreement. 

For CTIA's offical press release, click here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NPRM on Text-to-911 Published in Federal Register

Today, the NPRM on Facilitating the Deployment of Text-to-911 and Other NG911 Applications was published in the Federal Register, setting the comment deadline for December 12, 2011, with reply comments due January 10, 2012.

The NPRM examines short-term and long-term options for enabling consumers to send texts to 911, including the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches.  The FCC is seeking comment on long-term development of multimedia NG911 technology that would support delivery of photos, videos, and data to 911, in addition to texting.  The Commission is also considering the appropriate role for the agency in facilitating and possibly accelerating, the rollout of these capabilities.

The NPRM asks whether 911 call centers should have to first demonstrate a “threshold level of NG911 technical capability” as a precondition of a requirement that carriers are capable of delivering text messages and other data as part of 911.  The notice also asks whether this capability should be established at the state or regional level, and recognizes that all call centers nationwide won’t be able to accept the same date, therefore prompting inquiry about how to educate consumers about the limitations of text-to-911 services.  It also seeks guidance on establishing a priority system for texts during a catastrophic disaster.     

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tentative Agenda Announced for 10/27 FCC Open Meeting

The tentative agenda has been announced for the October 27th Open Commission Meeting:

Connect America Fund/Intercarrier Compensation Reform: The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to comprehensively reform and modernize the universal service and intercarrier compensation systems to ensure that all Americans have access to robust, affordable broadband and mobile services.

Modernizing Television Broadcaster Requirement to Make Information Available to the Public: The Commission will consider an Order on Reconsideration of the 2007 Enhanced Disclosure Report and Order and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to replace television broadcast stations' public files with online public files to be hosted by the Commission.

National Emergency Alert System Preparation Update: The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will provide a brief update on the status of preparations for the national test of the Emergency Alert System to be held on November 9, 2011, at 2 p.m. EST.
The Open Meeting is scheduled to commence at 10:30 a.m. in Room TW-C305, at 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. The event will be shown live at FCC.gov/live.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Genachowski Announces FCC ICC/USF Reform Proposal

Today, Chairman Genachowski announced the Commission’s proposal for ICC/USF Reform.  The FCC did not “rubber stamp” fully adopt any of the USF and ICC reform proposals that have been discussed over these past few months.  Below please find a summary of the proposed FCC plan, which has been distributed to the Commissioners for review:

Intercarrier Compensation
-     Arbitrage: Overall, the plan proposes to reduce the hidden subsidies paid by consumer by closing loopholes such as phantom traffic and traffic pumping, however, it also proposes to eliminate “CMRS-in-the-middle where some carriers divert wireline traffic to wireless networks to avoid paying ICC charges.” (pg. 9).
-     VoIP: VoIP calls that either begin or end on the PSTN will be treated the same, therefore providing certainty about the compensation of VoIP calls for stakeholders.
-     Access Rates: Rates will be phased down over a measured, but certain, multi-year transition path, starting by bringing intrastate access rates in line with interstate rates.  The plan proposes to begin with terminating charges.  
-     Recovery Mechanism: This will be tightly controlled, and will permit some companies to receive transitional support from the CAF, but such support would be accompanied by obligations to serve the public, as well as strong oversight and accountability.
-     IP Interconnection: The plan will acknowledge the importance of efficient IP interconnect and “will put forth specific proposals in that area.”

Universal Service Fund
-     Connect America Fund:  The fund will be constrained with a five-year transition beginning in 2012.  Funding will be targeted exclusively at areas without an unsubsidized competitor and where support is needed to extend/sustain broadband. 
-     Mobility Fund:  This fund will be dedicated to deployment of mobile broadband to more than 100,000 road miles, as well as providing significant ongoing support for rural mobile broadband.
-     Competitive Bidding Process: This process will be built into the first phase of the Mobility Fund in 2012 and implemented over a transition period among providers for obtaining universal service support.  During the transition, the Commission will base support on a cost model which estimates costs of deploying broadband (model will be subject to note-and-comment period).  
-     Rate-of-Return:  Will ensure provider incentives to invest efficiently and receive predictable support.  It will include improving accountability, using benchmarks to ensure reimbursable expenditures are reasonable and extending limits on reimbursements for corporate operating expenses.
-     Carrier of Last Resort: Obligations will remain in FCC plan.
-     State Role: States will continue to be responsible for designating universal service-eligible telecommunications carriers.  States will  also continue to play a role by ensuring accountability for broadband buildout obligations.  

Throughout the Speech, the Chairman emphasized the significant benefits that will be realized by consumers due to the proposed reform, and stated “by eliminating billions of dollars in hidden subsidies that are currently built in to wireless and long-distance bills, consumers can expect reduced costs, better value for their money, or both.”  The Speech also emphasized job creation and economic growth.

As noted above, the plan has been circulated to the other Commissioners and has been placed on the Commission’s October 27th Open Meeting agenda.  The plan itself, has not been released to pubic as of yet.