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ACA Calls For New Expert Group To Craft Voluntary Network Outage Rules

The American Cable Association called for creation of an industry working group to craft voluntary network outage reporting rules in lieu of regulatory mandates by the Federal Communications Commission, in response to concerns raised by many stakeholders that the FCC lacks authority to impose such requirements on broadband and interconnected VoIP providers.

"With FCC legal authority to act far from settled, the wisest course now is for the FCC to endorse the establishment of an industry working group that will allow companies that own and operate the sophisticated networks at issue to have their subject-matter experts work through the many technical difficulties identified in the record of this proceeding," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

ACA stated its views in reply comments filed with the FCC on Oct. 7, endorsing the consensus position that the legal basis for FCC action in this area is highly doubtful and that the industry itself was better suited to design and enforce network outage reporting standards that serve the needs of all providers, especially small companies that lack the financial resources to comply with federal regulations that tend to place disproportionate burdens on them.

ACA pointed out that the FCC's proposed rules were inappropriate for broadband Internet networks. In its comments, ACA stressed that operators had deployed a variety of broadband networks and that different equipment and techniques are used for monitoring the health of each type of network. As a result, potential reporting requirements under FCC consideration would probably fail to be flexible enough to match the existing technical characteristics and capabilities of all the various broadband networks.

In that regard, ACA explained the need for the FCC to avoid adopting rules that would directly or indirectly require operators to deploy costly new monitoring devices. Rather, ACA said the FCC should adopt reporting obligations that require operators to disclose only information they already have readily available about their own networks.

To the extent the FCC adopts regulations, ACA argued that the rules should apply to only unscheduled outages, for there may be instances where an operator takes down a network element for maintenance after providing notice to its customers.

"These situations should be exempted from any outage reporting rules that the FCC adopts," Polka said.

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