On February 8, 2011 the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued an NPRM soliciting comment on reform of Broadband and Local Competition Reporting and Data Collection, Form 477. According to the FCC, this NPRM is an important part of its larger “Data Innovation Initiative” designed to “modernize and streamline how the agency collects, uses, and disseminates data, and to ensure that all collected data is useful for supporting informed policymaking, promoting competition, and protecting consumers.“
Through this NPRM, the FCC requests comment on the specific framework of its data collection practices for broadband deployment and local competition. Most notably, the FCC seeks comment on the type of information sought by Form 477 and the impact that current reporting requirements have on telecommunications and broadband service providers.
While the NPRM does not enact any new rules or alter current Form 477 reporting practices, all clients who file Form 477 are advised to review the issues addressed by the FCC, detailed herein, as the expansive scope of the NPRM and the FCC’s general initiative to improve and streamline data collection suggests that the FCC will update Form 477 based on comments filed in the proceeding.
Background on Form 477
Established in 2000, Form 477 is the FCC’s primary tool for collecting data about broadband deployment and competition in local telephone markets. Under the FCC’s rules, the following service providers must file Form 477 on a biannual basis:
- Broadband services,
- Local telephone service,
- Interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, and
- Mobile telephone service
Since 2000, the FCC has enlarged the amount of information gathered by the form, most recently by extending reporting requirements to interconnected VoIP services and mandating that broadband service providers report deployment using “census tracts.”
Issues Addressed by current NPRM
In the recent NPRM, the FCC requests further comment on refinements to the data collection and reporting obligations imposed by Form 477. These requests touch on all aspects of Form 477, including how Form 477 should tie to the Broadband Data Improvement Act (“BDIA”), National Broadband Plan, NTIA’s Broadband Inventory Map, and the Federal Telecommunication Act’s statuary reporting requirements.
The FCC specifically requests comment on the following areas:
How to Streamline Collection. According to the FCC, streamlining Form 477 to reduce the reporting burden on all carriers, particularly smaller ones, is top priority. Two favorable recommendations include:
- A redesign of the Form 477 interface to allow parties to file data on multiple states as a single file.
- Permit submission of subscribership data at the address level, as opposed to census tracks, to reduce their reporting burden.
Use of Third-Party and Publicly Available Data. The FCC seeks comment on whether and how the FCC can obtain reliable data from third parties and publicly available sources.
Who Must Report. The FCC seeks comment on whether there are classes of providers that should be exempted from reporting elements of any proposed data collection. For example, small broadband providers may find it relatively more burdensome to comply with certain data reporting obligations than larger carriers. The FCC also asks whether additional classes of entities should be required to file Form 477. For example, should the FCC revise the definition of “interconnected VoIP” for the purposes of this collection to include services that permit users to receive calls that originate on the public switched telephone network or to terminate calls to the public switched telephone network?
Frequency of Reporting. The FCC asks if the biannual deadline for reporting should be revised. According to the FCC, one commenter has asked the Commission to require quarterly collections “to keep pace with rapidly evolving Internet technology and allow regulators to plan and adjust policies.” Another commenter asks that the Commission synchronize the filing deadlines for Form 477 with those for the NTIA’s SBDD.
Deployment Data. The FCC seeks comment on whether and what types of deployment data should be sought under Form 477, including and differences between fixed and mobile data. The FCC once again questions whether “census tract” reporting should be retained. The FCC also requests comment on specific data points, including: speed; spectrum and mobile issues, price (e.g. if the FCC should request prices for services), and issues related to subscription plans for both voice and broadband services.
Ownership and Contact Information. Currently Form 477 permits filers to consolidate data for multiple operations within a state on a single submission. The FCC seeks comment on whether the agency should revise the Form 477 to collect additional ownership information and related data. The FCC also seeks comment on revising Form 477 to collect contact information for use in emergency situations, thereby allowing the FCC to assemble an emergency contact database via Form 477.
The full NPRM is located on the FCC’s website here:
Clients who have questions about material contained in the NPRM, current FCC Form 477 filing requirements, or would like to file comments with the FCC can contact Chris Canter at firstname.lastname@example.org.