Tag Archives: federal communications commission

AT&T, T-Mobile to file with FCC around April 21

AT&T and T-Mobile USA plan to file paperwork about their planned merger with the Federal Communications Commission next week. “We plan to file our public interest statement at the FCC around April 21,” AT&T’s Michael Balmoris said in an email on Thursday.

AT&T’s $39 billion bid to buy Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile USA will also be reviewed by the Justice Department to ensure it does not violate antitrust law. The request for the Justice Department review was filed last Friday.

The FCC will review the proposed deal to ensure it is in the public interest. The review process could easily take a year.

The deal would concentrate 80 percent of U.S. wireless contract customers in just two companies — AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc. AT&T, currently the No. 2 U.S. mobile carrier behind Verizon, has said the merger will spur innovation and economic growth by improving quality and expanding wireless service to 95 percent of Americans.

FCC To Propose Spending $400M to Connect Rural Doctors

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to propose a new program to help rural doctors get access to broadband in hopes of improving patient care. At the meeting set for Thursday, the agency will propose that $400 million a year from the Universal Service Fund should go to linking doctors and hospitals to the Internet at speeds of at least 10 Mbps.

Read the full story at Gigaom

FCC order on Slamming and carrier change verification

This article has been written by Law Offices of Thomas K. Crowe, P.C. Please contact them if you have any questions about the article or need their services.

Thomas K. Crowe, Principal “[email protected]
Cheng Yi Liu, Staff Attorney
Law Offices of Thomas K. Crowe, P.C.
1250 24th Street, N.W.
Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20037
(202) 263-3640 (voice)
(202) 263-3641 (fax)
www.tkcrowe.com

On January 9, 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released its Fourth Report and Order (“Order”), which modifies its current “slamming” or carrier change verification rules. Specifically, the Order modifies the carrier change verification process to require:

  1. confirmation that the consumer understands specifically that a carrier change is being authorized;
  2. disclosure that completion of the verification will allow the carrier change to be effectuated;
  3. that the date of each verification is obtained at the time of verification; and
  4. confirmation that the consumer understands that the phrase “long distance service” includes state-to-state and international long distance.

The requirements and revisions outlined in the Order generally become effective thirty (30) days after publication in the Federal Register. To ensure compliance and minimize potential federal and state slamming liability, carriers offering 1+ services will want to consider revising their verification scripts or, in the event that they rely upon scripts used by verification companies, requiring such companies to do so.
Confirmation of Intent to Change Carriers
The revised rules address the Commission’s concerns that some carriers are using misleading language to deceive consumers into believing that something other than a carrier change is being authorized (e.g., upgrade to existing service, bill consolidation service, etc.). Thus, the new rules will require that verifiers confirm the consumer understands the authorization is for a carrier change, and not just simply an upgrade or change to an existing service. Since the current rules already require confirmation that a consumer “wants to make the carrier change,” the new requirement is unlikely to necessitate a drastic change to verification scripts that do not characterize “carrier change” in a potentially misleading fashion.

Further, the required confirmation – like several of the other rule changes adopted by the FCC’s Order – could affirmatively benefit carriers in that it could aid in refuting false slamming claims by showing that the consumer had a clear understanding and intent to change carriers (as opposed to just upgrading an existing service).
Verification Completion Disclosure
The current FCC verification rules prohibit verifiers from providing any additional information regarding a carrier’s services. Thus, verifiers are not allowed to answer any additional questions the consumer might have during the verification process. Instead, if the consumer has additional questions for the carrier’s sales representative during the verification process, the verifier has the option of immediately redirecting the consumer to the sales representative (thereby terminating the verification process), or having the consumer defer the question until after the verification process is completed.

Many consumers may complete the verification process (deferring their questions for the sales representative until later) thinking that they still have an opportunity to revoke the authorization (or even that final authorization had not been given) until after further speaking to the carrier’s sales representative. However, once the verification process has been completed, regardless of whether the consumer has additional questions, the carrier change authorization is effective.

Rather than forcing verifiers to disclose this at the beginning or end of the verification (which the Commission rejected as being either confusing or likely to discourage additional questions), the FCC adopted an approach that only requires an affirmative disclosure if the consumer has additional questions for the carrier’s sales representative during the verification.
Thus, if a consumer has additional questions during the verification, the verifier must directly disclose to the consumer that a carrier change nonetheless can be effectuated or processed once the verification is completed. Alternatively, if a carrier elects to allow consumers to revoke a carrier change authorization within a certain amount of time after the verification, this policy can be disclosed to the consumer instead.

Obtaining Date of Verification
The Commission’s new rules require that the date (but not the time) of verification be ascertained and recorded, at the time of the verification, in a form that can be readily identified by future reviewers (i.e., federal and state regulators). However, the Commission did not prescribe a specific means by which the date of verification needed to be obtained. Therefore, verifiers have the option of either verbally confirming the date with the consumer, electronically date stamping the recorded verification, or obtaining the date of verification by some other means which satisfies the requirement. The new date requirement is meant to address instances in which carriers might use outdated verifications in an attempt to legitimize an unauthorized switching of a consumer back to the carrier after the consumer has already completed a switch to another carrier. On the other hand, it will be to a carrier’s advantage to have a dated verification in order to defend against consumers that may falsely allege that such a situation (and a slam) occurred.

Long Distance Definition
Finally, the new rules require that any description of “long distance service” (or “interLATA” service) convey that the term includes both state-to-state and international long distance. Therefore, verifiers will be required to affirmatively confirm that the consumer understands that “long distance” encompasses both state-to-state and international calling. (Note that this requirement will not apply in Hawaii, where state-to-state and international calling are distinctly separate services.)

Effect of New Requirements
While these new rules aim in part to further protect consumers from slamming, carriers should also benefit from the changes. The new requirements have the effect of eliminating confusing and disputable components of the verification process, thereby minimizing carrier exposure to potentially significant federal and state slamming liability. Thus, it may be prudent for carriers to revise their 1+ verification scripts even before the new rules officially take effect.
Should you require assistance in modifying a verification script to comply with the new rules or have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thomas K. Crowe, Principal “[email protected]
Cheng Yi Liu, Staff Attorney
Law Offices of Thomas K. Crowe, P.C.
1250 24th Street, N.W.
Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20037
(202) 263-3640 (voice)
(202) 263-3641 (fax)
www.tkcrowe.com

FCC rules against Verizon

The Federal Communications Commission today addressed petitions for forbearance filed by the Verizon Telephone Companies, which sought certain forbearance relief in the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence and Virginia Beach Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSAs.

FCC Statement: The Commission found that the current evidence of competition does not satisfy the section 10 forbearance standard with respect to any of the forbearance Verizon requests.