Monday, March 05, 2012

ORDER :: FCC :: Outage Reporting Extended to Interconnected VoIP

THE PROPOSED EXTENSION OF PART 4 OF THE COMMISSION'S RULES REGARDING OUTAGE REPORTING TO INTERCONNECTED VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL SERVICE PROVIDERS AND BROADBAND INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS. FCC Extends Network Outage Reporting Requirement To Interconnected VOIP Service To Help Ensure A More Resilient And Reliable 9-1-1 System. (Dkt No. 11-82 ). Action by: the Commission. Adopted: 02/15/2012 by R&O. (FCC No. 12-22). PSHSB
1. In this Report and Order, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) extends the outage reporting requirements in Part 4 of our rules only to interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers. In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in this proceeding, we proposed to take much broader action. Specifically, we proposed to extend Part 4 of the rules to both interconnected VoIP services and broadband Internet services. In addition, we proposed to require reporting of both outages based on the complete loss of service and those where, while service is technically available, technical conditions (such as packet loss, latency and/or jitter) effectively prevent communication. In response to the record developed in this proceeding, we are prepared at this time to adopt reporting requirements only with respect to the complete loss of interconnected VoIP service. Collecting this data will help the Commission help ensure the Nation’s 9-1-1 systems are as reliable and resilient as possible and also allow us to monitor compliance with the statutory 9-1-1 obligations of interconnected VoIP service providers. At this time, we also defer action on possible performance degradation thresholds for measuring an outage of interconnected VoIP service and on all outages of broadband Internet service. 
2. Consumers are increasingly using interconnected VoIP services in lieu of traditional telephone service. Interconnected VoIP services allow a wireline or wireless user generally to receive calls from and make calls to the legacy public telephone network, including calls to 9-1-1. As of December 31, 2010, 31 percent of the more than 87 million residential telephone subscriptions in the United States were provided by interconnected VoIP providers —an increase of 21 percent (from 22.4 million to 27.1 million residential lines) in the last year. The public’s increased reliance on interconnected VoIP services is also reflected in 9-1-1 usage trends; we estimate that approximately 31 percent of residential wireline 9-1-1 calls are made using VoIP service.
3. The availability and resilience of our communications infrastructure, specifically 9-1-1, directly impacts public safety and the ability of our first responders to fulfill their critical mission. The most practical, effective way to maintain emergency preparedness and readiness is to work continuously to minimize the incidence of routine outages.
4. The FCC’s public safety mission is one of our core functions, and “promoting safety of life and property” is a foundational reason for the creation of the Commission. More recently, Congress affirmed the Commission’s efforts to accomplish this mission by codifying the requirement for interconnected VoIP providers to provide 9-1-1 services.
5. Consistent with our statutory mission, Presidential Directives and Executive Orders, and related implementing documents charge the Commission with ensuring the resilience and reliability of the Nation’s commercial and public safety communications infrastructure. National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-51 establishes the framework by which the government can continue to perform its most critical roles during times of emergency. Accordingly, the Commission has the responsibility to ensure continuous operations and reconstitution of critical communications and services. The Commission also plays an active role in Emergency Support Function 2 (ESF2), the communications branch of the National Response Framework, which guides the Nation’s conduct during an all-hazards response. Executive Order 12472 establishing the National Communications System, the functions of which include coordination of the planning for and provision of national security and emergency preparedness communications for the Federal government, also requires FCC participation.
6. We have cause to be concerned about the ability of interconnected VoIP subscribers to reach emergency services when they need them. Several recent, significant VoIP outages highlight our concern about the availability of 9-1-1 over VoIP service:
  • On May 25, 2010, according to press reports, a service outage involving the AT&T U-Verse platform involved a server failure that impacted U-Verse interconnected VoIP service in AT&T’s entire 22-state local phone service area serving approximately 1.15 million customers. The reports indicate that the outage lasted for several hours. It remains unclear how many subscribers were unable to reach 9-1-1 and for how long.
  • On March 22, 2011, a Comcast outage in 19 New Hampshire communities beginning around 3:30 p.m. left many Comcast customers in those communities unable to make any calls, including 9-1-1 calls. The problem lasted through the evening.
  • In June 2010, CenturyLink Internet experienced failures that affected approximately 30,000 customers on the Kitsap Peninsula (near Seattle, Washington), and in a separate outage, affected approximately 100,000 customers across parts of Texas. The Kitsap Peninsula outage lasted an hour according to company sources, but some customers said it lasted four times as long. The Texas outage lasted over eight hours. During the outages, consumers, businesses and government were unable to place 9-1-1 or other calls over VoIP
  • In March 2010, Comcast Internet and Digital Voice service was disrupted to customers in Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia. Comcast customers experienced severely degraded service for at least two hours. During the outage, local, state, and Federal government department and agency customers of Comcast in the affected areas were unable to make or receive telephone calls. Residential and business subscribers to Comcast Internet and Digital Voice services also were affected by the outage significantly impairing their ability to engage in 9-1-1 and other communications.
7. Commission staff gathered these facts from press accounts. None of these outages was reported directly to the Commission. The current outage reporting requirements are limited to traditional voice and paging communications services over wireline, wireless, cable, and satellite and do not apply to outages affecting interconnected VoIP services. Obtaining outage information for interconnected VoIP service, however, is the most effective method for the Commission to know whether and how well providers are meeting their statutory obligation to provide 9-1-1 and Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) service. Further, without detailed information about outages that occur, the Commission is unable to analyze communications vulnerabilities, especially as they pertain to 9-1-1 services, or to share aggregate information with industry to help prevent future outages.
8. With the objective of ensuring the availability of 9-1-1 service, this Report and Order:
  • extends the Commission’s mandatory outage reporting rules to facilities-based and non-facilities-based interconnected VoIP service providers;
    • applies the current Part 4 definition of an outage to outages of interconnected VoIP service, covering the complete loss of service and/or connectivity to customers;
    • requires that these providers submit electronically a notification to the Commission within
  • 240 minutes of discovering that they have experienced on any facilities that they own, operate, lease, or otherwise utilize, an outage of at least 30 minutes duration that potentially affects a 9-1-1 special facility, in which case they also shall notify, as soon as possible by telephone or other electronic means, any official who has been designated by the management of the affected 9-1-1 facility as the provider’s contact person for communications outages at that facility;
  • in this case, the provider shall convey to that person all available information that may be useful to the management of the affected facility in mitigating the effects of the outage on efforts to communicate with that facility; or
  • 24 hours of discovering that these providers have experienced on any facilities that they own, operate, lease, or otherwise utilize, an outage of at least 30 minutes duration that:
  • potentially affects at least 900,000 user minutes of interconnected VoIP service and results in complete loss of service; or
  • potentially affects any special offices and facilities;
    • requires that these providers submit electronically a Final Communications Outage Report to the Commission not later than thirty days after discovering the outage; and
  • clarifies that the Part 4 rules apply to voice services provided using new wireless spectrum bands.
9. The outage reporting threshold that we adopt today for interconnected VoIP service is technology-neutral in that it mirrors the existing standard applied to other services covered under Part 4 of the Commission’s rules. Furthermore, the reporting process adopted herein is quite similar to the current process. We recognize that requiring interconnected VoIP service providers to report even significant outages imposes a burden on them, but we have determined that the cost to these providers of implementing the rules adopted herein is justified by the overwhelming public benefit of a reliable 9-1-1 system and firmly grounded in the Commission’s statutory obligation to ensure that reliability 9-1-1 service is provided to users of interconnected VoIP service. Finally, we decide to defer the question of outage reporting requirements for broadband Internet service providers and determine that this issue deserves further study.

New Regulations

The authority citation for Part 4 is amended to read as follows:
Authority:  Sec. 5, 48 Stat. 1068, as amended; 47 U.S.C. 154, 155, 201, 251, 307, 316, 615a-1, 1302(a), and 1302(b).
1.  Section 4.3 is amended by amending paragraph (f) and adding paragraphs (h), resulting in original paragraph (h) now numbered as paragraph (i), to read as follows:
§ 4.3 Communications providers covered by the requirements of this part.
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(f) Wireless service providers include Commercial Mobile Radio Service communications providers that use cellular architecture and CMRS paging providers. See § 20.9 of this chapter for the definition of Commercial Mobile Radio Service. Also included are affiliated and non-affiliated entities that maintain or provide communications networks or services used by the provider in offering such communications.
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(h) Interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers are providers of interconnected VoIP service.  See § 9.3 of this chapter for the definition of interconnected VoIP service.  Such providers may be facilities-based or non-facilities-based. Also included are affiliated and non-affiliated entities that maintain or provide communications networks or services used by the provider in offering such communications.
                     
(i) Exclusion of equipment manufacturers or vendors. Excluded from the requirements of this Part 4 are those equipment manufacturers or vendors that do not maintain or provide communications networks or services used by communications providers in offering communications.

2.  Section 4.7 is amended by changing paragraph (e) as follows:
§ 4.7 Definitions of metrics used to determine the general outage-reporting threshold criteria. 
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  1. User minutes” are defined as:
(1) Assigned telephone number minutes (as defined in paragraph (c) of this section), for telephony, including non-mobile interconnected VoIP telephony, and for those paging networks in which each individual user is assigned a telephone number;
(2) The mathematical result of multiplying the duration of an outage, expressed in minutes, by the number of end users potentially affected by the outage, for all other forms of communications. For wireless service providers and interconnected VoIP service providers to mobile users, the number of potentially affected users should be determined by multiplying the simultaneous call capacity of the affected equipment by a concentration ratio of 8.
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3.  Section 4.9 is amended by adding paragraphs (g) to read as follows
§ 4.9 Outage reporting requirements – threshold criteria.
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(g) Interconnected VoIP Service Providers.All interconnected VoIP service providers shall submit electronically a Notification to the Commission:
  1. within 240 minutes of discovering that they have experienced on any facilities that they own, operate, lease, or otherwise utilize, an outage of at least 30 minutes duration that potentially affects a 9-1-1 special facility (as defined in (e) of § 4.5), in which case they also shall notify, as soon as possible by telephone or other electronic means, any official who has been designated by the management of the affected 9-1-1 facility as the provider’s contact person for communications outages at that facility, and the provider shall convey to that person all available information that may be useful to the management of the affected facility in mitigating the effects of the outage on efforts to communicate with that facility; or
  2. within 24 hours of discovering that they have experienced on any facilities that they own, operate, lease, or otherwise utilize, an outage of at least 30 minutes duration:

(a) That potentially affects at least 900,000 user minutes of interconnected VoIP service and results in complete loss of service; or
(b) That potentially affects any special offices and facilities (in accordance with paragraphs (a)-(d) of § 4.5).
Not later than thirty days after discovering the outage, the provider shall submit electronically a Final Communications Outage Report to the Commission.  The Notification and Final reports shall comply with all of the requirements of § 4.11.
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