The FCC released a Letter Order and Protective Order concerning a roaming complaint proceeding between Verizon and NTCH (EB Docket No. 14-212).  Most notably, this Letter Order denies a challenge filed by NTCH, and confirms that Verizon’s designation of certain roaming information as being “highly confidential” is appropriate. Verizon originally requested that certain roaming information submitted in its Response to Interrogatories be deemed “highly confidential,” which, in part, means that only Outside Counsel and Outside Consultants to the Reviewing Party (along with FCC staff and consultants) may review such material.  This information includes:

  • information about the rates and rate structure for Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (“LRA” program);
  • information about the rates, terms, and conditions in an agreements with a Verizon reseller; and
  • information about roaming rates, traffic volume, and pricing terms and conditions with dozens of other carriers.

NTCH objected to this request, arguing that if access to that was not made available to its internal personnel with expertise in this area, NTCH will not be able to fully prosecute its complaint by comparing the roaming rates offered by Verizon to NTCH to rates offered to other parties.  NTCH also argued that the rate information in this case does not typically receive the enhanced protection afforded to “highly confidential” material.

Verizon argues that its business would be impaired by the disclosure of its roaming and resale rate information to NTCH , and that NTCH would be given a significant competitive advantage by gaining access to this information. In the Letter Order, the Commission agreed with Verizon based on the facts:

  • Verizon competes for roaming and wholesale business in all of the markets where NTCH currently operates;
  • NTCH employees “cannot simply ‘forget’ Verizon’s roaming and resale rate information”;
  • the rate and traffic volume information designated by Verizon could give NTCH a competitive advantage by giving it “information that could potentially assist it in pricing its resale and/or roaming rates to undercut Verizon’s in markets where NTCH and Verizon compete for wholesale and/or roaming business.”

The Commission further notes that if NTCH requires expertise beyond that of its Outside Counsel, the Protective Order permits the use of an “Outside Consultant”.

In addition to the above, the Letter Order adopts a Protective Order consented to by the Parties and also a 10-day extension for NTCH to file discovery requests.  Please contact us if you have any questions.