FCC Releases FNPRM to Amend VoIP Numbering Policies

On August 6, 2021, the FCC released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) in the Robocall Mitigation proceedings that proposes and seeks comment on updates to the Commission’s rules governing direct access to numbers directly from the Numbering Administrator by providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) services, which was adopted at the August Open Meeting.  The FNPRM proposes and seeks comment on the following rules:

  • Application Requirements:  The FNPRM proposes several additional certification requirements as part of the direct access application process including: certifications regarding illegal robocalls and illegal spoofing; certifications acknowledging participation in the Robocall Mitigation Database and implementation of STIR/SHAKEN; certification of compliance with 911 service and Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (“CALEA”) requirements; acknowledgement of compliance with FCC rules aimed at eliminating access stimulation; proof of compliance with Form 477 and Form 499 filing requirements; and filing of technical documentation to demonstrate ability to provide interconnected VoIP services and facilities readiness.  The FCC seeks comment on these proposed requirements, the burdens of imposing these certification requirements, and/or alternative requirements the FCC could adopt that would still allow Commission staff to efficiently review direct access applications, while protecting the public interest.
  • Foreign Ownership Reporting:  The FNPRM proposes rules that would formalize the Commission’s process for removing applications with reportable foreign ownership from streamlined processing.  To identify foreign ownership, the FCC proposes requiring applicants to disclose personal information (including country of citizenship) of every person or entity that directly or indirectly owns at least 10 percent of the equity and/or voting interest, or a controlling interest, of the applicant, and requiring applicants to certify whether the applicant is, or is affiliated with, a foreign carrier.  For applicants with reportable foreign ownership (10% or greater direct or indirect ownership that is not a U.S. citizen or business entity), the FCC proposes to direct the International Bureau and Wireline Competition Bureau to remove the applications from the streamlined processing and instead refer the application to the appropriate Executive Branch agencies for their views on national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy concerns related to the application.  The FCC seeks comment on the proposed procedures for identifying and removing foreign ownership applications, as well as alternative procedures the FCC might adopt.
  • Post-Grant Ownership Changes:  The FNPRM proposes to clarify an additional requirement that VoIP providers that have received direct access to numbers must submit an update to the FCC and each applicable state within 30 days of any change to the ownership information submitted to the Commission.  The FCC seeks comment on the scope of information that should be required, and the procedures for submitting updates.
  • Compliance with State Law:  The FNPRM proposes to clarify an existing rule that interconnected VoIP providers holding an FCC numbering authorization must comply with state numbering requirements and other applicable requirements for businesses operating in the state.  The FCC seeks comment on the scope of state law with which VoIP providers must comply, and the minimal state contacts the VoIP provider must have to obtain numbering resources in a particular state.

 The FNPRM also proposes to clarify the authority of the Wireline Competition Bureau staff to determine when an application is ready to be placed on the Accepted-for-Filing Public Notice based on public interest considerations, as well as the authority to reject an application if any applicant has transmitted illegal robocalls, and to revoke authorizations for failure to comply with any applicable laws.  Finally, the FNPRM seeks comment on whether the FCC should expand the authorization process for direct access to numbers to one-way VoIP providers or other entities that use numbers.

Comments will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register; Reply comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

On Thursday, July 15, 2021, the FCC released a Draft Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Draft FNPRM”). In the final version of the FNPRM, the FCC made one minor change to paragraph 17, including a request for comment on whether the FCC should clarify that interconnected VoIP providers that receive direct access to numbers must use that access for interconnected VoIP services and what services they are using those numbers for.

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