[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 101 (Friday, May 24, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 31542-31548]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-12487]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

[GN Docket No. 13-5; DA 13-1016]


FCC Technology Transitions Policy Task Force Seeks Comment on 
Potential Trials

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Notice.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: In this document, the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force 
(Task Force) seeks comment on several potential trials relating to the 
ongoing transitions from copper to fiber, from wireline to wireless, 
and from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to Internet Protocol (IP). 
The goal of these trials would be to gather a factual record to help 
determine what policies are appropriate to promote investment and 
innovation while protecting consumers, promoting competition, and 
ensuring that emerging all-IP networks remain resilient and reliable. 
Towards this end, the public notice seeks comment on a set of potential 
trials, including targeted trials on Voice over Internet Protocol 
(VoIP) interconnection, Next Generation 911 (NG911) and the transition 
from wireline to wireless service in certain geographic areas. The 
public notice also invites parties in favor of conducting a trial in 
which one or more providers make a general switch to all-IP traffic in 
a geographic area to submit a detailed and comprehensive plan laying 
out how such a trial would work. It also seeks comment on whether other 
trials should be considered, such as additional numbering trials, 
trials to facilitate better access for persons with disabilities, and 
whether there are additional trials concerning the TDM to IP or copper 
to fiber transitions that should be evaluated. Finally, it seeks 
comment on how best to work with state, local and Tribal governments 
and how to ensure successful trials while also avoiding potential 
harmful impacts to consumers.

DATES: Comments are due on or before July 8, 2013. Reply comments are 
due on or before August 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by GN Docket No. 13-5 by 
any of the following methods: (1) The Commission's Electronic Comment 
Filing System (ECFS) or (2) by filing paper copies. See Electronic 
Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
     Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically 
using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
     Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must 
file an original and one copy of each filing. If more than one docket 
or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers 
must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or 
rulemaking number.
     Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by 
commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. 
Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission's 
Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
     All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings 
for the Commission's Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 
445 12th St. SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours 
are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together 
with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be disposed of 
before entering the building.
     Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service 
Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton 
Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
     U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority 
mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554.
     People with Disabilities: To request materials in 
accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, 
electronic files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or 
call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 
(voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).
    In addition, one copy of each pleading must be sent to the 
Commission's duplicating contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., 445 
12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, www.bcpiweb.com; 
phone: (202) 488-5300 fax: (202) 488-5563.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick Halley, Acting Deputy 
Director, Technology Transitions Policy Task Force, at 202-418-7550, or 
by email at Patrick.Halley@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Task Force proposes to move forward with 
real-world trials to obtain data that will be helpful to the 
Commission. The goal

[[Page 31543]]

of any trials would be to gather a factual record to help determine 
what policies are appropriate to promote investment and innovation 
while protecting consumers, promoting competition, and ensuring that 
emerging all-IP networks remain resilient. We seek comment on several 
potential trials relating to the ongoing transitions from copper to 
fiber, from wireline to wireless, and from time-division multiplexing 
(TDM) to IP. Consistent with their policy development and coordination 
functions, today's action is taken by the Chiefs of the Consumer & 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Public Safety and Homeland Security 
Bureau, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and Wireline Competition 
Bureau, as well as the Commission's General Counsel, all of whom were 
named by Chairman Genachowski to serve as members of the Task Force.
    The Commission has a long history of using trials and pilot 
programs to help answer questions regarding technical concerns and to 
gather data and develop appropriate policy recommendations. Indeed, the 
Commission recently unanimously authorized a 6-month trial to examine 
providing interconnected VoIP providers direct access to telephone 
numbers. Stakeholders have also requested that the Commission initiate 
trials to explore technology transition issues.
    In the spirit of these prior initiatives, we seek comment on a set 
of potential trials to assist the Commission in ensuring that policy 
decisions related to ongoing technology transitions are grounded in 
sound data.
    First, as we move from TDM to all-IP networks, providers are 
migrating to VoIP interconnection. VoIP interconnection should be more 
efficient and has the potential to unleash new, innovative services and 
features. We seek comment on a VoIP interconnection trial that would 
gather data to determine whether there are technical issues that need 
to be addressed and gather information relevant to the appropriate 
policy framework.
    Second, as we transition away from TDM, the nation's emergency 
calling (911) system must also migrate to NG911. NG911 refers to an 
initiative aimed at enabling the public to obtain emergency assistance 
by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional 
voice-centric devices. The NG911 proceeding examines how to update the 
911 system to improve public emergency communications services and 
allow them to take advantage of the enhanced capabilities of IP-based 
devices and networks by enabling 911 PSAPs to receive texts, photos, 
videos, and data. Although there is broad consensus regarding the 
benefits and potential of NG911, when these new capabilities will be 
introduced is less certain. We seek comment on a trial that will assist 
the Commission, state, local and Tribal governments, and PSAPs in a few 
geographic areas to answer important technical and policy questions to 
accelerate the transition. Beyond NG911, we also seek comment on how a 
trial could elicit data on the impact of network resiliency and public 
safety more broadly as consumer migrate to wireless and IP-based 
services that are dependent on commercial power.
    Third, at least one provider has proposed serving consumers with 
wireless service in place of wireline service in certain geographic 
areas. We seek comment on a trial that would analyze the impact of 
doing so and, in particular, focus on the consumer experience and 
ensure that consumers have the ability to move back to a wireline 
product during the trial.
    Some parties have advocated a trial in which one or more providers 
make a general switch to all-IP traffic in a geographic area, 
potentially transitioning from wireline to wireless technology in part 
of the area, but also making a number of other simultaneous 
transitions. We have previously sought comment on this general 
approach. We seek further comment on this idea in the context of the 
three potential trials discussed above, including whether the trials 
discussed herein should be conducted in a single geographic area, if 
there is information to be gained from a general geographic trial that 
would not be gathered from the more targeted trials discussed here, and 
the costs and benefits of the alternative approaches. We invite parties 
in favor of conducting a broader geographic trial to submit a more 
detailed and comprehensive plan laying out how such a trial would work.
    We also seek comment on whether there are other trials we should 
consider, such as additional numbering trials, trials to facilitate 
better access for persons with disabilities, and whether there are 
additional trials concerning the TDM to IP or copper to fiber 
transitions that we should evaluate. We also seek comment on the 
general structure and design of any trial, and legal and administrative 
issues. We recognize the important role that states and Tribes continue 
to play in these ongoing technology transitions and therefore seek 
comment on how to best work with state and local entities in selecting 
and implementing potential trials and ideas as to other ways that we 
can effectively coordinate with state and local agencies in this area.
    We are mindful of the fact that, while participation in any trial 
would be voluntary for providers, all consumers in trial regions would 
likely be affected, either directly or indirectly. As consumer 
protection is a core principle guiding the work of the Task Force, 
comments in support of any trial proposal should address how best to 
ensure a successful trial while also avoiding potential harmful impacts 
to consumers.
    We also seek comment on ways to obtain useful data in addition to 
trials. For instance, the Commission is currently collecting data 
regarding special access through a mandatory data request. Are there 
other data collections that the Commission should undertake to obtain 
data necessary to guide sound policymaking regarding the ongoing 
technological transitions?

I. Technology Trials

A. VoIP Interconnection

    Several commenters have urged the Commission to initiate a trial 
for VoIP interconnection to ensure that technical and process issues 
are understood and resolved. We seek comment on whether to conduct such 
a trial so that the Commission can gather real-world data on the need 
and scope for technical or industry standards for the exchange of voice 
traffic in Internet protocol formats. We note that interconnection for 
voice (and possibly other real-time services) using Internet protocols 
at the application layer is distinct from and raises different 
technical and administration issues than general peering and 
interconnection for layer-3 IP data services, and we emphasize that the 
trial we propose today does not reach layer-3 peering issues.
    Background. The Commission has highlighted the tremendous benefits, 
efficiencies, and increased reliability and redundancy that 
interconnecting using Internet protocols has over the traditional TDM 
framework. VoIP interconnection also unleashes the potential for new 
services and features for consumers such as high definition (HD) audio, 
additional video and text media formats, and secured caller ID. In the 
USF/ICC Transformation Order, the Commission stated that it 
``expect[ed] all carriers to negotiate in good faith in response to 
requests for IP-to-IP interconnection for the exchange of voice 
traffic.'' See USC/ICC Transformation Order, FCC 11-161, published at 
76 FR 78384, 76 FR 76623, 77 FR 26987, December 8, 2011, December 16, 
2011, May 8, 2012. The

[[Page 31544]]

Commission also explained that ``[t]he duty to negotiate in good faith 
has been a longstanding element of interconnection requirements under 
the Communications Act and does not depend upon the network technology 
underlying the interconnection, whether TDM, IP, or otherwise.'' In the 
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking accompanying the USF/ICC 
Transformation Order, the Commission sought comment on all aspects of 
VoIP interconnection, from different legal frameworks, to various 
policy proposals and questions on implementation of each issue. 
Although commenters agreed that future interconnection for voice 
traffic would occur using Internet protocols, commenters disagreed 
about the appropriate policy framework for VoIP interconnection, and 
whether there was a need for technical and industry standards.
    More recently, in 2012, the FCC's Technological Advisory Council 
(TAC) examined the issue of VoIP interconnection and concluded that, 
although ``VoIP Interconnect[ion] is happening all over the world, at a 
rapid rate,'' implementation in the United States has been ``delayed'' 
aside from the efforts of some cable companies and competitive local 
exchange carriers (CLECs). Finally, as noted above, the Commission 
recently adopted an Order and NPRM regarding providing interconnected 
VoIP providers direct access to numbers. Among other things, that item 
sought comment on the status of VoIP interconnection arrangements in 
the United States. We look forward to receiving updated information as 
we evaluate the framework for these potential trials.
    Discussion. We seek comment on conducting a trial in a few 
geographic markets, including at least one major metropolitan area and 
one rural area. We seek comment on the number of geographic markets to 
be included in the trial, the scope of a geographic area, and on the 
selection criteria. We seek comment on how best to encourage 
participation in such a trial and the means of identifying appropriate 
geographic areas in these trials.
    Technical Issues. We seek comment on how to structure a trial to 
help identify whether industry standards or standards profiles are 
needed in the areas of signaling, media formats (codecs), non-voice 
media such as text and video, fault location, and fail-over and 
quality-of-service measurements. A trial may also identify multiple 
lower-layer mechanisms for exchanging voice traffic, such as common 
points of presence or Internet exchange points, Internet transport, and 
dedicated transport links. We seek comment on how to structure any 
trial to help examine these issues.
    Logistical Issues. In moving from TDM to VoIP interconnection, 
issues such as the number and physical points of interconnection, 
pricing, transit, numbering and number portability, service level 
agreements, quality of service, and other terms and conditions will 
need to be resolved. For example, the TAC identified several issues 
that need to be resolved to reach VoIP interconnection agreements, 
including routing, addressing, security, signaling, media, quality, 
accounting/charging, and testing. A trial may shed light on which 
issues are more difficult to resolve and which issues parties are able 
to negotiate more easily. In addition, parties will need to resolve 
application of any legacy rules to the VoIP interconnection agreement. 
For example, parties would need to resolve whether and how intercarrier 
compensation occurs with VoIP interconnection, or whether parties will 
exchange traffic under a bill-and-keep methodology. We seek comment on 
how best to structure any trial to provide the Commission with data to 
evaluate which policies may be appropriate.
    Process. We are considering allowing providers that participate in 
a trial to negotiate in good faith without a backstop of regulations or 
specific parameters and provide updates, reports, and data to the 
Commission regarding any technical issues as well as any other issues 
of dispute. We also seek comment on whether we should, as some 
commenters have proposed, conduct another trial where parties agree to 
negotiate pursuant to the existing section 251/252 framework or a 
similar process (including one that does not require any party to 
concede that sections 251/252 apply as a legal matter). Given the 
positions in the record it is unclear whether any incumbent LECs would 
voluntarily agree to a trial using the section 251/252 framework. AT&T 
not only opposes NTCA's proposal to regulate VoIP interconnection under 
sections 251 and 252 as ``needless and harmful,'' but also argues that 
the Commission lacks Title II authority to regulate interconnection 
between IP-based service providers. See AT&T Jan. 28, 2013 Comments, GN 
Docket No. 12-353, at 11; AT&T Feb. 25, 2013 Reply Comments, GN Docket 
No. 12-353, at 32-33. CenturyLink contends that the requirements of 
section 251 were meant to address the ``difficulties of competitors in 
providing voice telephony service in a marketplace where incumbent LECs 
were monopolists with ubiquitous facilities and 100 percent market 
share. Because fewer than 40% of households currently purchase voice 
services from ILECs, this concern no longer exists, and section 251 
should therefore not be used to mandate IP-to-IP interconnection.'' See 
CenturyLink Feb. 25, 2013 Reply Comments, GN Docket No. 12-353, at 18; 
see also Verizon Feb. 25, 2013 Reply Comments, GN Docket No. 12-353, at 
11-12 (arguing that the Commission does not have the authority to 
require interconnection in any particular format, including IP, under 
section 251 of the Act). But see NECA et al. Feb. 25, 2013 Reply, GN 
Docket No. 12-353, at 3 (arguing that IP interconnection arrangements 
between carriers for the exchange of traffic is subject to sections 251 
and 252, regardless of the technologies employed).
    We seek comment on these approaches. Should we allow providers to 
negotiate and, if they cannot resolve disputes, then no agreement is 
reached? Or, should there be a process for arbitrating or mediating 
disputes? If so, should the state be responsible for arbitrating the 
agreements, or should the Commission or an independent entity arbitrate 
or mediate any disputes? Should any VoIP interconnection agreements 
reached during the trial be the basis for future agreements or could 
doing so impact the negotiations during the trial? If we undertake a 
trial under the section 251/252 framework, should the existing rules be 
applied or should they be modified?
    Data. We propose that providers participating in a VoIP 
interconnection trial submit data regarding the length of time it took 
to reach an agreement, the issues in dispute, a copy of any agreements 
that are reached, as well as reports on the implementation of such 
agreements, such as call quality and reliability metrics, and a 
description of any technical problems that were encountered. We seek 
comment on the scope and frequency of these reporting requirements.

B. Public Safety--NG911

    Background. Public safety is a paramount value that must to be 
protected as technologies transition. The transition of the current 
enhanced 911 (E911) system to IP-based technologies has already begun, 
with widely-accepted industry standards and first deployments of NG911. 
NG911 promises to use widely available IP technologies to create 911 
services that are more resilient and cost-effective, offer additional 
capabilities such as text, data and video, and better meet the needs of 
people with disabilities. With the technology transition, we have the

[[Page 31545]]

opportunity to better coordinate the provision of emergency services 
with the emergence of IP-based networks. Such coordination may avoid 
deploying costly legacy network translation components, and hasten the 
availability of new features and functionality.
    The NG911 architecture differs significantly from the legacy 911 
TDM model. For example, the number and nature of hand-off points for 
911 calls to the public safety emergency services IP network (ESInet) 
differs from the current approach of routing all calls through a 
selective router. Similarly, with nomadic, mobile, and over-the-top 
VoIP applications, conveying accurate caller location data to the 911 
call center, i.e., the PSAP, changes from a number-based lookup 
mechanism to new protocols.
    Scope. Given that reliable 911 service is critical to public 
safety, we seek comment on a possible trial that would deploy an ``all-
IP'' NG911 service on an accelerated basis in a number of geographic 
areas where public safety authorities are ready to deploy NG911 for one 
or more PSAPs. We seek comment on using trials that build on the 
earlier and more limited NG911 proof-of-concept effort that was 
conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2008. With an 
updated NG911 trial, we would hope to gather both process and technical 
knowledge, addressing such questions as: Can VoIP and other IP-based 
networks readily interconnect with ESInets? Can advanced real-time 
services, such as video and text, reach ESInets? In IP-based networks, 
how can subscriber location data be maintained and conveyed to the 
ESInet? How long does it take transition from a TDM-based to an IP-
based architecture? Where and how are 911 calls to be handed off to the 
ESInet, whether by ILECs or other providers, such as CMRS, 
interconnected VoIP, interconnected text and telematics services? Are 
there state or Commission rules that accelerate or delay the conversion 
from E911 to NG911? Are there steps that regulators can take to speed 
the transition to NG911 and/or minimize the expense? We seek comment on 
the technical and process issues that should be covered by a trial and 
on how best to structure a trial to gather data on these issues.
    Process. We are considering a NG911 trial that would take place in 
areas where public safety authorities are transitioning or have taken 
initial steps to prepare for transition of their legacy systems to 
NG911 and where providers, including landline, wireless, and 
interconnected VoIP, are able to deliver VoIP-based 9-1-1 calls (and 
potentially other IP-based traffic) to an ESInet, either ``natively'' 
or, if necessary, initially through legacy network gateways (LNGs). We 
seek comment on the process for identifying such areas. Trial 
participants would also make caller location available through NG911 
mechanisms, including the Location Information Server (LIS). We seek 
comment on candidate PSAPs or regions, the selection of participating 
carriers, and whether trials should take place in areas where calls are 
delivered via VoIP or also via legacy network gateways. We intend to 
coordinate with the National 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office 
and seek comment on the best ways to coordinate with state, local, and 
Tribal authorities during such trials.
    Any trial of this kind should provide data on both the challenges 
of transitioning from E911 to NG911 and the operational performance 
characteristics of NG911 call handling. Thus, we propose that 
participants in the trial document the design and conversion process, 
including effort and time required, and gather data on call handling 
performance, interoperability issues, location accuracy, and any system 
failures related to call or location delivery. We seek comment on how 
best to address these issues and whether there are other aspects that 
should be documented or evaluated.
    Finally, we also seek comment on the impact of consumer migration 
to wireless and IP-based services that are dependent on commercial 
power and network resiliency and public safety services generally. 
Participants in the Commission's recent field hearings following 
Superstorm Sandy consistently raised this issue and the need to 
establish adequate back up power solutions. How should this issue be 
integrated into the Commission's technology trials and other data 
gathering efforts?

C. Wireline to Wireless

    We seek comment on conducting trials to assess the impact on 
residential and business customers when they are transitioned from 
wireline voice and broadband products to wireless alternatives. We 
propose to compare wireline and wireless offerings across a number of 
dimensions, including: quality and terms of service, price, product 
functionalities, E-911 performance, accessibility options, reliability, 
and potential carrier cost savings in the delivery of voice and data 
services to higher cost areas. While there is potential for some 
service quality degradation if not properly transitioned, the move to 
wireless-only networks also could enable improved voice quality and 
reliability and broadband investment in areas not likely to be served 
in the near future with wireline technology, or at higher speeds than 
existing wireline offerings, among other potential benefits. We want to 
analyze the consumer experience, including challenges and benefits for 
consumers, of a wireless-only option as part of a trial. In this 
section we seek comment on how to structure any such trials.
    Background. As part of the technology transition, some incumbent 
LECs are considering replacing existing customer voice and broadband 
services delivered over legacy circuit switched wireline networks with 
similar product offerings delivered over a wireless IP network. For 
example, Verizon is currently replacing copper based services damaged 
by Hurricane Sandy on Fire Island, New York with wireless-only voice 
and data products. We understand that Verizon is coordinating with 
applicable state authorities on the Fire Island transition. We hope to 
learn from these ongoing efforts in addition to the results of this 
proposed trial which would focus more systematically on the consumer 
experience during such a transition. For its part, AT&T has indicated 
that it intends to seek authority to serve millions of current wireline 
customers, mostly in rural areas, with a wireless-only product. See 
AT&T Wire Center Trials Petition at 9 (explaining that AT&T will offer 
wireless communications alternatives to customers living in 
particularly high-cost areas, including its Mobile Premises Services, 
which allows customers to make calls using ordinary wireline handsets 
connected to wireless base stations). We therefore seek comment on 
conducting a trial that would evaluate the customer experience when 
customers are transitioned from wireline to wireless voice and 
broadband services. In particular, we are interested in observing 
whether consumers/businesses lose any capabilities previously available 
to them or what steps consumers/businesses must take to keep the 
functionality of certain services. Such capabilities could include, 
among other things, access to 911 and emergency services, the ability 
to send and receive a fax, credit card transactions for small 
businesses, alarm/security systems, and the ability for individuals 
with disabilities to continue to use the devices they use on a regular 
basis. We are also interested in learning about the potential benefits 
for consumers/businesses of the transition

[[Page 31546]]

to wireless, including any improvement in voice quality in areas with 
degraded wireline networks, access to broadband for the first time in 
areas with no wireline broadband service, and potential improvements in 
network reliability.
    Scope. We are considering a trial in which participating LECs would 
make available to consumers, in cooperation with state and Tribal 
governments, either through their own facilities or in partnership with 
a wireless provider, a home wireless voice product or data product or 
both, intended as a replacement for a customer's existing home voice 
and broadband data services. We propose to test these new service 
offerings in: (1) at least one geographic area within each 
participating LEC's service territory; and (2) at least one geographic 
area outside of each participating LEC's wireline service territory. We 
propose that all product offerings in any trial would be the same 
within each participating LEC's trial areas and that the 
characteristics of the offers would be made public prior to the trial. 
We seek comment on these proposals.
    We seek comment on whether customers that participate in such a 
trial should have the option of wireline or wireless service during the 
trial or whether the LEC should be able to require all customers in the 
LEC service territory trial area to move to a wireless-only product. We 
propose that customers would be informed of when they will be allowed 
to switch back to their previous wireline products and that they may do 
so at no charge for some pre-established period, including after the 
trial period end date. Furthermore, we seek comment on whether LECs 
participating in the trial should disclose any differences between a 
customer's existing wireline and new wireless service prior to the 
customer switching. These differences may include price, data usage 
allowances, terms of service, 911 capabilities (including location 
accuracy), accessibility, calling features, incompatibilities with fax 
machines or other customer premises equipment, or any other 
differences. We seek comment on whether such a trial would result in 
obtaining useful information and how long it should last.
    In its petition, AT&T proposes that technology and policy trials be 
conducted at the wire center level. The record reflected a general 
support that this as an appropriate level of geography. Therefore we 
are considering a trial at the wire center level and seek comment on 
whether wire centers are appropriately sized for this specific trial or 
whether an alternative unit would be more appropriate. We also seek 
comment on what factors should be used to select trial markets.
    Data. We propose that LECs participating in such a trial would be 
required to collect and submit a variety of data, including a customer 
satisfaction survey, to the Commission for analysis. We seek comment on 
this proposal as well as any other issues relating to data collection. 
Should the Commission, and/or state or Tribal entities, collect data 
regarding customer churn, subscriber counts, disconnects, gross 
additions, average revenue per user (ARPU), counts of customers 
switching back to wireline service, customer service complaints, 
service visits and actual customer data speeds, by month and separately 
for each geographic area and product? Are there other indicia related 
to voice and broadband deployment and adoption, competition, and 
investment that the Commission should track during the trial period?
    We seek comment on whether LECs participating in a trial should 
collect network reliability measures for both their wireline and 
wireless product offerings in the trial areas. We seek comment on 
whether, in addition to the network reliability measures that the 
Commission currently collects for wireline services, participating 
carriers should submit such information on network reliability for all 
product offerings in the relevant trial area during the trial period. 
In addition to these metrics, we seek comment on whether providers 
should submit the number of dropped and blocked wireless calls and data 
sessions for participating customers. Furthermore, we propose that 
participants describe how they address service continuity issues in the 
event of a power outage through the use of battery backup and other 
measures. Should we collect alternative or additional network 
reliability measures? If so, what should these measures be? We also 
seek comment on the public safety and accessibility issues raised by 
these trials.

D. Geographic All-IP Trials

    AT&T and others have proposed an ``all-IP'' wire center trial. We 
have already sought comment on this general proposal, and an extensive 
record has been compiled addressing it. Each of the trials discussed 
above--VoIP interconnection, NG911, and wireline to wireless--address 
aspects of AT&T's proposal. Are there other aspects of moving from TDM 
to IP that a geographic trial of the kind AT&T has proposed would 
elicit helpful data--such as the ability to transition special-purpose 
TDM services?
    We invite carriers interested in pursuing such a trial to submit a 
more detailed, comprehensive plan of how such a trial would work, 
including the design of the trial, the data that would be collected, 
the rules that would need to be waived and the role of the states and 
Tribes. In presenting a detailed roadmap for how such a trial would 
work, carriers, at a minimum, should list: (1) All of the services 
currently provided by the carrier in a designated wire center that the 
carrier would propose to phase out; (2) estimates of current demand for 
those services; and (3) what the replacement for those services would 
be, including current prices and terms and conditions under which the 
replacement services are offered.

II. Additional Trials

    Numbering and related databases. We seek comment on a potential 
additional trial on numbering issues and related databases. The 
Commission recently authorized a limited 6-month trial to provide 
interconnected VoIP providers direct access to numbers, but that trial 
will not specifically examine changes in the structure of current 
numbering databases. We note that the technology transition offers an 
opportunity to take a fresh look at the assignment of numbers and the 
features, capabilities, and security of numbering-related databases, 
and the TAC recently made related recommendations on these issues. For 
example, there have been industry proposals for a unified, IP-
accessible database that provides secure access to number-related 
information. Could a technology trial serve as a means to test new 
technical proposals for assigning telephone numbers, e.g., individually 
instead of in blocks of 1,000? What protocols and procedures are most 
effective to assign and port numbers in an all-IP environment? Should 
there be a trial database that provides access to number-related 
information such as points of termination or caller-ID information? If 
so, how would we ensure that the information in the trial database(s) 
is kept consistent with existing databases such as the Local Exchange 
Routing Guide (LERG) and the caller-ID name (CNAM) databases? Should 
such databases support services other than voice, such as real-time 
video and text? Finally, should any such trial be conducted in 
conjunction with a VoIP interconnection trial or separately?
    Improving Access for People with Disabilities. Ensuring that people 
with disabilities continue to have access to

[[Page 31547]]

evolving technologies is another core value of the Act. We seek comment 
on what trials we should conduct to assess the potential for improving 
access for people with disabilities during this transitional period. We 
note that Ofcom has conducted a study into the effectiveness of 
automated speech-to-text as an assistive tool for individuals who are 
deaf and hard-of-hearing in VoIP communications. Should the FCC conduct 
a trial on the effectiveness of new speech-to-text technologies in the 
telecommunications relay service (TRS) context? Could the Commission 
expand on the existing Ofcom study by evaluating the role of automated 
speech-to-text technologies in video-over-IP communications, including 
the extent to which the use of video could be used to enhance 
communication with such automated services if used for Internet 
Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS)? Are there other trials 
that the Commission might conduct to investigate methods of improving 
access for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or 
who have a speech disability?
    Other Possible Trials. We seek comment on whether we should have 
any trials that focus more specifically on the copper-to-fiber 
transition. Should we consider a trial on issues relating to copper 
retirement? For example, should we consider a trial where the incumbent 
LEC sells some or all copper loops to a competitive LEC? Support for 
such proposition has been mixed, and it is unclear if it is feasible 
given that fiber and copper may be intertwined in the access plant. 
Also, any such approach raises questions about the pricing of such 
copper and access to the ILEC's shared facilities and space. We seek 
comment on how we would address these issues in a trial. We generally 
seek comment on these issues.
    Are there other trials we should conduct that focus on consumer 
protection and universal service? Should we have a trial that focuses 
on how to improve access to communications services for low-income 
Americans? For example, as the transition from wireline to wireless 
rapidly progresses, an increasing number of Lifeline participants are 
selecting wireless as their preferred method of communication. Given 
these demographic shifts, and building off of the success of the 2012 
Lifeline and Link Up Reform Order, should the Commission conduct trials 
to collect data on ways to further improve Lifeline program? Is a trial 
the right setting for the Commission to explore ways to test the 
appropriate monthly support amount for Lifeline voice service to better 
gauge the appropriate price point both for consumers and carriers who 
provide Lifeline services? Are there other universal service issues 
that could be tested in a trial?
    We also seek comment on whether we should have any trials that 
focus specifically on the delivery of services to consumers and 
communities on Tribal lands. We generally seek comment on any potential 
issues associated with trials taking place on the lands of American 
Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Villages, or on Hawaiian Home Lands.

III. Role of State and Tribal Governments

    We seek comment on the role of states and Tribal governments. We 
note that NARUC has created a Presidential Task Force on Federalism and 
Telecommunications to focus on many of these same issues related to 
technology transitions, and we are committed to coordinating as 
effectively as possible with this and other state efforts. We also note 
that the Commission's Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC) has 
offered to play a role in working with states and localities on issues 
related to technology transitions. How should states and Tribal 
governments be involved in the trials? Should the NARUC Task Force, the 
IAC, or any other Commission advisory committees, be involved in the 
selection of applications or areas? Does it depend on the nature of the 
trial? Should states or Tribal governments be involved in selecting 
geographic areas? Should non-governmental consumer-focused 
organizations be involved in the trial selection process or the 
implementation and monitoring of trials?
    We generally seek comment on how to work cooperatively with the 
states and Tribal governments with respect to each trial and the nature 
of their involvement, including how to address issues where the state 
commission lacks jurisdiction over IP-based or wireless services. We 
also seek comment on providing states and Tribal governments with 
access to data collected during the trial, and what role states and 
Tribal governments should have in analyzing the data and providing 
recommendations to the Commission.

IV. General Trial Design and Structure

    We seek comment on the process of establishing, structuring, and 
gathering useful data from these possible trials. How should the 
Commission structure the trials to address concerns about incumbent 
LECs operating on ``best behavior'' during the trials? We seek comment 
on the process for selecting the geographic areas for the trials. We 
seek comment on the timing and duration of each trial. Should the 
timing differ based on the type of trial? How should each trial wind 
down, and what would be grounds for terminating a trial altogether 
before its anticipated completion date?
    We seek comment on how to acquire the most useful data from these 
trials. What sort of reporting should we require from participants and 
what sort of automated or non-automated data collection would be useful 
in each trial? Should the Commission require trial participants to 
collect the same data in certain non-trial areas to allow comparison 
with a control sample? To what extent should the Commission gather 
quantitative data and when is qualitative data preferable? We seek 
comment on the usability of the trial data. What sort of protections 
should apply to potentially sensitive data? Should information be 
confidential, filed pursuant to protective orders, or generally open to 
the public? Should we, as the Commission required in the VoIP Direct 
Access Order, issue a report with our findings after each trial 
concludes?

V. Legal Issues

    We seek comment on whether any Commission rules or statutory 
provisions are implicated by the proposed trials. For example, entities 
participating in the wireline to wireless trial would need to file 
section 214 discontinuances. Section 214(a) of the Act requires common 
carriers to obtain Commission authorization before discontinuing, 
reducing, or impairing service to a community. See 47 U.S.C. 214(a). 
Under Part 63 of its rules, the Commission has adopted specific 
requirements that clarify this duty and ensure that customers of 
domestic telecommunications services receive adequate notice of a 
carrier's discontinuance plans and have an opportunity to inform the 
Commission of any resultant hardships. See 47 CFR 63.60 et seq. In 
particular, before discontinuing service, a telecommunications carrier 
generally must notify all affected customers of its proposed 
discontinuances. Notice to customers must include the name and address 
of the carrier, the date of the planned service discontinuance, the 
geographic areas where service will be discontinued, and a brief 
description of the type of service affected. See 47 CFR 63.71(a). These 
requirements are intended to inform consumers about when their service 
may be discontinued and to provide them with an

[[Page 31548]]

opportunity to object to any proposed discontinuances. Should we modify 
the process for the trials? Would the Commission need to waive or 
forbear from any rules before conducting a trial? We generally seek 
comment on these issues as well as any issues regarding the 
Commission's legal authority to conduct these voluntary trials.
    Pursuant to sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission's rules, 47 
CFR 1.415, 1.419, interested parties may file comments and reply 
comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of this 
document. All comments are to reference GN Docket No. 13-5 and may be 
filed using: (1) The Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System 
(ECFS) or (2) by filing paper copies. See Electronic Filing of 
Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (1998).
    Filings and comments are also available for public inspection and 
copying during regular business hours at the FCC Reference Information 
Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 
20554. They may also be purchased from the Commission's duplicating 
contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., Portals II, 445 12th Street 
SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone: (202) 488-5300, 
fax: (202) 488-5563, or via email www.bcpiweb.com.
    This matter shall be treated as a ``permit-but-disclose'' 
proceeding in accordance with the Commission's ex parte rules. Persons 
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda 
summarizing the presentations must contain summaries of the substance 
of the presentation and not merely a listing of the subjects discussed. 
More than a one or two sentence description of the views and arguments 
presented generally is required. Other rules pertaining to oral and 
written ex parte presentations in permit-but-disclose proceedings are 
set forth in section 1.1206(b) of the Commission's rules.

Federal Communications Commission.
Sean Lev,
General Counsel.
[FR Doc. 2013-12487 Filed 5-23-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P