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N O T I C E O F P R O P O S E D R U L E M A K I N G
Background: What is Part 68?
- Part 68 of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rules specifies the criteria
for connection of customer premises equipment (CPE) to the telephone network. CPE
is equipment, such as telephones, faxes, modems, operating on a customer's premises
to originate, route or terminate telecommunications over the Public Switched
Telephone Network (PSTN). The rules do the following:
- Establish technical criteria to ensure that CPE does not harm the telephone network
or telephone company personnel.
- Establish a registration process to verify that equipment connected to the telephone
network complies with the technical criteria.
- Require local telephone companies to allow CPE that is registered as Part 68
compliant to be connected to their networks.
- The FCC currently certifies approximately 3,000 CPE applications per year.
- Prior to the adoption of Part 68 rules, telephone companies generally only permitted
CPE supplied by themselves to connect to the telephone networks, giving the telephone
companies monopoly control of the CPE market.
- At the time the Commission established its Part 68 rules, few entities outside of the
local exchange carriers (LECs) had extensive knowledge about the interaction of CPE
and the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), and there were no private
standards-setting bodies or testing laboratories with expertise in CPE. Given this
market condition, the Commission established technical criteria to ensure that CPE
would not harm the telephone network. Telephone companies were required to permit
connection of compliant CPE to their networks. The Commission identified four types
of harm against which the network has to be protected.
- electrical hazards to telephone company personnel;
- damage to telephone company equipment;
- malfunction of telephone company billing equipment; and,
- degradation of service to persons other than the user of the terminal equipment, his
calling or called party.
- The Commission's Part 68 rules assure that registered CPE can be freely connected to
the telephone network, and has facilitated a vibrant, competitive market for CPE,
reducing prices and resulting in a proliferation of new equipment and capabilities
available to consumers.
- In the years since the Part 68 rules were adopted, the marketplaces for both CPE and
local exchange service have changed dramatically. Vibrant competition has emerged
in the CPE marketplace. Basic voice telephones (virtually the only CPE that was
available from the LECs at the time Part 68 rules were established) are now available
from an array of suppliers in a myriad of styles with varied options for extremely low
- Part 68 does not regulate the quality or performance of CPE except as these factors
relate to preventing telephone network harm. Quality and performance factors are
served by consumer protection laws and by the operation of the free market.
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
- In the Notice of Proposed rulemaking, the Commission is considering proposals to:
- Streamline most elements of the process by which technical criteria are established
for CPE that, once certified, LECs must allow to be connected to the telephone
- Make the certification processes more expeditious and more responsive to technical
innovation, while preserving the Commission's core goals of preventing harm to
the telephone network and ensuring access to the network for persons with
- Reduce governmental involvement in the setting of technical criteria and
registration of CPE.
- Promote the pace of new or competitive CPE deployment, and therefore increase
the choices available to consumers.
- The proposals include suggestions based on a series of industry fora the Commission
held in July 1999 to explore the extent to which regulations in Part 68, other than our
disability access rules, may no longer be necessary as federal rules.