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9/14/1999 Public Notice: Comment Deadline Extended

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Federal Communications Commission
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

July 20, 1999

Emily Hoffnar 202/418-0253

FCC Releases Item Inquiring Into Flat-Rated Long-Distance Fees

The Commission today released an item, adopted by a 4-1 vote on July 8, 1999, that inquires into the effect of certain flat charges on consumers who make few, or no, interstate long-distance calls. The inquiry addresses a variety of flat-rated charges that appear on consumers' bills, such as charges to recover the presubscribed interexchange carrier charges (PICCs) that the long-distance carriers pay some local phone companies, long distance carriers' monthly minimum-usage charges, and charges to recover Universal Service Fund (USF) contributions. The Commission invites comment on, among other things:
  • whether such charges have resulted from a competitive market dynamic;

  • whether the Commission should rely on competition, such as the availability of dial-around services or the entry of Bell Operating Companies (BOCs) into long-distance service, to address the needs of low-volume customers;

  • whether the Commission, states, and consumer groups should educate consumers regarding choices they can exercise in the marketplace, and whether such education might reduce the need for regulation;

  • whether the impact of these flat charges warrants regulatory action, and the scope, method, and jurisdiction for such action, if it proves necessary;

  • whether the Commission can take steps that do not require direct regulation of long-distance companies, but that would give the Commission greater control over the way long-distance companies pass access charges and universal service assessments on to consumers;

  • whether the Commission should require local telephone companies to recover their universal service contributions from their own end users, at the same percentage rate at which they pay the contribution;

  • whether a correlation exists between income and long-distance telephone usage, and whether the concept of universal service should include some amount of affordable interstate interexchange service for low-volume users, or whether other policies, such as rate integration, adequately address the affordability of long-distance service;

  • whether the Commission should require long-distance carriers:
    • to maintain rate plans that do not include a minimum monthly charge;
    • to pass through a specific portion of interstate, switched access charge reductions to a basic rate plan;
    • to pass through a PICC calculated as a percentage of the bill, capped at a certain dollar level;

  • whether the Commission's Lifeline program is not reaching certain groups of consumers, and whether the Commission should create a similar program for low-volume residential consumers;

  • whether the Commission should consider the impact of end user charges resulting from other reforms, such as number portability; and

  • whether the Commission should require carriers to combine charges associated with all pro-competitive reforms into a single line item or allow carriers to identify these charges in some other way.
The Commission invites comments from all interested parties on the above issues so that it may explore all viable options to ameliorate the impact of flat, monthly fees on low-volume users in ways that are least intrusive for the industry.

Action by the Commission, July 8, 1999, by Notice of Inquiry in CC Docket No. 99-249 (FCC 99-168); Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness and Tristani; Commissioner Ness issuing a statement; Commissioner Powell concurring and issuing a statement; Commissioner Furchtgott-Roth dissenting and issuing a statement.

Common Carrier Bureau contact: Neil Fried (202) 418-1530; TTY: (202) 418-2555.

Report No: 99-30
CC Docket No.: 99-249