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Fact Sheet: Part 68 NPRM

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Federal Communications Commission
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Washington, D.C. 20554
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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).

May 15, 2000

Mike Balmoris at (202) 418-0253


Proposed Rules Highlight Commission's Biennial Regulatory Review to Eliminate Unnecessary Regulations as Competition Increases in Telecom Markets

Washington, D.C. - Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to privatize the process for developing technical standards for and approval of customer telephone equipment also known as customer premises equipment (CPE). CPE is telecommunications equipment, such as telephones, faxes and modems, operating on a customer's premises to originate, route or terminate telecommunications over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Today's action coincides with the Commission's announcement of progress made in its Biennial Regulatory Review to repeal or modify unnecessary regulations.

Today's proposals, which would reduce the FCC's involvement in the setting of technical criteria and approval of CPE, are expected to expedite the process for bringing innovative telephone equipment to the marketplace, thereby increasing the choices available to consumers. Additionally, CPE manufacturers are expected to save millions of dollars a year from the proposed streamlined process. Currently, it takes the FCC typically two to four weeks to approve a CPE application showing that the equipment meets the technical requirements that ensure the product does not harm the telephone network.

Today's proposals do not affect the Commission rules that ensure access to telecommunications and services by persons with disabilities, nor the Commission rules that deal with network demarcation and inside wire.

Part 68 Background
The Commission's Part 68 rules currently set out the technical criteria with which manufacturers must comply to ensure that the CPE does not harm the telephone network or telephone company personnel. In addition, Part 68 specifies a registration process to verify which CPE complies with these criteria. Part 68 requires local exchange carriers (LECs) to allow CPE that is registered as Part 68 compliant to be connected to their networks.

Before the Commission established its Part 68 rules in 1975, CPE was manufactured almost exclusively by Western Electric, which was part of the Bell System of companies that included the local exchange and long distance providers in most parts of the country. This ensured that no harmful CPE was connected to the telephone network, but also created a monopoly in the development and manufacture of CPE.

The Commission's Part 68 rules have facilitated a vibrant, competitive market for CPE, reduced prices and resulted in a proliferation of new equipment and capabilities available to consumers by assuring that registered CPE can be freely connected to the telephone network.

Proposals for Privatizing CPE Process
The Commission is proposing that its rules continue to require that local exchange carriers (LECs) allow CPE that meets technical criteria for network protection to be connected freely to their networks. The Commission proposes to streamline and privatize two of Part 68's functions. First, rather than continuing to establish and maintain such technical criteria, the Commission is proposing to rely on one of several potential industry standards-setting processes. These processes include:

  1. Commission identification of a "gatekeeper" Standards Development Organization (SDO) that will establish and publish binding technical criteria for CPE, developed pursuant to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures for consensus bodies;
  2. Adoption of a presumption that CPE that complies with technical specifications established by any national standards-setting organization will not cause harm and that local exchange carriers must permit its connection to the PSTN; or,
  3. Incorporation into this Commission's rules by reference, through the rulemaking process, of specific standards developed by national standards organizations.
Second, the Commission is proposing to privatize and streamline the registration process used to determine whether a particular model of equipment meets those technical standards. The Commission is proposing three methods of equipment approval that would reduce or eliminate the Commission's role. These proposals include:
  1. Relying on private certification bodies called, Telecommunications Certifications Bodies or TCBs (an alternative to Commission registration that will already exist early this summer) to certify that equipment is in compliance with the technical criteria;
  2. Allowing manufacturers and importers to use a process called declaration of conformity, whereby the equipment is tested by an accredited laboratory to show that the equipment complies with specific technical parameters; and,
  3. Allowing manufacturers and importers to use a verification process, whereby parties choose a responsible entity to make measurements of equipment performance with regard to specific technical parameters.
Action by the Commission May 15, 2000, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 00- 171). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and Tristani.

CC Docket No. 99-216


Common Carrier Bureau contacts: Staci Pies or Susan Magnotti at (202) 418-2320

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Fact Sheet: Part 68 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking