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April 17, 1998

Separate Statement
Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Performance Measurements and Reporting Requirements for Operational Support Systems, Interconnection, and Operator Services and Directory Assistance

I am pleased that the Commission is at long last responding to the requests from LCI, Comptel, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners for a rulemaking on performance measures for operational support systems ("OSS") of incumbent local exchange carriers ("ILECs").

A primary objective of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was to facilitate the emergence of competition for local communications services. The Act is designed to facilitate new entrants' use of different entry strategies, including resale, unbundled network elements, and facilities competition. Each of these strategies depends heavily on the computer systems, databases, and personnel of the ILECs. That's what "OSS" is all about.

Appropriate measurements and reporting requirements can be of considerable value in promoting successful access to OSS. This is an area where detail matters; significant disparities in any one of multiple areas of performance can seriously undermine the prospects for competition. For example, if a competitive local exchange carrier ("CLEC") can successfully order unbundled loops, ports, etc., but its new customers are less likely to be identified accurately in E911 databases, it is reasonable to expect that the CLEC may be impeded in its efforts to compete -- to say nothing of the untoward effects on the customers who do switch carriers. Or, if dial-tone service is cut over promptly from the ILEC to the CLEC, but interim number portability is commonly cut over at a different point in time, incoming calls will go astray, and again competition and consumers will suffer.

OSS measurements can capture these problems. They can assist ILECs in self-assessments, so that corrective actions can be taken before disputes arise. Alternatively, when disputes do arise, appropriate measurement data may make it easier to distinguish isolated incidents from recurrent problems.

I affirmatively support the notion of proposing guidelines or model rules instead of binding FCC rules, and I am grateful to Commissioner Powell for his leadership in advocating this approach. Guidelines express a spirit of partnership with the state commissions. This proceeding will establish a detailed record upon which the states and the FCC can proceed in a cooperative fashion. OSS measurement guidelines should enable states to act rapidly, as now is the time when such measurements will prove to be most useful.

Measurement guidelines will enable the state commissions and the FCC to use a common framework to monitor what are, typically, regional rather than single-state systems and databases. Guidelines will also provide state commissions with the flexibility to address state-specific circumstances and needs.

It should be noted that we also have chosen at this time not to propose performance or technical standards. Carriers, in the first instance, and state commissions, in arbitrations or rulemakings, are free to establish minimum tolerance levels of performance as they see fit.

The approach we are taking today preserves this Commission's option to consider the need for national rules at a later time, if the record or experience evidences a need to do so. OSS performance, after all, is not just a matter of state interest. It relates to the national interest in promoting competition and, more particularly, to the ILECs' obligation, under federal law, to provide just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory interconnection, unbundled network elements, and resale. But I am happy to undertake this task in a less prescriptive manner. I urge the state commissions to participate in this proceeding, separately or in combination, so that the resulting OSS measurement guidelines will be as useful as possible, and therefore likely to be widely adopted.

I also hope parties will suggest ways in which OSS performance data can be collected and evaluated on a comparative basis. In the absence of national rules for measurements and reporting, are there still means by which it will be possible to compare a carrier's performance in one state against its performance in another state? How about the performance of one carrier in one state against the performance of a different carrier in another state? Benchmarking can be a valuable way of identifying individual carriers' shortcomings. Would it make sense for OSS measurement reports to be filed with the FCC as well as with the state commissions? Or could another organization, such as NARUC, collect the data and benchmark OSS performance? I look forward to interested parties' comments on these issues.