NTCA and OPASTCO Tell Congress Vague LNP Rules Put Rural Consumers and Companies At Risk

November 19, 2003, Washington, D.C. - NTCA-OPASTCO Member Advisory

NTCA AND OPASTCO TELL CONGRESS VAGUE LNP RULES PUT
RURAL CONSUMERS AND COMPANIES AT RISK

Pro-Consumer Order Could Cost Consumers More Money AND Their Existing Phone Numbers If LNP Rules Aren’t Clarified

November 19, 2003, Washington, D.C. -  In a letter sent today to Congress, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) urged the postponement of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) local number portability (LNP) order for rural carriers, until the FCC can clarify critical issues including transport costs, competitive neutrality and rules governing rural carriers who have a fraction of their networks physically located within the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).

In the letter, the associations explained the far-reaching consequences the order will have for rural consumers and telephone companies.  “The Commission’s rush to implement this order without adequate carrier guidance will in all likelihood lead consumers to experience dropped calls and long-distance charges for calls to ported numbers that were previously local, and carriers to lose intercarrier compensation revenues as well,” stated the letter signed by NTCA CEO Michael Brunner and OPASTCO President John Rose.

A copy of the letter is shown below.

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About NTCA:
NTCA is the premiere association representing 560 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs. Visit us at http://www.ntca.org.

About OPASTCO:
The Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) represents more than 500 small, independently owned, local telecommunications companies serving primarily rural areas of the United States and Canada. OPASTCO membership includes both commercial companies and cooperatives, which range in size from fewer than 100 to 100,000 access lines, and collectively serve more than 2.6 million customers. OPASTCO represents rural telecommunications interests before federal regulatory bodies and Congress, provides publications, and holds two conventions annually in January and July of each year, addressing the needs of the small telecommunications industry. The association has an affiliate 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Foundation for Rural Education and Development (FRED). Visit the OPASTCO Web site at www.opastco.org.



NTCA                                                      OPASTCO



November 19, 2003

RE: FCC’s Wireline to Wireless Local Number Portability (LNP) Order

Dear Senator/Representative:

On behalf of the nation’s hundreds of small rural incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), and their several million rural consumers, that are represented by our associations, we urge Congress to take immediate action to postpone all aspects of the implementation of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) November 7, 2003, local number portability (LNP) order as it applies to such carriers. The ramifications of this order could have significant negative consequences for rural consumers and companies alike.

Indeed, in the past few weeks the FCC has adopted two far-reaching orders to “provide guidance” on the subject of porting telephone numbers to wireless carriers. Unfortunately, the orders are largely devoid of real direction and in reality amount to yet another in a long series of mandates with adverse consumer implications the Commission has grown fond of imposing on the ILEC industry.

In the FCC’s November 7, 2003 wireline to wireless porting order (FCC 03-284), the Commission believes it has provided small rural ILECs with an adequate temporary exemption from fully complying with the order until May 24, 2004, if their study area falls entirely outside the scope of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). Regrettably, the fallacy of this idea is three-fold. First, a significant number of rural carriers’ study areas fall, in part, within these 100 MSAs, and thus those carriers would be required to comply fully with the order in just a few days – on November 24. Second, the agency has created a situation that is far from competitively neutral. The Commission’s rules force rural ILECs to port to wireless carriers, even though subscribers of the wireless carriers will be unable to port their numbers to the ILECs. Finally, the agency has not at all adequately explained how small rural carriers will get paid for transporting calls to new service providers with whom they have no compensation or interconnection arrangements. The Commission’s rush to implement this order without adequate carrier guidance will in all likelihood lead consumers to experience dropped calls and long distance charges for calls to ported numbers that were previously local, and carriers to lose intercarrier compensation revenues as well.

In these uncertain economic and regulatory times, the nation’s small rural ILECs can ill afford the additional uncertainty this FCC order burdens them with. Truly, the implications of this order, if not addressed in a more thorough manner, are far-reaching and harmful. Therefore, we believe it is imperative that Congress take action prior to its adjournment that will postpone the application of FCC 03-284 upon small rural ILECs regardless of whether or not a portion of their study area falls within one or more of the nation’s 100 largest MSAs. The FCC should take the time and appropriately address the technological and economic issues associated with the implementation of this order as it relates to such carriers.

Sincerely,

Michael E. Brunner
CEO, NTCA
                              John N. Rose
President, OPASTCO