[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 248 (Thursday, December 28, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 61453-61479]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-27198]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Parts 1, 51, and 63

[WC Docket No. 17-84; FCC 17-154]


Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers 
to Infrastructure Investment

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, a Report and Order takes a number of actions 
aimed at removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to the deployment of 
high-speed broadband networks. The Report and Order adopts pole 
attachment reforms, changes to the copper retirement and other network 
change notification processes, and changes to the section 214(a) 
discontinuance application process. The Commission adopted the Report 
and Order in conjunction with a Declaratory Ruling and Further Notice 
of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in WC Docket No. 17-84, published 
elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register.

DATES: Effective January 29, 2018, except for the amendments to 47 CFR 
1.1424, 51.325, 51.329, 51.332, 51.333, 63.60, and 63.71, which contain 
information collection requirements that have not been approved by OMB. 
The Federal Communications Commission will publish a document in the 
Federal Register announcing the effective date.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Wireline Competition Bureau, 
Competition Policy Division, Michele Berlove, at (202) 418-1477, 
michele.berlove@fcc.gov, or Michael Ray, at (202) 418-0357, 
michael.ray@fcc.gov. For additional information concerning the 
Paperwork Reduction Act information collection requirements contained 
in this document, send an email to PRA@fcc.gov or contact Nicole Ongele 
at (202) 418-2991.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Report 
and Order in WC Docket No. 17-84, FCC 17-154, adopted November 16, 2017 
and released November 29, 2017. The full text of this document is 
available for public inspection during regular business hours in the 
FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street SW, Room 
CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. It is available on the Commission's 
website at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-17-154A1.docx.

Synopsis

I. Introduction

    1. Access to high-speed broadband is an essential component of 
modern life, providing unfettered access to information and 
entertainment, an open channel of communication to far-away friends and 
relatives, and unprecedented economic opportunity. Technological 
innovation and private investment have revolutionized American 
communications networks in recent years, making possible new and better 
service offerings, and bringing the promise of the digital revolution 
to more Americans than ever before. As part of this transformation, 
consumers are increasingly moving away from traditional telephone 
services provided over copper wires and towards next-generation 
technologies using a variety of transmission means, including copper, 
fiber, and wireless spectrum-based services.
    2. Despite this progress, too many communities remain on the wrong 
side of the digital divide, unable to take full part in the benefits of 
the modern information economy. To close that digital divide, we seek 
to use every tool available to us to accelerate the deployment of 
advanced communications networks. Accordingly, today we embrace the 
transition to next-generation networks and the innovative services they 
enable, and adopt a number of important reforms aimed at removing 
unnecessary regulatory barriers to the deployment of high-speed 
broadband networks.
    3. By removing unnecessary impediments to broadband deployment, the 
regulatory reforms we adopt today will enable carriers to more rapidly 
shift resources away from maintaining outdated legacy infrastructure 
and services and towards the construction of next-generation broadband 
networks bringing innovative new broadband services. And by reducing 
the costs to deploy high-speed broadband networks, we make it more 
economically feasible for carriers to extend the reach of their 
networks, increasing competition among broadband providers to 
communities across the country. We expect competition will include such 
benefits as lower prices to consumers. We anticipate taking additional 
action in the future in this proceeding to further facilitate broadband 
deployment.

II. Background

    4. On April 20, 2017, the Commission adopted a notice of proposed 
rulemaking, notice of inquiry, and request for comment (Wireless 
Infrastructure NPRM) proposing and seeking comment on a number of 
actions designed to accelerate the deployment of next-generation 
networks and services by removing barriers to infrastructure 
investment. See 82 FR 22453 (May 16, 2017). More specifically, the 
Wireline Infrastructure NPRM sought comment on: (1) Reforming the 
Commission's pole attachment rules to make it easier, faster, and less 
costly to access the poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way 
necessary for building out next-generation networks; (2) changing the 
process for retiring copper facilities and making other network changes 
to provide greater regulatory certainty and better enable carriers to 
transition more rapidly to modern networks; (3) streamlining the 
regulatory process by which carriers must obtain Commission 
authorization to discontinue legacy services so that scarce capital is 
free to be spent on delivering modern, innovative services; (4) using 
the Commission's preemption authority to prevent the enforcement of 
state and local laws that inhibit broadband deployment; and (5) 
changing the Commission's legal interpretations to clarify when 
carriers must ask for permission to alter or discontinue a service and, 
thereby, to reduce the regulatory uncertainty that is costly and 
burdensome to providers.
    5. At the same time, the Commission's Broadband Deployment Advisory 
Committee (BDAC), a federal advisory committee chartered earlier this 
year, is examining several of the issues raised in the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM. The BDAC is charged with providing the Commission 
with recommendations on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed 
internet access, or ``broadband,'' by reducing and/or removing 
regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment. Since being

[[Page 61454]]

chartered, the BDAC has held [three] public meetings and has five 
active working groups. We anticipate that the BDAC will provide 
important input on several matters relevant to this proceeding. We will 
examine the BDAC's recommendations closely in considering whether and 
how to move forward with those issues.

III. Report and Order

A. Pole Attachment Reforms

    6. In this Order, we address three pole attachment issues on which 
the Commission sought comment in the Wireline Infrastructure NPRM: (1) 
Excluding capital costs recovered via make-ready fees from pole 
attachment rates; (2) establishing a shot clock for resolution of pole 
attachment access complaints; and (3) allowing incumbent local exchange 
carriers (LECs) access to poles owned by other LECs. In the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM, we requested comment on several other pole 
attachment issues, and we anticipate that we will address other pole 
attachment issues in a future order. In addition to the pole attachment 
issues addressed by this Order, the Commission sought comment in the 
Wireline Infrastructure NPRM on proposals that would adopt a 
streamlined timeframe for gaining access to utility poles, reduce 
charges paid by attachers to utilities for work done to make a pole 
ready for new attachments, and adopt a formula for computing the 
maximum pole attachment rate that may be imposed on an incumbent LEC.
1. Excluding Capital Costs Recovered Via Make-Ready Fees From Pole 
Attachment Rates
    7. We adopt the Wireline Infrastructure NPRM's proposal to amend 
Sec.  1.1409(c) of our rules to exclude capital expenses already 
recovered via non-recurring make-ready fees from recurring pole 
attachment rates. ``Make-ready'' generally refers to the modification 
of poles or lines or the installation of certain equipment (e.g., guys 
and anchors) to accommodate additional facilities on poles. In adopting 
this proposal, we reaffirm and emphasize longstanding Commission 
precedent. Almost forty years ago, the Commission found that ``where a 
utility has been directly reimbursed by [an] . . . operator for non-
recurring costs, including plant, such costs must be subtracted from 
the utility's corresponding pole line capital account to insure that . 
. . operators are not charged twice for the same costs.'' Since that 
time, the Commission has made clear that ``[m]ake-ready costs are non-
recurring costs for which the utility is directly compensated and as 
such are excluded from expenses used in the rate calculation.'' 
Nonetheless, the record demonstrates that not all attachers benefit 
from lower rates in these circumstances, in part because our rules do 
not explicitly require utilities to exclude already-reimbursed capital 
costs from their pole attachment rates.
    8. We agree with commenters that argue that codifying the exclusion 
of capital expenses already recovered via make-ready fees from 
recurring pole attachment rates will help eliminate confusion. 
Codifying this exclusion is consistent with the BDAC recommendation 
that we clarify that utilities are not allowed to ``use an increase in 
rates to recover capital costs already addressed in make-ready fees.'' 
While some commenters argue that it is unnecessary to codify this 
exclusion because current Commission policies already prevent make-
ready payments from being included in the formulas used to calculate 
recurring pole attachment rates, we find that codification of the rule 
will enhance the deployment of broadband services and should improve 
compliance with long-standing precedent by providing additional clarity 
in the text of our rules.
2. Establishing a ``Shot Clock'' for Resolution of Pole Access 
Complaints
    9. 180-Day Shot Clock. We establish a 180-day ``shot clock'' for 
Enforcement Bureau resolution of pole access complaints filed under 
Sec.  1.1409 of our rules. A ``pole access complaint'' is a complaint 
filed by a cable television system or a provider of telecommunications 
service that alleges a complete denial of access to a utility pole. 
This term does not encompass a complaint alleging that a utility is 
imposing unreasonable rates, terms, or conditions that amount to a 
denial of pole access. When the Commission last considered this issue 
as part of the 2011 Pole Attachment Order, the record did not support 
the creation of new pole attachment complaint rules. By contrast, the 
record before us today includes broad support for establishing a shot 
clock for resolving pole access complaints, and we agree with 
commenters that establishment of such a shot clock will expedite 
broadband deployment by resolving pole attachment access disputes in a 
quicker fashion. As the POWER Coalition explains, pole access 
complaints ``are more urgent than complaints alleging unreasonable 
rates, terms and conditions,'' and because the only meaningful remedy 
for lack of pole access ``is the grant of immediate access to the 
requested poles,'' it is crucial for the Enforcement Bureau to complete 
its review of pole access complaints in a timely manner. Similar to the 
shot clock for Commission review of domestic transfer of control 
applications, we expect that the 180-day shot clock for pole access 
complaints will be met except in extraordinary circumstances.
    10. We agree with commenters that argue that 180 days provides a 
reasonable timeframe for the Enforcement Bureau to resolve pole access 
complaints. While some commenters request a shorter shot clock, and the 
Utilities Technology Council opposes a shot clock on the grounds that 
it would inhibit the Enforcement Bureau's ability to comprehensively 
evaluate facts on a case-by-case basis, we find that 180 days will 
provide the Enforcement Bureau sufficient time to carefully evaluate 
the particular facts of each pole access complaint. We note that in a 
separate proceeding, the Commission is considering whether to adopt a 
shot clock for all pole attachment complaints. We find the record for 
this Order is sufficient to support the adoption now of a shot clock 
for a narrowly-targeted group of pole attachment complaints (i.e., 
those alleging a denial of access to poles) that will aid broadband 
deployment and investment. We find it instructive that, as Verizon 
points out, a 180-day shot clock for pole access complaints aligns 
``with the time period that Congress gave reverse-preemption states to 
decide pole attachment complaints'' under section 224(c)(3)(B) of the 
Act. Furthermore, the Enforcement Bureau can pause the shot clock in 
certain situations and/or exceed 180 days in extraordinary 
circumstances, which should ensure that the Enforcement Bureau can 
comprehensively evaluate any pole attachment access dispute.
    11. Starting the Shot Clock at the Time a Complaint Is Filed. We 
direct the Enforcement Bureau to start the 180-day shot clock when a 
pole access complaint is filed. This approach is consistent with that 
set forth in the Act for states that act on pole attachment complaints, 
is broadly supported in the record, and was recommended by the BDAC.
    12. Pausing the Shot Clock. The Enforcement Bureau may pause the 
shot clock when actions outside the Enforcement Bureau's control delay 
the Bureau's review of a pole access complaint. This approach also has 
broad support in the record and was recommended by the BDAC. We find it

[[Page 61455]]

instructive that in the transactions context, the reviewing Bureau can 
pause the shot clock while waiting for parties to provide additional 
requested information. The Enforcement Bureau may, for example, pause 
the shot clock when the parties need additional time to provide key 
information requested by the Bureau, or when the parties decide to 
pursue informal dispute resolution or request a delay to pursue 
settlement discussions after a pole access complaint is filed. The 
Enforcement Bureau should resume the shot clock immediately when the 
cause for pausing the shot clock has been resolved. We direct the 
Enforcement Bureau to provide the parties written notice of any pause 
in the shot clock, as well as when the shot clock is resumed.
    13. Establishment of Pre-Complaint Procedures. Consistent with our 
goal of adopting measures to expedite broadband deployment by resolving 
pole attachment access disputes in a more timely manner, we decline to 
delay the beginning of the complaint process by requiring the parties 
to resolve procedural issues and deadlines in a meeting with 
Enforcement Bureau staff prior to the filing of a pole access 
complaint. We also decline the suggestion made by Ameren et al. that we 
require pre-complaint mediation or the discussion of mediation in a 
pre-complaint meeting. Successful mediation can save the parties and 
the Enforcement Bureau valuable time and resources and we encourage the 
voluntary use of mediation through the Enforcement Bureau, but we 
decline to adopt such a requirement and believe the decision as to 
whether to mediate is better left to the parties. We also recognize 
that there are times when the Enforcement Bureau requests that parties 
participate in post-complaint meetings in order to resolve procedural 
issues and deadlines associated with its review of a complaint. We find 
that, in general, the complaint process has proceeded in a more timely 
and smooth manner as a result of post-complaint meetings, and encourage 
the Enforcement Bureau to continue that practice as appropriate.
    14. Use of Shot Clock for Other Pole Attachment Complaints. We also 
decline at this time to adopt a 180-day shot clock for pole attachment 
complaints other than those relating to pole access issues. We 
recognize the BDAC adopted a recommendation in favor of a 180-day shot 
clock for all pole attachment complaints, including pole access 
complaints; however, in the Complaint Procedures NPRM, we are currently 
seeking comment on whether to apply shot clocks (either uniformly or 
with differing deadlines) to a number of types of formal complaints, 
including non-access pole attachment complaints filed under section 224 
of the Act. In addition to complaints filed under section 224 of the 
Act, the Commission is seeking comment on whether to adopt shot clocks 
for complaints filed under sections 208, 255, 716, and 718 of the Act. 
Although some commenters in this record support a 180-day shot clock 
for all pole attachment complaints, we defer to the record being 
developed in the Complaint Procedures NPRM for resolution of this 
issue. We note the BDAC also recommended adoption of a 180-day shot 
clock for all pole attachment complaints.
3. Recognizing a Reciprocal System of Access to Poles Pursuant to 
Section 251
    15. We also take this opportunity to reconsider the Commission's 
previous interpretation of the interplay between sections 224 and 
251(b)(4) of the Act. Based on the record before us, we conclude the 
better interpretation is to give effect to both sections and read the 
two sections in harmony as creating a reciprocal system of 
infrastructure access rules in which incumbent LECs, pursuant to 
section 251(b)(4) of the Act, are guaranteed access to poles owned or 
controlled by competitive LECs and vice versa, subject to the rates, 
terms, and conditions for pole attachments described in section 224. We 
note that incumbent LECs will be entitled to file pole access 
complaints under the new rule adopted in this Order and such complaints 
will be subject to the 180-day shot clock. As CenturyLink explains, the 
disparate treatment of incumbent LECs and competitive LECs prevents 
incumbent LECs from gaining access to competitive LEC-controlled 
infrastructure and in doing so dampens the incentives for all LECs to 
build and deploy the infrastructure necessary for advanced 
communications services.
    16. Section 251 of the Act provides that ``[e]ach local exchange 
carrier'' has the duty ``to afford access to the poles, ducts, 
conduits, and rights-of-way of such carrier to competing providers of 
telecommunications services on rates, terms, and conditions that are 
consistent with section 224 [of the Act].'' Section 224(f) of the Act 
requires utilities to provide cable television systems and 
telecommunications carriers with nondiscriminatory access to any pole 
that they own or control. While section 224(a) of the Act defines a 
``utility'' to include both incumbent LECs and competitive LECs, the 
definition of ``telecommunications carrier'' used in section 224 
specifically does not include incumbent LECs, thus potentially denying 
incumbent LECs the benefits of section 224's specific pole attachment 
access and rate protections.
    17. When the Commission initially examined this disparate treatment 
of incumbent LECs as part of the First Local Competition Order, it held 
that incumbent LECs cannot use section 251(b)(4) as a means of gaining 
access to competitive LEC poles because section 224(a) specifically 
excludes incumbent LECs from the definition of those telecommunications 
carriers entitled to nondiscriminatory access to utility poles. As a 
result, the Commission concluded it would be inappropriate to grant 
incumbent LECs access rights that the Commission believed were 
``expressly withheld by section 224.'' Consequently, while incumbent 
LECs were required as utilities under section 224 to provide 
nondiscriminatory access to their poles to all cable television 
providers and telecommunications carriers (including competitive LECs), 
incumbent LECs could not obtain reciprocal nondiscriminatory access to 
the poles controlled by competitive LECs. However, as the Ninth Circuit 
Court of Appeals explained in US West Communications, Inc. v. Hamilton, 
sections 224 and 251 can ``be read in harmony'' to support a right of 
access for incumbent LECs on other LEC poles. Despite its skepticism of 
the Commission's analysis in the First Local Competition Order, the 
Ninth Circuit held it was obligated to adhere to that analysis because 
the parties had not directly challenged the First Local Competition 
Order via the Hobbs Act.
    18. Because the Commission's prior interpretation of sections 224 
and 251(b)(4) fails to give full effect to the language of section 
251(b)(4) and in doing so also disserves the public interest and harms 
consumers by distorting both incumbent LEC and competitive LEC 
incentives to construct infrastructure that can be used to provide 
broadband services, we think the better approach is to read the 
sections in harmony. We agree with the Ninth Circuit in US West, as 
well as with commenters such as AT&T and WTA, that section 251(b)(4) 
provides incumbent LECs with an independent right of access to the 
poles owned by other LECs and that section 224 then determines the 
appropriate rates, terms, and conditions of such access. We disagree 
with NCTA's claim that imposing new infrastructure access obligations 
on competitive LECs ``would be of limited relevance because the only 
infrastructure owned by competitive LECs that conceivably would be 
useful to an incumbent LEC is conduit.'' We find that broadband 
deployment is

[[Page 61456]]

likely to be spurred by applying the reciprocal access obligations to 
all broadband infrastructure covered by section 251(b)(4) of the Act 
(e.g., poles, ducts, conduits, rights-of-way). As the Ninth Circuit 
stated in US West, ``Section 224 deals with all utilities, whereas 
section 251(b)(4) concerns only telecommunications carriers. Section 
224 allows CLECs, but not ILECs, access to the physical networks and 
rights-of-way of all other utilities, including those belonging to 
electric companies, gas companies, water companies, and the like. 
Because ILECs had their own physical networks and established rights-
of-way when the Act was passed, Congress may have seen fit to grant 
access to non-carrier utilities' networks and rights-of-way only to 
CLECs. But in order to maintain a level playing field within the 
telecommunications industry itself, Congress reasonably could have 
granted reciprocal access among telecommunications carriers, ILECs and 
CLECs alike, by means of section 251(b)(4).'' Our reading gives full 
effect to the language of both sections 224 and 251(b)(4) without 
creating a conflict between them and also advances our goal in this 
proceeding of advancing broadband infrastructure investment and 
deployment.
    19. We disagree with ExteNet and the Competitive Fiber Providers' 
arguments that reversing the Commission's prior interpretation of 
sections 224 and 251(b)(4) ``could discourage the broadband deployment 
these proceedings are designed to promote, impose discriminatory costs 
and obligations on only one type of owner of competitive poles, and 
reverse decades of light touch regulation for competitive providers.'' 
According to ExteNet and the Competitive Fiber Providers, the burden of 
accommodating incumbent LEC pole access will fall disproportionately on 
competitive LECs instead of the cable companies that are not ``local 
exchange carriers'' under section 251(b)(4). However, even if ExteNet 
and the Competitive Fiber Providers are correct that accommodating 
incumbent LEC pole access creates additional burdens for non-cable 
competitive LECs, we are bound by Congress' determination in section 
251(b)(4) to apply such obligations to competitive LECs and not to 
cable operators.
    20. We also fail to see how the imposition of incumbent LEC pole 
access obligations on poles owned by other LECs will ``stifle 
competitive deployment of fiber infrastructure'' as argued by the 
Competitive Fiber Providers. Competitive LECs are already required to 
make their pole infrastructure available to other competitive LECs as 
well as cable television system operators, so any pole deployment 
decisions would be made (or have been made) with the knowledge that 
other pole attachers must be accommodated. Any incremental costs 
associated with expanding the accommodation to include incumbent LECs 
should not deter competitive LEC pole ownership because such costs will 
be borne by the incumbent LEC attachers in the form of make-ready fees. 
Consequently, we find that rather than stifling broadband deployment, 
the opposite is more likely--allowing incumbent LEC access to poles 
owned by other LECs should expand broadband deployment by increasing 
access to broadband infrastructure.
    21. We also disagree with ExteNet and the Competitive Fiber 
Providers' argument that changing our interpretation of sections 
251(b)(4) and 224 will give incumbent LECs greater leverage over their 
competitors because they own more poles and therefore have greater 
bargaining power. Our decision does not change the pole access rights 
of competitive LECs, as they will continue to have mandatory non-
discriminatory access to incumbent LEC poles. Rather than ``putting the 
Commission's thumb on the scale in favor of the party [incumbent LECs] 
that owns a much greater percentage of poles,'' our decision instead 
creates regulatory parity among all categories of attachers by ensuring 
reciprocal pole access rights.

B. Streamlining the Network Change Notification Process

    22. Today we eliminate unnecessary and costly regulations governing 
network change disclosures, including copper retirements, while 
retaining certain requirements whose benefits outweigh the associated 
costs to incumbent LECs. The revised rules we adopt today, consistent 
with the Act, the Commission's longstanding policy goals, and supported 
by the record now before us, ensure that competing providers receive 
``adequate, but not excessive, time to respond to changes to an 
incumbent LEC's network.'' We conclude that the Commission failed to 
achieve this balanced objective in 2015 when it imposed far-reaching 
and burdensome notice obligations on incumbent LECs that frustrate 
their efforts to modernize their networks. By reforming our rules and 
returning to the Commission's longstanding balance, we eliminate 
unnecessary delays in our regulatory process that help carriers more 
rapidly transition to more modern networks benefitting more Americans 
at lower costs.
    23. Section 251(c)(5) of the Act requires an incumbent LEC ``to 
provide reasonable public notice of changes'' to its facilities or 
network that might affect the interoperability of those facilities or 
networks. Congress expressly made this a notice-based process, in 
contrast to statutory provisions requiring an approval-based process. 
Incumbent LECs are also subject to certain state laws requiring them to 
maintain adequate equipment and facilities.
    24. It is important to distinguish between copper retirement and 
discontinuance of service. While it is possible that a network change, 
like a copper retirement, could ultimately lead to a discontinuance of 
service, that eventuality is governed by the Commission's section 
214(a) discontinuance process. Otherwise, section 214(a)'s exception 
from its coverage for changes to a carrier's network would be rendered 
moot. The Commission's decision in the Triennial Review Order to 
include the copper retirement provisions in the network change notice 
rules rather than in the rules governing the discontinuance process 
underscores this distinction. Section 251(c)(5) reflects the decision 
by Congress that a notice-based network change process best serves the 
public by striking a balance between allowing incumbent LECs to make 
changes to their networks without undue regulatory burdens and giving 
competitive LECs time to account for those changes. We are empowered to 
ensure that our rules governing copper retirements and other network 
changes do not impede or delay these transformational and beneficial 
network changes through unreasonable and burdensome notice-related 
obligations. The actions we take today will accomplish this objective.
    25. We are also unpersuaded by incumbent LEC assertions that the 
network change disclosure rules are outdated because they apply only to 
incumbent LECs despite the fact that incumbent LECs currently provide 
voice service to a relatively small percentage of households. The 
implementing statute specifically applies these notice requirements 
solely to incumbent LECs, and consistent with the Act we find they 
continue to be necessary to ensure the interoperability of our nation's 
communications networks.

[[Page 61457]]

1. Revising the General Network Change Disclosure Process
a. Eliminating Prohibition on Incumbent LEC Disclosure of Information 
About Planned Network Changes Prior to Public Notice
    26. Section 51.325(c) of our rules currently prohibits incumbent 
LECs from disclosing information about planned network changes to 
``separate affiliates, separated affiliates, or unaffiliated entities 
(including actual or potential competing service providers or 
competitors)'' until public notice has been given under the applicable 
rules. Based on the record, we find that this prohibition on incumbent 
LECs' ability to freely communicate with other entities regarding their 
plans for upgrading their networks prior to filing the requisite public 
notice impedes the ability of these LECs to engage and coordinate with 
the parties that will ultimately be affected by those changes. 
Accordingly, we eliminate this provision.
    27. A primary goal of the 1996 Act was to foster competition. When 
the Commission adopted Sec.  51.325(c) in 1996, the Commission was 
concerned that incumbent LECs might try to give their long distance or 
equipment manufacturing affiliates a competitive advantage through 
early disclosure. Circumstances have substantially changed in the 
intervening two decades and incumbent LECs no longer have the near-
monopoly they once did. To the contrary, intermodal competition is more 
prevalent than ever. Moreover, given this intermodal competition, long-
distance service is no longer a separate market. Further, as noted by 
AT&T, incumbent LECs ``do not have a significant presence in the market 
for manufacturing CPE.'' As a result, commenters' concern that 
eliminating this prohibition may result in anti-competitive conduct by 
incumbent LECs is no longer as persuasive as it once was. We are 
similarly unpersuaded by ADT's concern that incumbent LECs may gain a 
competitive advantage with respect to services such as alarm 
monitoring. As with the manufacturing of CPE, there is significant 
intermodal competition in the provision of alarm monitoring services, 
including provision of such services over media other than copper.
    28. The practical effect of Sec.  51.325(c) today is to slow 
deployment of next-generation networks and withhold useful information 
by preventing incumbent LECs from discussing their network change plans 
with any party. For example, this prohibition has prevented incumbent 
LECs from sharing planned copper retirement information with wholesale 
and retail customers in response to customers' specific requests for 
information, and impeded incumbent LECs' ability to engage with 
landlords and tenants early in a copper retirement process to ensure 
timely access to the premises to deploy fiber prior to retiring 
existing copper facilities. We agree with commenters that argue that 
removing the prohibition on the free flow of information between the 
incumbent LEC and all potentially impacted entities will permit 
incumbent LECs to work with affected competitive LECs, government 
users, enterprise customers, and others at the appropriate time in the 
normal course of business dealings with such entities, and over a 
longer period of time to plan for eventual network changes. Giving 
incumbent LECs the ability to engage with these entities prior to 
providing public notice under our rules will be especially useful to 
mitigating concerns raised by certain commenters regarding the impact 
our revised copper retirement notice process might have on particular 
users.
    29. We decline certain commenters' suggestions that if we eliminate 
Sec.  51.325(c), we require incumbent LECs to provide notice of network 
changes to all interconnecting entities before providing public notice. 
Such a requirement would be unwieldy and unduly burdensome and it would 
effectively require public notice earlier than would otherwise be 
required by the rules. Moreover, such pre-public notice disclosures of 
potential changes to the incumbent LEC's network may well occur at a 
phase when the incumbent LEC's plans are not yet solidified and might 
still change. Requiring formal disclosure to interconnecting parties 
that will eventually be entitled to disclosure under the Commission's 
rules could result in unnecessary confusion or unnecessary work by and 
expense to interconnecting carriers should the incumbent LEC's plans 
change. This is the very reason the network change disclosure rules do 
not require public notice until the incumbent LEC's plans reach the 
make/buy point, a requirement that remains in place. To be clear, 
however, our rules do not negate the terms of privately negotiated 
contracts that may include provisions regarding notice of potential 
network changes. Moreover, by eliminating Sec.  51.325(c), we enable 
parties to negotiate network change notification provisions that allow 
for notice well in advance of public notice and that best serve their 
individual needs in the service contracts they enter into with 
incumbent LECs.
b. Retaining Objection Procedures for Short-Term Network Change Notices
    30. We conclude that we should retain the objection procedures 
currently applicable to short-term notices of network changes. Short-
term network change notices are an exception to the general rule 
adopted in the Second Local Competition Order requiring notice of 
planned network changes at least six months before implementation of 
the planned changes. An objector can seek to have the waiting period 
for a short-term network change extended to no more than six months 
from the date the incumbent LEC first gave notice. Although the 
objection procedures have rarely been invoked, the possibility of an 
objection provides incentive for incumbent LECs to work cooperatively 
with competitive LECs and keep open lines of communication with them, 
thus avoiding potential delays. We are unpersuaded by USTelecom's 
concern that competing service providers might use the objection 
process to unwarrantedly delay a network change. The Commission made 
clear in the Second Local Competition Order that such efforts would not 
be tolerated and indeed could expose the objector to sanctions. We thus 
conclude that retaining the objection procedures applicable to short-
term notices of planned network changes maintains an appropriate 
balance between the needs of incumbent and competitive LECs and is 
consistent with Commission precedent.
2. Expediting Copper Retirement
    31. Today we eliminate or substantially scale back the copper 
retirement rules adopted by the Commission in 2015, because the record 
demonstrates that those rules have added cost and delay into the 
process with no apparent corresponding benefits. The record shows that 
these rules have delayed certain incumbent LECs' plans to deploy fiber 
and, in some instances, to even consider foregoing fiber deployment 
altogether. We therefore make these rule changes to ensure these delays 
and foregone next-generation network opportunities no longer occur on 
our account. In doing so, however, we continue to recognize the unique 
circumstances posed by the need to accommodate copper retirements in 
contrast to other types of network changes.
    32. When the Commission first adopted its copper retirement rules 
fourteen years ago, fiber deployment

[[Page 61458]]

was in its infancy and copper was the primary last-mile transmission 
medium for telecommunications services. In seeking to foster 
competition in adopting rules implementing the 1996 Act, the Commission 
signaled its goal was not to impose the associated regulatory burdens 
on incumbent LECs indefinitely. Rather, it intended to eventually ease 
those burdens once they became unnecessary. Permitting competitive LECs 
to continue to rely on unfettered access to incumbent LECs' copper 
facilities when incumbent LECs are rapidly trying to modernize such 
networks to both compete with newer fiber-based competitors and to 
bring innovative and superior services to the public frustrates rather 
than facilitates fiber deployment. Indeed, as early as 2003, the 
Commission recognized ``that the substantial revenue opportunities 
posted by FTTH deployment help ameliorate many of the entry barriers 
presented by the costs and scale economies,'' specifically noting then 
that ``competitive LECs have demonstrated that they can self-deploy 
FTTH loops and are doing so at this time.'' Thus, competitive LECs 
could not have been operating under the impression that they would be 
able to rely on incumbent LEC networks forever in the ``race to build 
next generation networks'' envisioned by the Commission.
    33. In the intervening years, competitors have had the opportunity 
to explore and develop ways to compete in a world without copper. 
Likewise, consumers and enterprise customers have had the opportunity 
to learn about the transition from legacy networks comprised of copper 
to next-generation fiber networks. The ``gradual transition'' advocated 
by one commenter has been ongoing for many years now. Although this 
will continue to be a gradual, organic, carrier-driven process, we 
believe it is important to spur the process along rather than slow it 
down with unnecessary regulatory burdens. We will not impede the 
progress toward deployment of next-generation facilities for the many 
because of the reticence of an ever-shrinking few.
a. Retaining Distinctions Between Copper Retirement and Other Network 
Changes
    34. At the outset, we retain the distinction between copper 
retirements and other types of network changes for purposes of section 
251(c)(5) notice. On balance, the record supports the continued need 
for such a distinction. In adopting the network change disclosure rules 
following the 1996 Act, the Commission recognized that not all types of 
network changes present the same level of difficulty for 
interconnecting carriers. It thus adopted different requirements for 
long-term network changes, i.e., those that cannot be implemented in 
less than six months from the make/buy point, and short-term network 
changes, i.e., those that can be implemented in less than six months. 
The Commission subsequently recognized that copper retirement network 
changes have a potentially greater impact on interoperability than 
other network changes because they ``affect[] the ability of 
competitive LECs to provide service.'' Although competitors are 
increasingly relying on their own facilities to compete, for at least 
some competitive LECs that remains the case today.
    35. We agree that competitive LECs are more familiar with 
accommodating copper retirements now than they were 14 years ago when 
the Commission first adopted its copper retirement rules; however, we 
are not persuaded that experience obviates the fact that copper 
retirements are more complicated and impactful than many other types of 
network changes. For example, where the copper retirement impacts 
competitive LECs providing Ethernet over Copper or purchasing TDM-based 
DS1s and DS3s, the affected competitive LECs often must migrate to 
other forms of last-mile access, change the service being offered and 
provide time for the retail customer to accommodate the change, or 
provide time for the retail customer to secure an alternative service 
arrangement. We thus disagree with incumbent LEC commenter assertions 
that copper retirements require no special treatment as compared to 
other types of network changes. As the Commission previously explained, 
competitors cannot be expected ``to react immediately to network 
changes that the incumbent LEC may have spent months or more planning 
and implementing.''
    36. The reforms we adopt today bring the copper retirement process 
closer in line with the more generally applicable network change 
disclosure process. However, because short-term network changes can be 
implemented within as little as ten days of the Commission's release of 
a public notice, eliminating the distinction between copper retirements 
and other types of network changes could have adverse effects on 
interconnected carriers that continue to rely on available copper 
facilities to serve their end-users. We therefore decline to eliminate 
the distinction altogether. The reforms discussed below reduce the 
burdens on incumbent LECs, achieving a balance between those minimal 
burdens and the benefits of adequate notice to interconnected carriers 
who rely on the incumbent LECs' networks.
b. Narrowing the Definition of Copper Retirement
    37. De Facto Retirement. We revise the definition of copper 
retirement to eliminate the de facto retirement concept that was 
included in the amendments made to the rules in 2015. We agree with 
commenters that the de facto retirement provision has unreasonably 
increased incumbent LECs' burden with no corresponding benefit, and 
serves no purpose in the context of section 251(c)(5)'s notice 
requirement. The current rule requires that the incumbent LEC provide 
notice of copper retirement when it fails to ``maintain copper loops, 
subloops, or the feeder portion of such loops or subloops that is the 
functional equivalent of removal or disabling.'' Thus, by its very 
terms, a de facto retirement could have conceptually already occurred 
when notice would be required under the rule we eliminate. Unlike 
notice of a forthcoming change, there is no practical way to implement 
the requirement that an incumbent LEC provide notice of a de facto 
retirement, and therefore consumers receive no notice benefit from this 
concept being part of the definition of copper retirement. Further, 
loss of service is properly addressed in the context of the 
discontinuance approval process established by section 214(a) of the 
Act.
    38. We do not agree with those commenters that argue that customers 
located in areas where there are no options other than copper will 
suffer if the Commission eliminates de facto retirement from the notice 
requirement. If an incumbent LEC has no plans to deploy fiber or other 
next-generation technology, it must maintain its copper networks, or it 
will have access to fewer customers. More fundamentally, we do not 
agree with commenters that argue that copper retirement notices are an 
important way for customers to learn about network deterioration or 
that eliminating de facto retirement from the notice requirement ``will 
allow incumbent carriers to neglect their copper infrastructure.'' If 
copper deterioration is causing service quality issues, notice that 
copper deterioration is the reason for the service quality problems 
provides no benefit to the customers. Moreover, incumbent LECs are free 
to resolve those issues by migrating the customer to fiber, as long as 
the nature of the service being provided to the customer remains the 
same.

[[Page 61459]]

    39. We are similarly unpersuaded by arguments that incumbent LECs 
allow their copper networks to deteriorate in order to ``push'' their 
customers onto fiber. The Act gives carriers, not the Commission, the 
authority to design their networks and choose their own architecture. 
The Act directs that incumbent LECs need only go through the 
Commission's copper retirement notice process, absent a discontinuance 
of service that triggers the requirement to seek Commission approval 
under section 214(a). To the extent commenters are concerned that 
eliminating the de facto retirement provision could result in an 
inability to seek Commission redress should an incumbent LEC willfully 
or otherwise allow its network to degrade, a mandatory notice 
requirement with no accompanying remedy should give them little solace. 
Either way, eliminating this unnecessary notice requirement does not 
foreclose other avenues for relief. Incumbent LECs providing 
telecommunications services remain subject to section 214(a)'s 
discontinuance process requirements, and in some states, they remain 
subject to state-level service quality requirements.
    40. Feeder. By contrast, we retain the feeder portion of the 
incumbent LECs' loops in the copper retirement definition because of 
the significant impact retirement of copper feeder can have on 
competitive LECs' abilities to continue to provide service to their 
end-user customers. We agree with commenters that recommend that an 
incumbent LEC seeking to retire the feeder portion of its copper-based 
network must comply with the copper retirement notice rules rather than 
the more generally applicable network change disclosure rules. The 
record demonstrates that the benefits to both interconnected 
competitive LECs and their respective end-user customers of providing 
notice under the copper retirement rules when an incumbent LEC seeks to 
retire the copper feeder portion of its loops significantly outweighs 
the additional burdens on the incumbent LEC of complying with the 
copper retirement notice process in such situations. It is not ``mere 
theory'' that an interconnecting carrier might need notice of an 
incumbent LEC's plan to retire copper feeder. The record indicates that 
there are interconnected carriers that rely on copper feeder to serve 
their end-users. If we eliminate feeder from the definition of copper 
retirement, interconnecting carriers entitled to ``reasonable notice'' 
under section 251(c)(5) might not receive sufficient notice to continue 
to provide services to their end-user customers or to enable those end-
users to transition to another provider. Retaining feeder in the 
definition ensures that these interconnected carriers are provided 
notice of copper retirement in the same timeframes as interconnected 
carriers that rely on copper loops or sub-loops to serve their end-
users. Moreover, we find our additional streamlining of the copper 
retirement notice process should address the primary concerns of 
commenters advocating for elimination of feeder from our copper 
retirement rules.
c. Streamlining the Copper Retirement Notice Process
    41. Today we eliminate the changes made to the copper retirement 
rules adopted in 2015 and reinstate, with certain modifications, the 
rules applicable to copper retirements that existed prior to that time. 
We find broad support in the record for these changes that will ease 
the regulatory burdens on incumbent LECs in transitioning to next-
generation networks, affording them greater flexibility and eliminating 
the delays and additional costs imposed by Sec.  51.332's rigid 
requirements. We also find that these changes, along with incumbent 
LECs' greater freedom to engage potentially affected parties earlier in 
the planning process, will simultaneously accommodate the concerns of 
most commenters by affording sufficient time to accommodate planned 
changes and addressing parties' needs for adequate information and 
consumer protection.
    42. At the outset, we disagree with commenters that assert that the 
record contains no evidence that alleviating the significant burdens on 
incumbent LECs imposed by the copper retirement rules adopted in 2015 
will spur broadband deployment. The record shows that the burdens 
caused by delays in copper retirements resulting from expansive notice 
obligations can be quite significant, including costs associated with 
the ongoing need to maintain various parallel computer systems and 
retain dedicated engineering staff. Indeed, record evidence suggests 
savings of $45-$50 per home passed per year achieved by retiring copper 
facilities. According to Corning, this savings estimate breaks down as 
follows: First, by ``[r]educing the copper footprint [the incumbent 
LEC] can save upwards of 80% of central office space,'' which ``equates 
to a savings of roughly $35 per home passed per year of real estate 
expense.'' Second, ``electrifying the copper network and equipment 
takes a significant amount of electricity to operate, estimated at 
$1.49 per home passed per year of electricity expense.'' Finally, 
``there is a large amount of incremental maintenance for the copper 
network,'' and ``[i]n 2013, Verizon estimated that in areas where both 
FiOS and copper existed, they were spending more than $200 million 
annually on the copper network, or roughly $10 per home passed with 
both fiber and copper per year of maintenance expense.'' Couple that 
with Verizon's statement that it has filed to retire copper facilities 
at 3.8 million locations, and it appears that Verizon's copper 
retirements alone may result in between $171 million and $190 million 
in cost savings that could be put to use in deploying next-generation 
networks. And expediting the copper retirement process could contribute 
to 26.7 million incremental premises being passed by fiber over a five-
year period. Requiring that incumbent LECs forego these potential 
savings results in opportunity costs and creates a disincentive to 
broadband investment.
    43. We disagree with arguments that the changes we adopt today to 
our copper retirement notice process ``may make it easier for providers 
to shut down networks and services.'' We start by noting that incumbent 
LECs, like their competitors, already have marketplace incentives to 
maintain service to customers. What is more, such arguments confuse the 
copper retirement notice process--which applies only when a carrier 
makes changes to its network--with the discontinuance process. If an 
incumbent LEC's copper retirement will result in a discontinuance of 
service, the carrier must still go through the process of obtaining 
Commission authorization. In that process, customers can still object 
to the proposed discontinuance and raise concerns regarding the 
adequacy of available alternative services, one of the five factors the 
Commission traditionally considers when evaluating discontinuance 
applications.
(i) Reducing Scope of Direct Notice Requirements
    44. To facilitate the rapid transition to next-generation services, 
we eliminate unnecessary copper retirement notice requirements.
    45. Eliminating notice to retail customers. Today we revise the 
copper retirement rules to eliminate the requirement of direct notice 
to retail customers adopted in 2015. Based on the record, we conclude 
that the potential benefits of direct notice of copper retirements 
touted in the 2015 Technology Transitions Order have not come to pass. 
Instead, there is evidence

[[Page 61460]]

that notice of planned copper retirements, pursuant to Sec.  51.332, 
has caused confusion and delay. Moreover, incumbent LECs have strong 
incentives to work closely with their retail customers in order to 
retain their business given the competition they face from competitive 
LECs, cable providers, and wireless providers. They do not require 
mandatory and prescriptive Commission-ordered notice to educate and 
inform their customers of network transitions from copper to fiber. 
Rather, these communications must necessarily occur for the incumbent 
LEC to continue providing the services to which its customers 
subscribe.
    46. We are unpersuaded by commenter assertions that retail 
customers need us to mandate direct notice of planned copper 
retirements because of the impact these changes will have on the 
functionality of devices and services operating on the network. We 
recognize the reliance consumers place on the functioning of equipment 
that connect to incumbent LECs' legacy networks, such as fax machines, 
alarm systems, and health monitoring devices. And many enterprise 
customers, particularly utilities, continue to rely on TDM-based 
services today despite the existence and widespread availability of 
more innovative IP-based services. In both instances, however, 
commenters calling for continued direct notice of copper retirements 
wrongly focus on the underlying transmission medium, i.e., the copper 
network facilities, rather than on the technology of the service being 
provided by the incumbent LEC, i.e., whether it is TDM-based or IP-
based. Should the copper retirement be accompanied by a transition to 
an IP or other technology-based service, only then would the carrier be 
potentially subject to our Section 214(a) discontinuance process rules. 
The record confirms that the equipment and devices about which 
commenters express concern generally continue to function over fiber 
facilities as long as that service remains TDM-based. This is the case 
in copper retirements absent other service changes, despite the 
confusion of many commenters who conflate copper retirement and service 
discontinuance. Indeed, incumbent LECs devote resources to ensure that 
the devices their residential customers use over their networks 
continue to work, including TTY devices. And while the lines serving a 
customer's home will no longer carry power, that is remedied by use of 
a back-up power unit, a matter the Commission has previously addressed. 
Indeed, certain carriers, such as Verizon, provide back-up power units 
to their customers free of charge in connection with copper retirements 
without a Commission mandate to do so.
    47. We recognize that copper-to-fiber transitions can be more 
complicated and time-consuming for certain non-residential retail 
customers, including utilities and federal agency customers. However, 
the record shows that in practice, Sec.  51.332's requirement that 
incumbent LECs provide notice on a reticulated schedule to non-
residential retail customers imposes more significant burdens and delay 
on incumbent LECs than the Commission anticipated when it adopted the 
2015 Technology Transitions Order. Indeed, in adopting that order, the 
Commission failed to account for the important fact that large 
enterprise customers with complex telecommunications requirements 
generally enter into long-term contracts with their telecommunications 
providers, thus affording those customers the ability to negotiate 
service-related protections from changes that might abruptly and 
negatively impact their communications capabilities. This is an 
especially significant oversight given the fierce competition among 
incumbent LECs, large cable companies, competitive LECs, and numerous 
smaller facilities-based service providers for these non-residential 
retail customers. Incumbent LECs have strong incentives to work with 
these enterprise customers to avoid service disruptions, and we 
reiterate that our rules do not override the terms of these privately 
negotiated agreements, including any notice provisions related to 
network changes generally and copper retirements specifically, 
contained within those agreements. Accordingly, we disagree with 
commenters that assert that enterprise customers, in particular 
utilities as well as federal agencies such as the FAA, will be harmed 
and public safety will be put at risk if they do not receive direct 
notice of copper retirements. Suggestions that incumbent LECs would 
risk harming public safety or fail to work cooperatively and diligently 
to accommodate critical needs of their public-safety related customers 
absent a mandatory Commission notice obligation defies both reason and 
experience.
    48. We expect and encourage incumbent LECs to continue to 
collaborate with their customers, especially utilities and public 
safety and other government customers, to ensure that they are given 
sufficient time to accommodate the transition to new network facilities 
such that key functionalities are not lost during this period of 
change, and we specifically rely on incumbent LEC commenters that 
stress the incentives they have to work with their retail customers. 
And because we are eliminating the rule prohibiting incumbent LECs from 
discussing planned network changes in advance of public notice, 
incumbent LECs can now respond to requests for information from these 
customers about planned network changes at any time. By eliminating 
this prohibition, we give incumbent LECs the freedom to engage their 
wholesale and retail customers far earlier in the planning process, 
thus allowing those customers, in turn, to begin planning and budgeting 
for the coming changes.
    49. Similarly, with respect to residential retail customers, we do 
not believe that Commission-mandated direct notice of planned copper 
retirements serves any practical purpose, nor has it helped reduce 
confusion, despite the relatively seamless nature of a copper-to-fiber 
transition. We anticipate that residential consumers will continue to 
be well-informed about copper retirements impacting their service 
absent Commission-imposed notice obligations. Indeed, incumbent LECs 
necessarily must reach out to these customers and communicate with them 
about their specific planned copper retirement to work with them, 
individually, to access their homes in order to accomplish their 
migration to the new fiber-based network. This migration simply cannot 
occur absent these communications. As a result, commenters are mistaken 
to assert that consumers need Commission-mandated direct notice of 
planned copper retirements to be fully informed.
    50. The record shows that the three largest incumbent LECs that 
together serve approximately 74% of households purchasing legacy voice 
service from incumbent LECs acknowledge and embrace their role in 
educating consumers of the effect of impending changes in the network 
over which their service is provided, not just of the benefits of 
advanced, IP-based services. And the record suggests that States that 
wish to do so are well positioned to engage in consumer education and 
outreach efforts. Indeed, incumbent LECs are already collaborating with 
state commissions in certain jurisdictions to educate consumers and 
minimize confusion about copper retirements. Such efforts are more 
likely to reduce consumer confusion than governmentally-mandated 
notices and timeframes. While we acknowledge here USTelecom's 
suggestion of a ``concerted, federal government-wide effort to ensure 
that Executive Branch

[[Page 61461]]

policies do not prolong the federal government's reliance on legacy 
services,'' such action is outside the scope of the Commission's 
authority.
    51. Finally, section 251(c)(5) of the Act, embodied in the market-
opening local competition provisions, sets forth the duties of 
telecommunications carriers vis-[agrave]-vis other telecommunications 
carriers. It specifically speaks to the need to provide information to 
allow ``transmission and routing'' and ongoing ``interoperability'' 
with the incumbent LECs' networks, matters in which retail customers 
are not engaged. The Commission implicitly and correctly recognized 
this limitation when adopting the first network change disclosure rules 
in the Second Local Competition Order, concluding that notice of 
sufficient information to deter anticompetitive behavior was necessary 
and that ``incumbent LECs should give competing service providers 
complete information about network design, technical standards and 
planned changes to the network.''
    52. Limiting notice requirement for interconnecting entities to 
interconnecting telephone exchange service providers. We modify the 
copper retirement direct notice requirement for providing notice to 
interconnecting entities by limiting that requirement to providing 
notice to telephone exchange service providers that directly 
interconnect with the incumbent LEC's network. We also afford incumbent 
LECs some flexibility in the manner in which they provide notice of 
planned copper retirements to entitled recipients by permitting them to 
provide notice via web posting to the extent the affected 
interconnected carriers have agreed to receive notice in this manner.
    53. In eliminating the requirement that direct notice be provided 
to all entities that directly interconnect with the incumbent LEC's 
network, we return to the pre-2015 requirement that such notice be 
provided only to directly interconnecting telephone exchange service 
providers. We agree with commenters that argue that requiring direct 
notice to all entities that interconnect with the incumbent LEC's 
network is overbroad, encompassing multiple interconnected entities 
that are not affected by copper retirements. Requiring that direct 
notice be provided only to telephone exchange service providers that 
directly interconnect with the incumbent LEC's network achieves an 
appropriate balance between the needs of interconnecting carriers that 
purchase either copper inputs or services provisioned over copper 
facilities and the need to minimize regulatory burdens on incumbent 
LECs that affect their ability or incentive to deploy next-generation 
facilities.
    54. To further reduce regulatory burdens and modernize our process, 
we allow incumbent LECs to post notices of copper retirements on their 
website in lieu of direct notice to interconnecting telephone exchange 
service providers where the incumbent LEC can certify that the 
interconnecting telephone exchange service provider agreed to that 
method of notice. We agree that for incumbent LECs who maintain web 
pages on which they post network change notices, providing notice via 
web posting is efficient and is reasonably calculated to provide 
expeditious notice to affected interconnecting carriers. This change 
aligns with our process for non-short-term network changes.
    55. Regardless of which method of notice the incumbent LEC chooses, 
consistent with the pre-2015 requirements, as well as the current 
short-term network change requirements, incumbent LECs must provide 
notice to interconnecting telephone exchange service providers at least 
five business days in advance of filing with the Commission. Further, 
consistent with the pre-2015 requirements, the incumbent LEC must 
include with its filing with the Commission a certificate of service to 
demonstrate that it has provided the required direct notice to 
interconnecting telephone exchange service providers. This certificate 
of service effectively replaces the certification previously required 
by the 2015 Technology Transitions Order, which we eliminate as moot. 
As a result, AT&T's request that the Commission pare down the various 
certifications required by the network change disclosure rules, is also 
rendered moot.
    56. Eliminating unnecessary governmental notices. We eliminate the 
requirement that incumbent LECs provide direct notice of planned copper 
retirements to state commissions, governors, Tribal Nations, and 
Department of Defense. When the Commission adopted these direct notice 
requirements in 2015, it was done to synchronize the notice 
requirements for copper retirements with those for section 214(a) 
discontinuances. However, discontinuances present a very different set 
of concerns because of the potential for loss of service and/or 
functionality, thereby justifying greater notice than mere changes to 
the facilities over which an incumbent LEC provides its services. A 
number of commenters have stated that providing copper retirement 
notices to governmental entities beyond the Commission is burdensome.
    57. States and Tribal Nations that have regulatory authority over 
copper and wish to mandate notice are able to do so without the need 
for an across-the-board Commission rule. We thus disagree with NARUC 
that eliminating the requirement of direct notice to government 
entities might ``handicap[] State options to address real issues that 
can arise in the wake of a natural disaster and in the wake of 
technology transitions.'' That in some cases such entities lack 
regulatory authority over or take a deregulatory approach to network 
changes shows that a Commission mandate is in many cases unnecessary 
and imposes a burden for no reason. With regard to Tribal Nations, 
Verizon asserts that incumbent LECs lack sufficient information to 
determine whether a copper retirement affects areas within a particular 
Tribal nation's boundaries. We further find that requiring direct 
notice of planned copper retirements to the Department of Defense 
serves no regulatory purpose. The Department of Defense has no 
regulatory or consumer protection role in the context of copper 
retirements. Moreover, copper retirements do not themselves present an 
increased cybersecurity risk. In other words, we disavow the 
Commission's prior finding that keeping the Department of Defense 
informed of planned copper retirements was warranted because of ``the 
increased cybersecurity risks posed by IP-based networks.'' A 
transition from copper to fiber does not necessitate a transition to 
IP-based networks and does not change a network's cybersecurity risk. 
NTIA, however, urges us to retain this notice requirement because the 
``Department of Defense is a major and critical user of 
telecommunications services.'' Although true, it does not explain why 
the Department of Defense should be notified of copper retirements that 
affect other users. Moreover, we find a notice requirement to keep the 
Department of Defense apprised as a customer is unnecessary because we 
are lifting barriers that currently prevent carriers from discussing 
network changes with their customers, and the record shows that 
carriers have adequate incentives to negotiate contract provisions 
addressing such changes with government customers.
    58. Eliminating additional content requirement added in 2015. By 
eliminating the section of the rule requiring direct notice of copper 
retirement to retail customers, we are also eliminating the requirement 
that incumbent LECs include in their copper

[[Page 61462]]

retirement notices ``a description of any changes in prices, terms, or 
conditions that will accompany the planned changes.'' No commenters 
addressed this specific issue in support of or in opposition to the 
potential elimination of Sec.  51.332. Consistent with the other 
reduced notice requirements we adopt herein, we find this prescriptive 
content requirement has no bearing on the type of notice the Commission 
correctly recognized section 251(c)(5) was intended to provide, i.e., 
changes in ``network design, technical standards and planned changes to 
the network'' when first implementing this provision. As such, we 
conclude that it imposes an unnecessary regulatory obligation on 
incumbent LECs beyond the scope of the statutorily mandated notice 
process.
    59. Rejecting requests to further streamline notice requirements. 
We reject requests to further streamline our copper retirement notice 
requirements. First, we decline to do away altogether with the direct 
notice requirement, as some in the record suggest. Because an incumbent 
LEC's copper retirement could significantly impact an interconnected 
competitive carrier's ability to continue providing certain services to 
its customers, it remains an important requirement. Requiring every 
competitive LEC to monitor every notice of network change published by 
the Commission, as would be necessary absent a direct notice 
requirement, would be unreasonable for these service providers. 
Moreover, because we are shortening the notice period for copper 
retirements today, continuing to require direct notice strikes an 
appropriate balance between facilitating incumbent LEC network changes 
and the needs of affected interconnecting carriers. Ensuring that 
interconnecting service providers will continue to receive copper 
retirement notices directly from incumbent LECs will afford those 
entities as much time as possible to convey necessary information to 
their customers who will be impacted by the incumbent's planned copper 
retirement.
    60. Similarly, we reject Frontier's suggestion that we exempt from 
our copper retirement rules those copper retirements occurring in areas 
where the Commission is funding broadband deployment, e.g., in areas 
receiving Connect America Fund support. The fact that broadband will be 
deployed in such areas over time does not obviate the benefit of 
receiving timely notice of impending copper retirements to the parties 
entitled to such notice under our rules. Recipients of CAF Phase II 
model-based support have to deploy broadband to 40% of supported 
locations by the end of 2017, increasing by 20% each year until they 
reach 100% by the end of 2020. As a result, to the extent copper 
retirement rules require notice, those notifications are likely to be 
spread over time.
(ii) Reducing Copper Retirement Waiting Periods
    61. Reducing the standard waiting period for copper retirements 
from 180 days to 90 days after the Commission issues its public notice. 
We reduce the generally applicable 180-day waiting period for copper 
retirements to a 90-day waiting period, which was the waiting period 
prior to the Commission's 2015 amendments to the copper retirement 
rules. We find that a 90-day waiting period after the Commission 
releases a public notice of the filing meets the needs of 
interconnecting carriers and other interested entities while minimizing 
the risk of undue delay for incumbent LECs. In reinstating that 
provision in Sec.  51.333(b), we revise the language both to more 
accurately reflect that the copper retirement process, like all network 
changes, is a notice-based process and to make the treatment of copper 
retirement notices consistent with that of short-term network change 
notices in the same rule.
    62. The record demonstrates that the current, longer waiting period 
has already slowed down affected incumbent LEC deployment plans, and 
caused uncertainty for at least one carrier's planned broadband 
buildout. The return to the 90-day waiting period is particularly 
appropriate in light of the other changes we adopt today that reduce 
the need for a longer waiting period, including allowing incumbent LECs 
to share information about planned network changes prior to providing 
the requisite public notice, and reinstating the previously applicable 
objection procedures, actions that address competitors' concerns that 
90 days is not sufficient time to accommodate copper retirements 
involving large numbers of circuits. As a result, the 90-day notice 
period we adopt today best achieves the balance of ``adequate, but not 
excessive,'' notice.
    63. The copper to fiber transition has been ongoing for the past 
fourteen years. The timing and rates of transitions or the decision to 
transition in the first instance vary on a carrier-by-carrier, and even 
on a case-by-case basis for each individual incumbent LEC. While we 
recognize that copper loops are not obsolete, competitive LECs have had 
ample notice that many legacy copper networks are likely to be retired 
at some point in the not-so-distant future. It is in this context that 
we must evaluate commenters' claims that they continue to need 
extensive notice of copper retirements so that they can, if necessary, 
deploy their own fiber. Longer periods or more open-ended structures 
requested by some commenters would pose the risk of holding incumbent 
LEC networks hostage indefinitely, a result explicitly sought by at 
least one commenter. Such a result would run counter to the expressed 
goals of this proceeding to accelerate next-generation network 
deployment, and in any case longer periods are unwarranted.
    64. Certain commenters refer to the reduced 90-day waiting period 
as a ``speeded-up time frame.'' To the contrary, we simply return to 
the timeframes that applied for more than a decade, before the 
Commission adopted the 2015 Technology Transitions Order. By contrast, 
the extended notice periods sought by competitive LEC commenters 
constitute the very ``overextended advance notification intervals'' the 
Commission was concerned might needlessly ``delay the introduction of 
new services, provide the interconnecting carrier with an unfair 
competitive advantage, or slow the pace of technical innovation.''
    65. We decline to adopt certain incumbent LEC requests that the 90-
day waiting period begin to run when the incumbent LEC files its copper 
retirement notice or, in the alternative, to require that we release a 
public notice within a specified period of time. Incumbent LEC 
commenters assert that delays in our processing of filings can result 
in delays in implementation. However, commenters do not point to any 
specific instance in which a planned copper retirement had to be 
delayed due to the timing of our release of the relevant public notice. 
Moreover, having the waiting period run from the date we release a 
public notice of the filing, as has been the case for more than two 
decades, affords Commission staff the necessary opportunity to review 
filings for mistakes and/or non-compliance with the rules. Indeed, 
Commission staff routinely contacts filers to clarify or correct 
information contained in filings or to add required information that is 
missing, and this ability is necessary to ensure the integrity of the 
filing process. Otherwise, incumbent LEC notices could fail to contain 
the required information at the time of filing, depriving notice 
recipients of information they need to accommodate the network change. 
Incumbent LEC commenters have not specified any reason why, or 
demonstrated any harm from, timely release of a copper

[[Page 61463]]

retirement public notice based on the incumbent LEC's own planned 
implementation date as specified in the notice.
    66. Adopting expedited 15-day waiting period where no customers are 
served over affected copper. We further amend our rules to provide for 
a 15-day waiting period after Commission release of its public notice 
of an incumbent LEC's filing for copper retirements where the affected 
copper facilities are no longer being used to provide service. As AT&T 
explains in its comments, this streamlined notice process, which 
received support from incumbent and competitive LECs alike, is 
appropriate because it will not impact any interconnecting carriers or 
require the transition of any services.
(iii) Reinstating Objection Procedures for Copper Retirement Notices
    67. Because the rules we adopt today reduce the waiting period from 
180 days to 90 days, we reinstate the objection procedures previously 
applicable to copper retirement notices prior to the 2015 Technology 
Transitions Order and currently applicable to short-term network change 
notices. We therefore find it unnecessary to retain the good faith 
communication requirement adopted in 2015. In the rare instances in 
which a competitor may need additional information or be unable to make 
the accommodations necessary to continue to provide service to its 
customers within the 90 day notice timeframe, the objection procedure 
will provide a mechanism to provide more time to address concerns. 
Before the 2015 changes went into effect, carriers infrequently invoked 
the objection procedures, but reinstating the procedure affords some 
measure of protection to competing providers facing extenuating 
circumstances. The objection procedure further serves as an incentive 
for an incumbent LEC to work closely with competitive LECs to ensure 
the competitive LECs have the information they need to accommodate the 
planned copper retirement within the 90-day period, a role that was 
filled by the good faith communication requirement when the Commission 
eliminated the objection procedures applicable to copper retirement 
notices in 2015. Moreover, these procedures allow objections only to 
delay the planned retirement up to a total of six months from the 
initial public notice under our rules. In no case, however, do they 
prevent the retirement from occurring or extend the timeframe beyond 
the six-month period.
    68. We are unpersuaded by Windstream's assertion that it is 
necessary to retain the requirement that incumbent LECs work in good 
faith with interconnecting entities to provide information necessary to 
assist them in accommodating planned copper retirements without 
disruption of service to their customers. A competitive LEC that feels 
an incumbent LEC is engaging in anticompetitive behavior by not 
providing necessary information has two avenues of recourse. First, the 
objection procedures we reinstate today provide a mechanism for 
competitive LECs to seek any additional information they need to allow 
them to accommodate the planned transition. Second, the competitive LEC 
may assert a claim under section 201(b) of the Act that the incumbent 
LEC is engaging in an unjust or unreasonable practice.
    69. Finally, we are unpersuaded by unsubstantiated incumbent LEC 
concerns that competitive LECs might use the objection procedures to 
engage in anti-competitive behavior. Indeed, the Commission is unaware 
of, and incumbent LEC commenters do not point to, any such instances 
occurring under the pre-2015 copper retirement objection procedure 
rules, or the current short-term network change rules, which have 
always contained an objection period. To the extent this occurs in the 
future, we again make it clear that we will not tolerate such efforts 
and that objections proffered for anticompetitive purposes can expose 
the objector to sanctions. We thus conclude that reinstating the 
objection procedures previously applicable to copper retirement notices 
maintains an appropriate balance between the needs of incumbent and 
competitive LECs and is consistent with Commission precedent.
(iv) Reinstating ``Deemed Denied'' Objection Resolution for Copper 
Retirements
    70. We also reinstate the objection resolution procedures 
applicable to copper retirements that were eliminated by the 2015 
Technology Transitions Order. Absent Commission action, an objection to 
a copper retirement notice will be deemed denied ninety days after the 
Commission releases its public notice of the incumbent LEC's filing. By 
reinstating this provision, we further streamline the copper retirement 
process and obviate the concerns expressed by some commenters that 
competitors might use the objection procedures for anti-competitive 
reasons.
d. Adopting Streamlined Copper Retirement Notice Procedures for Force 
Majeure Events
    71. As recent events have shown, it is vital that we do everything 
we can to facilitate rapid restoration of communications networks in 
the face of natural disasters and other unforeseen events. We recognize 
that when networks are damaged or destroyed by devastating force 
majeure events such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the top 
priority for service providers must be to restore their networks and 
service to consumers as quickly as possible rather than jump through 
regulatory hoops. Regulatory processes that could make sense in normal 
times may cause unnecessary delay when exigent circumstances arise. To 
provide incumbent LECs the flexibility to restore service as quickly as 
possible, today we streamline our copper retirement procedures for 
cases of natural disasters or other unforeseen events. To be clear, we 
revise only our network change notification rules that govern how 
incumbent LECs notify other carriers of copper retirements, and we do 
not revisit our existing procedures for emergency discontinuances of 
service.
    72. The record shows that as incumbent and competitive LECs 
recognize, incumbent LECs need the flexibility to restore service as 
quickly as possible in the case of unforeseen events and should not be 
rendered non-compliant by actions beyond their control. For example, 
when a natural disaster such as a hurricane damages an incumbent LEC's 
facilities, or a copper line is inadvertently cut during a road work 
project, an incumbent LEC must, first and foremost, take whatever 
action is necessary to restore impacted service as quickly as possible. 
We find that it makes more sense to allow the prompt installation of 
replacement facilities than to require the incumbent LEC to first 
repair the damaged copper lines, if the incumbent LEC determines that 
is the best course of action, only to subsequently expend additional 
resources to then retire and replace those facilities later. The same 
logic applies when state or municipal authorities notify an incumbent 
LEC that due to an impending project, the incumbent LEC must move its 
copper lines within a shorter period of time than might allow the 
carrier to comply with the advance notice and waiting periods required 
by the Commission's rules.
    73. With respect to force majeure events, this new provision 
applicable to copper retirements codifies streamlined procedures 
already available to certain

[[Page 61464]]

incumbent LECs pursuant to a set of waiver orders, the first of which 
was adopted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. By codifying these 
waivers for copper retirements and extending them to all incumbent LECs 
alike, we adopt well-tested requirements, provide greater regulatory 
certainty, and promote competitive neutrality among incumbent LECs.
    74. Turning to the language of the rule provision we adopt, we 
specifically revise the rules governing copper retirement to (i) exempt 
incumbent LECs from advance notice and waiting period requirements for 
copper retirements that are required as a direct result of force 
majeure events such as the ``emergencies'' identified in Sec.  
79.2(a)(2) of our rules (other than school closings, bus schedule 
changes, and weather warnings or watches), as well as terrorist 
attacks, and (ii) require that an incumbent LEC give notice of a copper 
retirement resulting from a municipal mandate or third-party damage or 
destruction to copper lines as soon as practicable, and permit a 
reduced waiting period commensurate with the amount of notice provided 
to the incumbent LEC by the municipal authority. Political or economic 
events (e.g., Commission action, a market crash) also will not qualify 
as force majeure events for purposes of this rule.
    75. Under the rules we adopt today, in the case of a force majeure 
event for which an incumbent LEC invokes its disaster recovery plan, 
the incumbent LEC will be exempted during the period when the disaster 
recovery plan is invoked, for up to 180 days, from all advance notice 
and waiting period requirements associated with copper retirements that 
are a direct result of damage to the incumbent LEC's network 
infrastructure caused by the force majeure event. Certain carriers 
undertook disaster response planning in the wake of Hurricane Katrina 
and in response to the Administration's expressed hope for greater 
national preparedness. The term ``disaster recovery plan'' as used here 
is intended to refer to a disaster response plan developed by an 
incumbent LEC for the purpose of responding to a force majeure event. 
We find that in the event of a disaster, requiring compliance with 
these rules would impede restoration efforts and delay recovery. 
However, during the exemption period, as soon as practicable after the 
force majeure event occurs and the disaster recovery plan is invoked, 
the incumbent LEC must comply with Sec.  51.325(a)'s public notice 
requirement and include in such public notice the date on which the 
carrier invoked its disaster recovery plan. It must also communicate 
with other interconnected telephone exchange service providers to 
ensure that such carriers are aware of any changes being made to the 
incumbent LEC's networks that may impact those carriers' operations, as 
soon as practicable. No further notice requirements apply.
    76. Should an incumbent LEC require relief longer than 180 days 
after the disaster recovery plan is invoked, the incumbent LEC must 
request further relief authority from the Commission. Any such request 
must be accompanied by a status report describing the incumbent LEC's 
progress and providing an estimate of when the incumbent LEC expects to 
be able to resume compliance with copper retirement disclosure 
requirements. In the event of circumstances triggered by third parties, 
such as a municipal mandate or inadvertent third party cuts to the 
incumbent LEC's copper lines, the incumbent LEC's direct and public 
notice must comply in all respects with the copper retirement notice 
rules, except that the notice must: (1) Incorporate a reduced waiting 
period commensurate with the specific circumstances at issue; (2) 
provide an explanation of the particular circumstances; and (3) explain 
how the incumbent LEC intends to minimize the impact of the reduced 
waiting period on interconnected carriers.
    77. In the event that unforeseen circumstances arise warranting 
relief that falls outside of the force majeure rules we adopt, the 
Wireline Competition Bureau has delegated authority to address waiver 
requests. However, we reject CWA's argument that the Commission should 
proceed solely via waiver in this context. The waiver process is slower 
and less predictable than a rule, which is especially problematic when 
carriers need to make quick decisions in exigent circumstances.
    78. Finally, we disagree with CALTEL that this issue requires 
further comment before we adopt this limited exemption. As discussed 
above, the limited force majeure exemption simply codifies and makes 
uniform across carriers the waivers that have been available to certain 
incumbent LECs since 2005. We are unaware of any instances in which 
carriers have sought to invoke the waiver provisions in inappropriately 
broad circumstances. We are also unaware of any instances in which: (1) 
Network change notices filed after an incumbent LEC has invoked its 
disaster recovery plan has caused confusion among interconnecting 
carriers, or (2) the incumbent LEC has taken longer than 180 days to 
implement the necessary repairs or network changes. Moreover, the 
Commission staff reviews all network change notices and will help guard 
against incumbent LECs invoking this exemption improperly.
e. Updating Filing Titles Applicable to Copper Retirements
    79. We update the titles available to incumbent LECs for use in 
labeling their copper retirement filings. Section 51.329(c)(1) sets 
forth titles that incumbent LECs must use to label their network change 
disclosure filings. The Commission added the titles applicable to 
copper retirement filings in 2016 ``to alleviate potential confusion.'' 
Those newly-added titles specifically reference Sec.  51.332, which we 
eliminate today. Because we add the copper retirement notice 
requirements back into Sec.  51.333, where they originally resided, we 
revise the copper retirement-related titles set forth in Sec.  
51.329(c)(1) to correctly refer to Sec.  51.333.

C. Section 214(a) Discontinuance Process

    80. Today we take several important steps to eliminate unnecessary 
regulatory process encumbrances when carriers decide to cease offering 
legacy services that are rapidly and abundantly being replaced with 
more innovative alternatives. Section 214(a) requires carriers to 
obtain authorization from the Commission before discontinuing, 
reducing, or impairing service to a community or part of a community. 
As a matter of convenience, unless otherwise noted this item uses the 
term ``discontinue'' or ``discontinuance'' as a shorthand for the 
statutory language ``discontinue, reduce, or impair.'' To be clear, 
section 214(a)'s discontinuance requirements apply solely to 
telecommunications services, and to interconnected VoIP service to 
which the Commission has extended section 214(a)'s discontinuance 
requirements. Section 214(a) discontinuance requirements would not 
apply where the Commission forbears from application of these rules. 
These requirements do not apply to any other services a carrier may 
offer.
    81. The reforms we adopt reflect the reality of today's 
marketplace. As USTelecom and other commenters in this proceeding 
observe, demand for the kinds of low-speed services that carriers 
generally provide over legacy networks is rapidly decreasing, as 
consumers move towards modern, competing alternatives. As of June 2016, 
interconnected VoIP lines accounted for nearly half of all retail voice 
telephone service connections in the United States. Section 9.3 of our 
rules defines

[[Page 61465]]

``interconnected VoIP.'' Non-incumbent LECs operate more than three 
quarters of these approximately 60 million interconnected VoIP lines. 
And mobile voice service subscriptions now outnumber end-user switched 
access lines in service by more than five-to-one. This gap is widening. 
As the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) recently found, between 
2013 and 2016, ``interconnected VoIP subscriptions increased at a 
compound annual growth rate of 10%, while mobile voice subscriptions 
increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3%, and retail switched 
access lines declined at 11% per year.'' Similar trends are affecting 
legacy low-speed data services, which have largely been abandoned by 
consumers. Our data show that between December 2014 and June 2016 the 
proportion of all fixed broadband consumer connections with a download 
speed between 200 Kbps and 1.544 Mbps has fallen from 6 percent to 3 
percent.
    82. These developments drive our efforts to streamline the section 
214(a) discontinuance process for legacy services. Section 214 directs 
the Commission to ensure that a loss of service does not harm the 
public convenience or necessity. In determining whether a 
discontinuance will harm the public interest, the Commission has 
traditionally utilized a five-factor balancing test to analyze: (1) The 
financial impact on the common carrier of continuing to provide the 
service; (2) the need for the service in general; (3) the need for the 
particular facilities in question; (4) increased charges for 
alternative services; and (5) the existence, availability, and adequacy 
of alternatives. Increasing competition and deployment of higher-speed 
next-generation services allow most consumers to purchase services that 
are superior to legacy services. As a number of commenters note, these 
developments have greatly reduced the risk of harm to consumers 
stemming from the discontinuance of legacy services.
    83. The record also makes clear that the Commission's current 
section 214(a) discontinuance rules impose needless costs and delay on 
carriers that wish to transition from legacy services to next-
generation, IP-based infrastructure and services. Even relatively short 
delays or periods of unpredictability can, in the aggregate, create 
significant hurdles for providers who seek to upgrade hundreds or 
thousands of lines across their service territory. As Verizon explains, 
excessive restrictions on the discontinuance of legacy services harm 
both consumers and competition alike ``as they delay the ability of 
providers to shift resources from legacy voice services to the more 
modern offerings that consumers demand.'' For example, Verizon 
estimates that that ``the necessary equipment to provide a single fiber 
based DS0 equivalent at a customer location can cost more than 
$30,000'' and observes that ``[p]roviders who are unable to discontinue 
these services efficiently would be faced with the cost of maintaining 
them over fiber should they choose to retire copper, which could divert 
resources that could be used for newer services.'' For these reasons, 
as described below, we streamline and expedite our processes for 
section 214 discontinuance applications for a variety of legacy 
services.
1. Expediting Applications That ``Grandfather'' Low-Speed Legacy 
Services for Existing Customers
    84. First, we streamline the approval process for discontinuance 
applications to grandfather low-speed (i.e., below 1.544 Mbps) legacy 
services. ``Grandfathering'' a service under section 214 refers to a 
request by a carrier for authorization to stop accepting new customers 
for a service while maintaining that service to existing customers. 
Throughout this section we use the terms ``grandfathering,'' 
``grandfather,'' and ``grandfathered'' interchangeably to refer to this 
type of section 214(a) application. Specifically, we adopt a uniform 
reduced public comment period of 10 days and an automatic grant period 
of 25 days for all carriers seeking to grandfather legacy low-speed 
services for existing customers. The record supports our conclusion 
that streamlined processing of these applications will remove 
unnecessary regulatory delay for carriers seeking to discontinue legacy 
services with no harmful impact to existing customers.
    85. Streamlined Comment and Auto-Grant Period. There is broad 
support in the record for reducing the processing period for 
applications to grandfather low-speed legacy services to a 10-day 
comment period and a 25 day auto-grant period. The Commission's rules 
provide for a 30 day comment period and a 60 day auto-grant period for 
service discontinuance applications filed by dominant carriers. For 
non-dominant carrier applications, comments are due within 15 days of 
the release of a public notice announcing the filing, and there is a 30 
day auto-grant period. Commenters urge the Commission to make the 
discontinuance process easier for carriers seeking to replace their 
legacy services with next-generation services, especially to the extent 
that such discontinuances do not impact those using the service, as is 
the case with grandfathering.
    86. The record demonstrates that longer processing timelines for 
grandfathering applications are unnecessary to protect consumers from 
potential harm stemming from discontinuances, and that our current 
discontinuance rules may unnecessarily impede the deployment of 
advanced broadband networks by imposing costs on service providers who 
seek to upgrade legacy infrastructure. Our section 214 discontinuance 
provisions are intended to protect the public by ensuring that 
consumers are not harmed by loss of service as a result of a 
discontinuance, and we will normally authorize a discontinuance unless 
it is shown that affected customers would be unable to receive a 
reasonable substitute service. However, as numerous commenters observe, 
national marketplace trends show that businesses and consumers alike 
are moving away from legacy services and toward modern alternatives. In 
both the residential and enterprise services marketplace, incumbent 
LECs now face widespread competition from numerous intermodal 
competitors offering services that compete with legacy services. These 
competitive forces have made substitute services readily available to 
the majority of consumers, mitigating any potential harm that might 
result from legacy services being grandfathered.
    87. The record also makes clear that the section 214(a) 
discontinuance rules impose costs on carriers that wish to transition 
from legacy services to next-generation infrastructure, slowing the 
deployment of advanced services. As Verizon explains, processing times 
for 214(a) discontinuances ``can delay services upgrades 
considerably.'' Similarly, ITIF observes, that ``[a]llowing faster 
approval of exit applications will speed the transition away from 
legacy services and towards next generation IP-based networks.'' We 
find that affording carriers a more rapid glide path to transition away 
from legacy services they no longer seek to offer will reduce costs and 
promote the availability of innovative new services that benefit the 
public. By balancing the needs of consumers and carriers to optimize 
the deployment of new network technologies, these common-sense reforms 
help us better fulfill our section 214(a) statutory obligations.
    88. We disagree with commenters that argue that the reduced comment 
and auto-grant periods will provide insufficient opportunity for public

[[Page 61466]]

comment, or will otherwise prevent the Commission from fulfilling its 
statutory obligation to ensure that discontinuances do not harm the 
public interest. One commenter goes so far as to argue that 
grandfathering applications in general run afoul of Commission 
precedent because the fundamentals of common carriage dictate that 
telecommunications services must be offered to all comers. On the 
contrary, the Act affords the Commission broad flexibility in 
administering the section 214 discontinuance process to serve the 
public interest, and the Commission has long considered applications to 
grandfather services pursuant to section 214(a) or permitted carriers 
to grandfather certain service offerings in their FCC tariffs. 
Relatively few customers remain on legacy services, and because 
existing customers will be grandfathered under this section of our 
rules, they are unlikely to be harmed by these new processes. Moreover, 
a 10-day comment period will permit affected customers sufficient time 
to raise any applicable concerns with the Commission. Finally, nothing 
in the rule we adopt today changes a carrier's obligations to directly 
notify its customers of its plans to grandfather a service at, or 
before, the time it files its grandfathering application with the 
Commission. Thus, to the extent customers have concerns about the 
grandfathering application, they will be able to present concerns both 
during the 10-day comment period and prior to that period while the 
Commission's release of the public notice is pending. Similarly, we 
conclude that a 25-day auto-grant period will provide the Commission 
with ample time to evaluate any objections to the grandfathering 
application, and, if necessary, remove the application from streamlined 
treatment to conduct a more searching review of the application or to 
give the carrier and objecting party more time to resolve its issues.
    89. Our reform is limited in scope. Nothing in the reduced 
processing timeframes we adopt today alters our obligation under 
section 214(a) to ensure that discontinuances, including those which 
occur when a service is grandfathered, do not run contrary to the 
``public convenience and necessity.'' These streamlining measures do 
not in any way change the methodology we use to conduct our public 
interest evaluation or the criteria upon which it is based. We continue 
to apply our traditional five-factor balancing test to all section 214 
discontinuance applications, including the specific grandfathered 
applications at issue here, regardless of which review timeline 
applies. If a grandfathering application subject to these new rules 
raises substantial questions, Bureau staff may remove it from 
streamlined processing just as it can under our prior approval 
timeframes.
    90. We reject the proposals of Windstream and Ad Hoc Telecom Users 
Committee to prescribe specific terms and conditions carriers must 
include in their grandfathering plans. Similarly, we decline to adopt 
specific requirements unique to grandfathered services for government 
customers as sought by NTIA for the same reasons we discuss in paras. 
106-07, infra. We intend to streamline processing, not impose delay and 
complexity by interfering with a carrier's specific business plans or 
how it intends to continue serving its existing customers. As AT&T 
notes, carriers may have limited ability to provide legacy services 
that are being phased out, and in any event, requiring carriers to 
allow moves, additions, and/or changes to grandfathered services would 
``force carriers to invest resources in outdated technology rather than 
investing in deployment of next-generation services,'' which runs 
contrary to the purpose of the reforms we adopt today. To the extent 
affected customers believe the terms of a carriers' proposed 
grandfathering application raises concerns, customers can raise these 
concerns during the public comment period.
    91. Uniform Treatment for Dominant and Non-Dominant Carriers. Our 
section 214 discontinuance rules have traditionally applied different 
comment and automatic grant periods to dominant and non-dominant 
carriers. However, in light of the technological and competitive 
dynamics of today's modern communications landscape, we find it is 
unnecessary to maintain a distinction between dominant and non-dominant 
carriers in the context of section 214 applications to grandfather low 
speed legacy services.
    92. Eligible Low-Speed Legacy Services. We make the streamlined 
approval process we adopt available to all carriers seeking to 
grandfather any voice and data services at speeds below 1.544 Mbps. We 
recognize that legacy services, in general, constitute numerous 
services at speeds equal to or greater than 1.544 Mbps and over 
technologies other than TDM, some of which could be characterized as 
low-speed. Nevertheless, solely for purposes of the rules we adopt 
herein today, we apply our streamlined criteria only to those low-speed 
legacy services lower than a DS1 speed as specified in the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM. As the record indicates, demand for these services 
is falling as consumers migrate to more advanced services that offer 
greater speed and functionality or to competitive alternatives such as 
IP or wireless. We find broad record support for including both voice 
and data services meeting our speed threshold. Indeed some commenters 
suggest substantially broadening the scope of services covered by these 
reduced timeframes to include all grandfathered services or all 
grandfathered legacy services, regardless of speed. We decline to 
extend our streamlined grandfathering provisions to additional services 
or speed thresholds at this time. We find that limiting our 
streamlined-treatment to legacy voice and data services below 1.544 
Mbps strikes the appropriate balance to provide relief to carriers who 
wish to transition away from the provision of legacy services for which 
there is rapidly decreasing demand, while at the same time ensuring 
that potential consumers of these services have readily available 
alternatives.
2. Expediting Applications To Discontinue Previously Grandfathered 
Legacy Data Services
    93. Second, we streamline the discontinuance process for 
applications seeking authorization to discontinue legacy data services 
that have previously been grandfathered for a period of at least 180 
days. We define legacy data services for the purpose of these new rules 
as data services below 1.544 Mbps.
    94. Streamlined Comment and Auto-Grant Periods. We adopt a uniform 
reduced public comment period of 10 days and an auto-grant period of 31 
days for all carriers. Discontinuing carriers that wish to avail 
themselves of this streamlined process may do so by including a simple 
certification that they have received Commission authority to 
grandfather the services at issue at least 180 days prior to the filing 
of the discontinuance application. This certification must reference 
the file number of the prior Commission authorization to grandfather 
the services the carrier now seeks to permanently discontinue.
    95. The record supports reducing the public comment period to 10 
days and the auto-grant period to 31 days for previously-grandfathered 
legacy data applications. Streamlining the comment and auto-grant 
periods for this class of discontinuance applications will benefit both 
industry and consumers by speeding the retirement of outdated services 
and the transition to next-generation networks. Carriers that seek

[[Page 61467]]

to completely retire legacy data services that have previously been 
grandfathered will be better able to focus resources on more 
innovative, technologically advanced services, while simultaneously 
protecting customers of these previously grandfathered legacy data 
services.
    96. A 10-day comment period for these applications will provide 
customers with ample notice of the impending discontinuance of their 
service, as the initial grandfathering of the service is a clear signal 
to these customers that such service is likely to be discontinued in 
the future. This is particularly true considering our requirement that 
such services be grandfathered for a minimum of 180 days prior to the 
filing of a discontinuance application. Thus, we disagree with 
commenters that claim that this shortened comment interval will fail to 
give impacted customers sufficient notice, or suggest merely knowing 
that a service is grandfathered does not prepare retail or wholesale 
customers for the subsequent end to that service. In its comments, 
Harris Corporation appears to mistakenly believe we have proposed to 
allow the discontinuance to go into effect ten days after issuance of a 
public notice. It also appears to mistakenly conflate the network 
change notification process with the section 214(a) discontinuance 
process. In reality, the 180-day minimum period for grandfathering 
legacy data services will give these previously-grandfathered customers 
more notice and a far longer timeframe within which to consider 
alternative services than existed under our prior rules. And as 
competition continues to grow and providers offer new and better 
services over modern broadband facilities, it is less likely that 
customers will experience a harmful service loss or be unable to secure 
a reasonable substitute service for legacy services at any rate.
    97. The 31-day auto-grant period will provide us sufficient time to 
determine whether to remove an application from automatic grant if we 
find that such application raises concerns, and carriers and their 
customers are unable to resolve their issues prior to the end of the 
31-day period. We are not persuaded by arguments claiming that we fail 
to account for the need for longer timeframes to transition customers 
to new or alternative services, potentially disrupting and hampering 
mission-critical communications, and pointing to past service 
transitions that have taken more than a year to complete. Many 
discontinuances are already subject to a 31-day auto-grant period, and 
commenters have failed to show why this existing interval is a problem. 
Moreover, we expect that in the case of discontinuances involving 
multiple customer locations that require lengthy transition periods to 
implement, particularly of the type concerning these commenters, the 
discontinuing carrier has strong incentives to work with its customers 
to establish a transition schedule that is seamless, physically 
attainable, and comports with the service agreement or master contract 
governing the terms of service between that customer and carrier. After 
all, the carrier is in business to provide service, and in today's 
increasingly competitive business services marketplace, the incentives 
to retain and grow existing customer relationships are strong.
    98. Similarly, we are not persuaded by commenters' concerns that 
streamlining the auto-grant period for applications to discontinue 
previously grandfathered legacy data services may allow carriers to 
quickly discontinue vital services used by 9-1-1 networks to deliver 
calls from end users to emergency responders. Carriers' incentives to 
ensure seamless service transitions for services involved in safety-of-
life are even more acute than other types of mission-critical safety-
related service arrangements. Nonetheless, we invite customers to 
comment on specific applications that raise public safety or other 
mission-critical safety concerns, where the discontinuance timeframe is 
too short to accommodate its transition needs, or where the carrier is 
not working cooperatively to effectuate such a transition. We retain 
flexibility to address these circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
    99. We also decline to grant Verizon's request that we further 
shorten the streamlined auto-grant period for applications to 
discontinue previously grandfathered legacy data services from 31 days 
to 25 days. Although it is admittedly a judgment call, we would prefer 
a slightly longer period to evaluate discontinuance applications that 
impact existing customers than applications that seek to grandfather 
such customers.
    100. Having considered the record, we find that the auto-grant 
period we adopt today will eliminate needless delay in eliminating 
these previously grandfathered legacy data services and enable carriers 
to spend their limited resources on deploying innovative next-
generation services. At the same time, we recognize that nothing about 
our auto-grant timeframe alters our statutory obligation to ensure that 
these discontinuance applications, like all other discontinuance 
applications, are not contrary to the public interest, nor does it 
impact our ability to remove it from streamlined treatment.
    101. Uniform Treatment for Dominant and Non-Dominant Carriers. We 
adopt uniform timeframes for all carriers for applications to 
discontinue previously grandfathered legacy data services for the same 
reasons we adopt uniform timeframes for grandfathering applications. 
These legacy data services are characterized by falling demand, and 
consumers are increasingly abandoning them and adopting more advanced 
data services with better capability and greater functionality. 
Moreover, the market for data services as a whole is characterized by 
increasing competition from a variety of competitive sources, including 
cable, wireless, and satellite providers, all offering alternative data 
services that provide, at a minimum, the same capabilities of these 
legacy data services. Given these market dynamics, disparate treatment 
of dominant and non-dominant carriers seeking to discontinue these 
previously grandfathered services is no longer necessary.
    102. Eligible Previously-Grandfathered Legacy Data Services. The 
record supports limiting previously grandfathered legacy data services 
subject to our new rules to speeds below 1.544 Mbps. Given the falling 
demand for data services below this speed as consumers migrate to more 
advanced offerings with higher speeds and greater functionality, we 
find this to be the appropriate threshold at this time. Moreover, 
adopting this speed threshold maintains consistency with the rules we 
adopt today governing low-speed legacy grandfathered services, and will 
thus avoid any customer and carrier confusion as to which previously-
grandfathered data services these new rules apply.
    103. We decline to extend these streamlined comment and auto-grant 
periods to all applications to discontinue any type of grandfathered 
services, as Verizon suggests. We prefer to proceed incrementally and 
legacy data services present the most obvious case for the streamlining 
reforms we adopt given declines in usage and competitive options 
available. As reflected in the FNPRM, we will explore in greater depth 
whether to adopt further streamlining reforms for other legacy 
services.
    104. We also decline to limit eligibility to only those 
applications that include prescribed methods of demonstrating the 
availability of alternative comparable data services

[[Page 61468]]

throughout the service area from the discontinuing provider or a third 
party, as Southern Company Services recommends. Introducing additional 
requirements that carriers must satisfy before discontinuing low speed 
legacy data services does not comport with our objectives in adopting 
new more flexible streamlined rules today. Moreover, we consider the 
existence of available and adequate alternative services as a part of 
our five-factor test for evaluating discontinuance applications. 
Consequently, there is no need to make these applications unnecessarily 
arduous by adding redundant and inflexible new content requirements.
    105. Finally, we reject Windstream's proposal to exclude from 
eligibility previously-grandfathered services that are subject to a 
specified customer term before that term has expired. Nothing in our 
rules modifies or abrogates the terms of contracts. Windstream offers 
no good reason to insert ourselves into contractual disputes.
    106. Special Consideration for Federal, State, Local, and Tribal 
Government Users. We also decline to adopt special provisions for 
applications seeking to discontinue previously grandfathered legacy 
data services to federal, state, local, and Tribal government users. 
Although we are sensitive to the budget and procurement challenges that 
government customers face, as well as other challenges associated with 
transitioning strategic government applications that use legacy 
services to alternative next-generation services, these issues are not 
insurmountable and the record does not support adoption of unique rule-
based regulatory requirements to address them. Instead, the record 
shows that incumbent LECs and other carriers have incentives and a long 
history of accommodating government customers to avoid costly and 
dangerous disruptions of service. The record makes clear that carriers 
discuss service changes with affected government customers ``well 
before the changes are implemented,'' and are especially sensitive to 
the needs of government customers when supplying mission-critical 
services that implicate emergency response or national security. For 
example, CenturyLink's standard agreement for federal government 
customers obligates CenturyLink to provide ``18 months' notice prior to 
discontinuing a service covered by that agreement, and/or to deliver an 
alternative product equivalent to the service being discontinued.'' 
Moreover, as AT&T and others explain any hurdles associated with 
transitioning large volumes of services, even those considered to be 
critical, can be overcome through negotiation and coordination between 
the carrier and government customers. Indeed, this process is routine 
for carrier/customer relationships of this size.
    107. Because the record shows that any concerns about government 
entities' transition away from legacy services are better and more 
appropriately addressed by government customers and their carriers in 
their negotiated service agreements which necessarily cover service 
continuity provisions, we decline to adopt special rules for such 
entities with respect to the discontinuance of legacy services. Based 
on the record, we believe that negotiated service contracts are the 
best vehicle for addressing government users' specific concerns and 
best serve as enforceable protections to address their long-term 
planning needs. However, we retain authority to take action in 
individual circumstances where the public interest requires. Having 
found that negotiated service contracts--which typically provide 
substantial advanced notice of service discontinuance--are the best 
vehicle for addressing government users' specific needs and concerns, 
and because government users are well-placed to come to the Commission 
with individual cases that require our attention, we find it 
unnecessary to address NTIA's request that we require the 
grandfathering of all services received by federal customers prior to a 
service discontinuance. We note that NTIA has separately filed a 
petition that remains pending seeking reconsideration or clarification 
of the 2016 Technology Transitions Order. The resolution of that 
petition, as well as NTIA's request for interoperability protection for 
the CPE used by the federal government, is outside the scope of the 
decisions we make here.
3. Expediting Applications To Discontinue Low-Speed Legacy Services 
With No Customers
    108. Recognizing that there are minimal concerns when a carrier 
seeks to discontinue a service which has no customers, we adopt new 
streamlined processing rules for a specific category of ``no customer'' 
discontinuance applications, i.e., applications to discontinue low-
speed legacy services having no customers for the prior 30-day period. 
Specifically, we adopt a 15-day auto-grant period for applications to 
discontinue legacy voice and data services below 1.544 Mbps for which 
the carrier has had no customers and no request for service for at 
least a 30-day period prior to filing the application. Consistent with 
the streamline processing measures we adopt for other categories of 
low-speed legacy service applications today, because demand for these 
services is falling it makes no sense to prevent carriers from 
eliminating these services and any associated costs from their business 
processes as rapidly as possible.
    109. Under the current rules, carriers can apply for streamlined 
processing to discontinue any service if they have no customers taking 
that service and have had no requests for that service for the previous 
180 days. This rule is currently pending OMB approval and is not yet 
effective. Such applications will be automatically granted 31 days 
after the Commission places them on public notice unless the Commission 
has removed the application from streamlined processing. The Notice 
sought comment on whether to maintain and further streamline the 
broadly applicable ``no customer'' rule by reducing the 180 day period 
to 60 days, or even shorter, and whether any other changes to this rule 
should be made. The record supports adopting a shorter ``no customer'' 
period, as well as reducing the auto-grant period for ``no customer'' 
applications. When there are no customers of a service, and no 
prospective customers have requested a service for 30 days, there is 
little or no public interest for the section 214 discontinuance process 
to protect. We are not persuaded by Windstream's argument that a 
lengthy ``no customer'' period is necessary to demonstrate a lack of 
demand. There is no evidence in the record to suggest that services 
with no customers and no demand for 30 days are likely to be in demand 
sometime in the future. We better meet our public interest obligations 
when needless regulatory delay is eliminated so as to facilitate 
discontinuance of services that are no longer demanded, freeing up 
carrier resources for other, more highly demanded services. We find 
that a 30-day ``no customer'' period and a 15 day auto-grant period 
strikes the best balance between providing additional streamlining and 
ensuring adequate proof of no further demand.
    110. As with today's other section 214(a) streamlining reforms, we 
proceed incrementally, and limit this further streamlined processing to 
those ``no customer'' applications to discontinue low-speed (i.e. below 
1.544 Mbps) legacy voice and data services. Demand for these legacy 
services has declined precipitously in recent years, and competing 
services utilizing next-generation technologies are readily available 
to consumers, minimizing the potential for harm to consumers

[[Page 61469]]

following the discontinuance of these services. In light of these 
market forces, we find it appropriate to further streamline the 
discontinuance process for carriers seeking to discontinue these low-
speed legacy services with no customers. However, in the accompanying 
FNPRM, we seek comment on whether we should adopt this same reduced 
``no customer'' 30-day timeframe and 15 day auto-grant period for all, 
or some other subset, of ``no customer'' discontinuance applications.
    111. At the same time, we find that the current record is 
insufficient to consider AT&T's and CenturyLink's requests that we 
should forbear entirely from applying section 214 with regard to any 
service for which there are no customers. We seek comment on AT&T's and 
CenturyLink's proposal in the accompanying FNPRM.
4. Eliminating Section 214(a) Discontinuance Requirements for Solely 
Wholesale Services
    112. We conclude that a carrier need not seek approval from the 
Commission to discontinue, reduce, or impair a service pursuant to 
section 214(a) of the Act when a change in service directly affects 
only carrier-customers. We address here only changes in wholesale 
service, such as the discontinuance of one service when others remain 
available, not the ``severance of physical connection or the 
termination or suspension of the interchange of traffic with another 
carrier.'' As used in this section, a carrier-customer is a carrier--
typically a competitive LEC--that buys wholesale service from another 
carrier--typically an incumbent LEC--and repackages that service for 
retail sale to end user customers. Thus, the carrier-customer is both a 
``customer'' (of the incumbent LEC) and a ``carrier'' (to its retail 
end users). In so doing, we reverse the decision in the 2015 Technology 
Transitions Order regarding when carriers must seek approval to 
discontinue, reduce, or impair wholesale service provided to carrier-
customers.'' Our decision today better comports with the text of the 
Act and Commission precedent, and as the record shows it benefits 
consumers by eliminating a needless regulatory burden that diverts 
investment to outdated services. As a result of our decision, we return 
to the status quo before the 2015 Technology Transitions Order.
    113. As an initial matter, our decision is the best interpretation 
of the Act and relevant Commission precedent. Our policy decisions must 
be grounded in the authority the text of the Act grants to the 
Commission. Section 214(a) states, in pertinent part, ``No carrier 
shall discontinue, reduce, or impair service to a community, or part of 
a community, unless and until there shall first have been obtained from 
the Commission a certificate that neither the present nor future public 
convenience and necessity will be adversely affected thereby[.]'' When 
determining whether a carrier needs Commission approval to discontinue 
service, the Act seeks to protect service provided by a carrier to a 
``community.'' The Commission has consistently held that the term 
``community'' in the statute means end users, or ``the using public.'' 
Carrier-customers are not the using public; they are intermediaries who 
provide service to the using public. Carrier-customers are therefore 
not part of a ``community'' that section 214(a) seeks to protect from 
discontinuances. As the Commission noted in Western Union, ``there are 
some important differences between this type of relationship and the 
more usual type involving a carrier and its non-carrier customer.''
    114. The 2015 Technology Transitions Order purported to recognize 
this statutory limitation, but it failed to heed the constraints of the 
text and made the carrier responsible for its carrier-customers' 
customers. According to that Order, ``under the statute and our 
precedent it is not enough for a carrier that intends to discontinue a 
service to look only at its own end-user customers.'' The Order said 
the carrier must also evaluate ``service provided to the community by 
the discontinuing carrier's carrier-customer.'' Upon further 
consideration, we conclude that this was an incorrect reading of the 
statute's plain language.
    115. We return to the interpretation dictated by the plain text of 
the Act, that a carrier must consider only the end-user community it 
serves. The customers of the carrier-customer are part of a community: 
They are the retail end users. But they are not part of a community 
that the carrier is serving; rather, the carrier-customer is their 
service provider. The upstream carrier is selling wholesale service to 
the carrier-customer, and that wholesale service is merely an input 
that the carrier-customer repackages into a retail service to the end 
user. It is the carrier-customer, not the carrier, that is providing 
``service to a community,'' and therefore it is the carrier-customer, 
not the carrier, that has an obligation under section 214(a) to seek 
approval for a discontinuance of the end user's service. And this makes 
sense given that it is the carrier-customer, not the carrier, that has 
the relationship with the community through its end-user customers, and 
it is the carrier-customer, not the carrier, that chooses what 
facilities to use (its own, the carrier's, or another's) to provide 
that service to the community. The record strongly supports this 
interpretation; we disagree with the relatively few commenters who 
misinterpret section 214 to require carriers to maintain wholesale 
service for the benefit of someone else's customers.
    116. The structure of the Communications Act also supports this 
interpretation of the duty under 214(a). Congress laid out a carrier's 
responsibility to its carrier-customers in section 251, and a carrier's 
duty under section 251(c)(5) complements the carrier-customer's duty 
under section 214(a). If a carrier makes a network change that would 
impact the carrier-customer (and correspondingly disrupt retail service 
to the carrier-customer's end users), it must notify the carrier-
customer. This notice gives the carrier-customer adequate time to 
either find another wholesale supplier or seek approval under section 
214(a) to discontinue service to its own end users. Although sections 
214(a) and 251(c)(5) are distinct provisions serving distinct purposes 
(as the former pertains to changes in services and the latter pertains 
to changes in networks), they nonetheless complement each other to help 
carriers and carrier-customers protect the using public's ability to 
obtain and retain service. We therefore disagree with commenters that 
argue that carriers must both provide network change notifications and 
obtain approval under section 214 for discontinuing wholesale service 
solely to a carrier-customer; such an interpretation is contrary to the 
plain language of section 214 and imposes needlessly duplicative 
burdens on carriers.
    117. Agency precedent largely supports this plain reading of the 
Act. In case after case after case after case after case, the 
Commission has declined to require a section 214 discontinuance 
application before allowing a carrier to change the service offerings 
available to its carrier-customers. In AT&T Telpak, the Commission made 
clear that section 214 ``does not apply'' when a carrier continues to 
offer ``like'' services to a community, even if carrier-customers would 
prefer to use a previously offered service. In Western Union II, the 
Commission stated that ``the fact that a carrier's tariff action may 
increase costs or rates,'' including in that case an action that 
required a carrier-customer to order different services using different 
equipment over different

[[Page 61470]]

facilities, ``does not give rise to any requirement for Section 214(a) 
certification.'' In Lincoln County, the Commission found that the 
``removal'' of particular facilities used by a carrier-customer, as 
well as the ``reconfiguration of facilities and [] re-routing of 
traffic'' ``does not fall within 214 and 214 application is not 
required.'' And in Graphnet, the Commission found that ``in situations 
where one carrier attempts to invoke Section 214(a) against another 
carrier, concern should be had for the ultimate impact on the community 
served rather than on any technical or financial impact on the carrier 
itself.'' Despite the 2015 Technology Transitions Order's suggestion to 
the contrary, both the holdings and dicta in those cases support our 
conclusion that carriers need not seek approval from the Commission to 
discontinue, reduce, or impair a service pursuant to section 214(a) of 
the Act when a change in service directly affects only carrier-
customers.
    118. We conclude that the Commission erred in BellSouth, the only 
case to require a discontinuance application from an upstream carrier 
in the absence of end users. There, the Commission acknowledged that 
carriers had previously been able to change their offerings to carrier-
customers without seeking section 214 approval and distinguished those 
instances by noting that the service at issue ``is the subject of a 
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which the Commission tentatively 
concluded that it is in the public interest to formulate a federal 
policy to promote the availability of [that] service.'' But section 214 
neither mentions Commission rulemakings nor ties its scope to such 
rulemakings, and to the extent BellSouth holds otherwise, we overrule 
it. We also note that the Commission decided BellSouth four years 
before adoption of the 1996 Act, which adopted a notice-based process 
for wholesale inputs. Therefore, it is clearer today than in 1992 that 
the interpretation adopted in BellSouth is erroneous in light of the 
1996 Act addressing obligations of carriers to competitors through 
statutory provisions other than the discontinuance requirement of 
section 214. For the reasons discussed herein we conclude that our 
interpretation today is more consistent with the statutory text and the 
public interest, and therefore we overrule any precedent to the 
contrary.
    119. To the extent there is any ambiguity in the statutory text or 
past Commission precedent interpreting that text, we nevertheless 
conclude that our reversal of the prior interpretation of section 
214(a) in the 2015 Technology Transitions Order is appropriate because 
our interpretation better serves the public interest. It fully protects 
consumers because each carrier is responsible for its own customers. 
The upstream carrier files 214 applications as needed when its end 
users are affected, and the carrier-customer files 214 applications as 
needed when its end users are affected. Moreover, this less burdensome 
approach to section 214(a) gives full practical effect to section 
214(a)'s direction that we ensure that discontinuances do not adversely 
impact the public interest. In many circumstances the carrier-customer 
will be able to obtain wholesale service from another source without 
causing a disruption of service for the end user. As CenturyLink 
observes, the widespread availability of next-generation substitutes to 
legacy TDM services makes it unlikely that there will be no available 
alternative to the discontinued wholesale input. Moreover, this risk of 
loss of wholesale supply is an incentive for the carrier-customer to 
itself invest in new infrastructure, which would benefit the public. 
Insofar as there arise instances in which a community may truly lose a 
service option (and the upstream carrier would not already be filing a 
214 discontinuance application for its own customers), we conclude that 
the other public benefits to infrastructure investment discussed herein 
outweigh those costs. Additionally, in circumstances in which the loss 
of a service input results from a network change by an incumbent LEC, 
we are able to extend the implementation date for incumbent LEC copper 
retirements and short-term network changes up to six months from the 
date of filing where the competitive LEC has made a showing that 
satisfies our rules. Our network change process under section 251(c)(5) 
thus provides an additional safety valve that mitigates the likelihood 
of impact on end-user customers. We thus reject arguments that we 
should retain the 2015 interpretation predicated on the view that as a 
practical matter, if a carrier discontinues wholesale service to a 
carrier-customer, that carrier-customer may be unable to obtain 
wholesale service from another provider and may have no choice but to 
discontinue service to its end users, effectively resulting in a 
downstream discontinuance of retail service.
    120. The prior interpretation diverted investment from network 
improvements in order to maintain outdated services that the carriers 
would otherwise discontinue. Requiring carriers to accommodate end user 
customers with which they have no relationship for services that they 
are not providing would be unduly burdensome and would likely hinder 
deployment of new advanced networks. We agree with AT&T that 
``[i]ntermediating wholesale carriers between carrier-customers and 
their end users will inevitably lead to wasteful expenditure of 
wholesale carriers' resources that could otherwise be put toward 
furthering technology transitions.''
    121. Moreover, as a practical matter, upstream carriers cannot 
consistently know how the carrier-customers' end users are using their 
retail service. An upstream carrier does not typically have a 
contractual relationship with its carrier-customer's end users, and it 
may not know how these customers use their retail service. We disagree 
with commenters that claim that the upstream carrier can easily 
ascertain how an end user--with which the carrier has no relationship--
uses their service. The consultation process described by the 2015 
Technology Transitions Order was cumbersome and unlikely to adequately 
inform an upstream carrier absent extraordinary market research 
expenses. The carrier that provides service directly to end users is in 
the best position to evaluate the marketplace options available to it 
and determine the most effective way to provide retail service to its 
end users. Consequently, it makes the most sense for the carrier that 
provides service directly to end users to have the responsibility to 
comply with section 214(a) with regard to the services it provides its 
customers.
    122. We disagree with commenters that argue that we should consider 
whether discontinuing service to carrier-customers could impede 
competition or otherwise injure those carrier-customers. The purpose of 
section 214(a) is not to bolster competition; it is to protect end 
users. As the Commission has long held, ``concern should be had for the 
ultimate impact on the community served rather than on any technical or 
financial impact on the [carrier-customer] itself.'' Congress added 
other provisions to the Act in 1996 to promote competition. Even if 
harms to carrier-customers were relevant to our decision, we conclude 
that any such harms are outweighed by the benefits to the public 
described herein. In particular, we note that carrier-customers can 
mitigate any harms associated with this decision by negotiating with 
carriers for contractual provisions to protect against the sudden or 
unexpected loss of wholesale service.

[[Page 61471]]

We remind carriers that discontinuing a service--whether a section 214 
approval is required or not--is not an excuse for abrogating contracts, 
including contract-tariffs. Further, any costs incurred by carrier-
customers under our decision today are the same costs that would have 
obtained prior to the 2015 Order.
    123. We conclude, based on the text of the statute and the public 
interest in both spurring deployment of advanced networks and 
protecting access to existing services, that carriers are not required 
to seek approval under section 214(a) in order to discontinue, reduce, 
or impair wholesale service to a carrier-customer.
5. Rejecting Other Modifications to the Discontinuance Process
    124. Based on the current record, we reject the proposals by 
certain commenters to further modify the section 214(a) discontinuance 
process today. Specifically, we reject NRECA's request to place 
additional conditions on the discontinuance of DS1 and DS3 services, 
and Verizon's proposal that we impose ``shot clocks'' for Commission 
processing of discontinuance applications.
    125. NRECA DS1 and DS3. We decline NCREA's request to impose 
specific requirements related to installation, testing, and pricing of 
replacement services as conditions to granting carriers' section 214(a) 
discontinuance authority for DS1 and DS3 TDM services. Section 214(a) 
directs the Commission to ensure that a loss of service does not harm 
the public convenience or necessity, and applications to discontinue 
DS1s and DS3s, like discontinuance applications for any service, are 
subject to the Commission's traditional five-factor test. NCREA has 
provided no compelling reason why more burdensome requirements should 
be imposed on this particular category of services. Our rules already 
require that carriers that file discontinuance applications provide 
notice of such applications in writing to each affected customer unless 
we authorize in advance, for good cause shown, another form of notice. 
Thus, NCREA's request for a requirement that a carrier provide written 
notice to customers of planned discontinuance dates is already 
contained in our rules.
    126. Verizon Shot Clocks. We decline to adopt Verizon's ``shot 
clock'' proposals. Verizon has failed to demonstrate why the 
Commission's current processing timeframes warrant adopting such shot 
clocks. The Commission routinely processes discontinuance applications 
based on carriers' proposed schedules set forth in their applications, 
and a 10-day shot clock could preclude the Bureau staff from obtaining 
a clarification or supplemental information in the case of an 
incomplete application necessary to issue the public notice. In such 
cases, the Bureau would be forced to dismiss the application rather 
than having the flexibility to resolve the issue and process the 
application but for the shot clock.
    127. We further decline to adopt Verizon's proposed 31-day ``deemed 
granted'' shot clock for applications that have been removed from 
streamlined treatment after the initial auto-grant period has been 
suspended. Applications that are removed from automatic-grant are done 
so for good reason, primarily to resolve an objection that merits 
further consideration and review. While we strive to resolve such 
issues as quickly as possible, often resolution depends on the 
applicant working with the objecting party to achieve some 
accommodation. Adopting Verizon's proposal would remove any incentive 
the carrier had to address a legitimate concern raised by a commenter, 
effectively automatically granting the application in an additional 31 
days. Doing so would run counter to our statutory responsibility to 
ensure that proposed discontinuance applications do not harm the public 
convenience and necessity.

IV. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    128. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as 
amended (RFA), an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was 
incorporated into the notice of proposed rulemaking, notice of inquiry, 
and request for comment (Wireline Infrastructure NPRM) for the wireline 
infrastructure proceeding. The Commission sought written public comment 
on the proposals in the Wireline Infrastructure NPRM, including comment 
on the IRFA. The Commission received no comments on the IRFA. Because 
the Commission amends its rules in this Order, the Commission has 
included this Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA). This 
present FRFA conforms to the RFA.

A. Need for, and Objectives of, the Rules

    129. In the Wireline Infrastructure NPRM, the Commission proposed 
to remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment at the 
federal, state, and local level; suggested changes to speed the 
transition from copper networks and legacy services to next-generation 
networks and services; and proposed to reform Commission regulations 
that increase costs and slow broadband deployment. In so doing, the 
Commission sought to better enable broadband providers to build, 
maintain, and upgrade their networks, leading to more affordable and 
available internet access and other broadband services for consumers 
and businesses alike.
    130. Pursuant to these objectives, this Order adopts changes to 
Commission rules regarding pole attachments, network change 
notifications, and section 214 discontinuance procedures. The Order 
adopts changes to the current pole attachment rules that: (1) Codify 
the elimination from the pole attachment rate formulas those capital 
costs that already have been paid to the utility via make-ready 
charges, (2) establish a 180-day shot clock for Enforcement Bureau 
resolution of pole access complaints, and (3) allow incumbent LECs to 
request nondiscriminatory pole access from other LECs that own or 
control poles, ducts, conduits, or rights-of-way. The modifications to 
our pole attachment rules we adopt today will reduce costs for 
attachers, reform the pole access complaint procedures to settle access 
disputes more swiftly, and increase access to infrastructure for 
certain types of broadband providers. The Order also adopts changes to 
the Commission's part 51 network change notification rules to expedite 
the copper retirement process and to more generally reduce regulatory 
burdens to facilitate more rapid deployment of next-generation 
networks. Finally, the Order adopts rule changes to the section 214(a) 
discontinuance process that streamline the review and approval process 
for three types of section 214(a) discontinuance applications, 
including applications to: (i) Grandfather low-speed legacy voice and 
data services; (ii) discontinue previously grandfathered low-speed 
legacy data services; and (iii) discontinue low-speed services with no 
customers. The Order also clarifies that solely wholesale services are 
not subject to discontinuance approval obligations under the Act or our 
rules. These rules will eliminate unnecessary regulatory process 
encumbrances when carriers decide to cease offering legacy services 
that are rapidly and abundantly being replaced with more innovative 
alternatives, speeding the transition to next-generation network 
infrastructure and services.

B. Summary of Significant Issues Raised by Public Comments in Response 
to the IRFA

    131. The Commission did not receive comments specifically 
addressing the rules and policies proposed in the IRFA.

[[Page 61472]]

C. Response to Comments by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small 
Business Administration

    132. The Chief Counsel did not file any comments in response to 
this proceeding.

D. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which 
the Rules Will Apply

    133. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description and, where 
feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be 
affected by the final rules adopted pursuant to the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM. The RFA generally defines the term ``small 
entity'' as having the same meaning as the terms ``small business,'' 
``small organization,'' and ``small governmental jurisdiction.'' In 
addition, the term ``small business'' has the same meaning as the term 
``small-business concern'' under the Small Business Act. Pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 601(3), the statutory definition of a small business applies 
``unless an agency, after consultation with the Office of Advocacy of 
the Small Business Administration and after opportunity for public 
comment, establishes one or more definitions of such term which are 
appropriate to the activities of the agency and publishes such 
definition(s) in the Federal Register.'' A ``small-business concern'' 
is one which: (1) Is independently owned and operated; (2) is not 
dominant in its field of operation; and (3) satisfies any additional 
criteria established by the SBA.
    134. The majority of our changes will affect obligations on 
incumbent LECs and, in some cases, competitive LECs. Certain pole 
attachment rules also affect obligations on utilities that own poles, 
telecommunications carriers and cable television systems that seek to 
attach equipment to utility poles, and other LECs that own poles. Other 
entities that choose to object to network change notifications for 
copper retirement or section 214 discontinuance applications may be 
economically impacted by the rules in the Order.
    135. Small Businesses, Small Organizations, Small Governmental 
Jurisdictions. Our actions, over time, may affect small entities that 
are not easily categorized at present. We therefore describe here, at 
the outset, three comprehensive small entity size standards that could 
be directly affected herein. First, while there are industry specific 
size standards for small businesses that are used in the regulatory 
flexibility analysis, according to data from the SBA's Office of 
Advocacy, in general a small business is an independent business having 
fewer than 500 employees. These types of small businesses represent 
99.9% of all businesses in the United States which translates to 28.8 
million businesses.
    136. Next, the type of small entity described as a ``small 
organization'' is generally ``any not-for-profit enterprise which is 
independently owned and operated and is not dominant in its field.'' 
Nationwide, as of Aug 2016, there were approximately 356,494 small 
organizations based on registration and tax data filed by nonprofits 
with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Data from the Urban Institute, 
National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) reporting on nonprofit 
organizations registered with the IRS was used to estimate the number 
of small organizations. Reports generated using the NCCS online 
database indicated that as of August 2016 there were 356,494 registered 
nonprofits with total revenues of less than $100,000. Of this number 
326,897 entities filed tax returns with 65,113 registered nonprofits 
reporting total revenues of $50,000 or less on the IRS Form 990-N for 
Small Exempt Organizations and 261,784 nonprofits reporting total 
revenues of $100,000 or less on some other version of the IRS Form 990 
within 24 months of the August 2016 data release date.
    137. Finally, the small entity described as a ``small governmental 
jurisdiction'' is defined generally as ``governments of cities, 
counties, towns, townships, villages, school districts, or special 
districts, with a population of less than fifty thousand.'' U.S. Census 
Bureau data from the 2012 Census of Governments indicates that there 
were 90,056 local governmental jurisdictions consisting of general 
purpose governments and special purpose governments in the United 
States. Local governmental jurisdictions are classified in two 
categories--General purpose governments (county, municipal and town or 
township) and Special purpose governments (special districts and 
independent school districts). The Census of Government is conducted 
every five (5) years compiling data for years ending with ``2'' and 
``7.'' Of this number there were 37,132 General purpose governments 
(county, municipal and town or township) with populations of less than 
50,000 and 12,184 Special purpose governments (independent school 
districts and special districts) with populations of less than 50,000. 
The 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data for most types of governments in the 
local government category shows that the majority of these governments 
have populations of less than 50,000. Based on this data we estimate 
that at least 49,316 local government jurisdictions fall in the 
category of ``small governmental jurisdictions.''
    138. Wired Telecommunications Carriers. The U.S. Census Bureau 
defines this industry as ``establishments primarily engaged in 
operating and/or providing access to transmission facilities and 
infrastructure that they own and/or lease for the transmission of 
voice, data, text, sound, and video using wired communications 
networks. Transmission facilities may be based on a single technology 
or a combination of technologies. Establishments in this industry use 
the wired telecommunications network facilities that they operate to 
provide a variety of services, such as wired telephony services, 
including VoIP services, wired (cable) audio and video programming 
distribution, and wired broadband internet services. By exception, 
establishments providing satellite television distribution services 
using facilities and infrastructure that they operate are included in 
this industry.'' The SBA has developed a small business size standard 
for Wired Telecommunications Carriers, which consists of all such 
companies having 1,500 or fewer employees. Census data for 2012 shows 
that there were 3,117 firms that operated that year. Of this total, 
3,083 operated with fewer than 1,000 employees. Thus, under this size 
standard, the majority of firms in this industry can be considered 
small.
    139. Local Exchange Carriers (LECs). Neither the Commission nor the 
SBA has developed a size standard for small businesses specifically 
applicable to local exchange services. The closest applicable NAICS 
Code category is for Wired Telecommunications Carriers, as defined in 
paragraph 138 of this FRFA. Under that size standard, such a business 
is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. Census data for 2012 show 
that there were 3,117 firms that operated that year. Of this total, 
3,083 operated with fewer than 1,000 employees. The Commission 
therefore estimates that most providers of local exchange carrier 
service are small entities that may be affected by the rules adopted.
    140. Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (incumbent LECs). Neither 
the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard 
specifically for incumbent local exchange services. The closest 
applicable NAICS Code category is Wired Telecommunications Carriers as 
defined in paragraph 138 of this FRFA. Under that size standard, such a 
business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to 
Commission

[[Page 61473]]

data, 3,117 firms operated in that year. Of this total, 3,083 operated 
with fewer than 1,000 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates 
that most providers of incumbent local exchange service are small 
businesses that may be affected by the rules and policies adopted. One 
thousand three hundred and seven (1,307) Incumbent Local Exchange 
Carriers reported that they were incumbent local exchange service 
providers. Of this total, an estimated 1,006 have 1,500 or fewer 
employees.
    141. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (competitive LECs), 
Competitive Access Providers (CAPs), Shared-Tenant Service Providers, 
and Other Local Service Providers. Neither the Commission nor the SBA 
has developed a small business size standard specifically for these 
service providers. The appropriate NAICS Code category is Wired 
Telecommunications Carriers, as defined in paragraph 138 of this FRFA. 
Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or 
fewer employees. U.S. Census data for 2012 indicate that 3,117 firms 
operated during that year. Of that number, 3,083 operated with fewer 
than 1,000 employees. Based on this data, the Commission concludes that 
the majority of Competitive LECs, CAPs, Shared-Tenant Service 
Providers, and Other Local Service Providers are small entities. 
According to Commission data, 1,442 carriers reported that they were 
engaged in the provision of either competitive local exchange services 
or competitive access provider services. Of these 1,442 carriers, an 
estimated 1,256 have 1,500 or fewer employees. In addition, 17 carriers 
have reported that they are Shared-Tenant Service Providers, and all 17 
are estimated to have 1,500 or fewer employees. In addition, 72 
carriers have reported that they are Other Local Service Providers. Of 
this total, 70 have 1,500 or fewer employees. Consequently, the 
Commission estimates that most providers of competitive local exchange 
service, competitive access providers, Shared-Tenant Service Providers, 
and Other Local Service Providers are small entities that may be 
affected by the adopted rules.
    142. Interexchange Carriers (IXCs). Neither the Commission nor the 
SBA has developed a definition for Interexchange Carriers. The closest 
NAICS Code category is Wired Telecommunications Carriers as defined in 
paragraph 138 of this FRFA. The applicable size standard under SBA 
rules is that such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer 
employees. According to Commission data, 359 companies reported that 
their primary telecommunications service activity was the provision of 
interexchange services. Of this total, an estimated 317 have 1,500 or 
fewer employees and 42 have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, 
the Commission estimates that the majority of interexchange service 
providers are small entities that may be affected by rules adopted.
    143. Other Toll Carriers. Neither the Commission nor the SBA has 
developed a size standard for small businesses specifically applicable 
to Other Toll Carriers. This category includes toll carriers that do 
not fall within the categories of interexchange carriers, operator 
service providers, prepaid calling card providers, satellite service 
carriers, or toll resellers. The closest applicable NAICS Code category 
is for Wired Telecommunications Carriers, as defined in paragraph 138 
of this FRFA. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it 
has 1,500 or fewer employees. Census data for 2012 shows that there 
were 3,117 firms that operated that year. Of this total, 3,083 operated 
with fewer than 1,000 employees. Thus, under this category and the 
associated small business size standard, the majority of Other Toll 
Carriers can be considered small. According to Commission data, 284 
companies reported that their primary telecommunications service 
activity was the provision of other toll carriage. Of these, an 
estimated 279 have 1,500 or fewer employees. Consequently, the 
Commission estimates that most Other Toll Carriers that may be affected 
by our rules are small.
    144. Wireless Telecommunications Carriers (except Satellite). This 
industry comprises establishments engaged in operating and maintaining 
switching and transmission facilities to provide communications via the 
airwaves, such as cellular services, paging services, wireless internet 
access, and wireless video services. The appropriate size standard 
under SBA rules is that such a business is small if it has 1,500 or 
fewer employees. For this industry, Census data for 2012 show that 
there were 967 firms that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 
955 firms had fewer than 1,000 employees. Thus under this category and 
the associated size standard, the Commission estimates that the 
majority of wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite) are 
small entities. Similarly, according to internally developed Commission 
data, 413 carriers reported that they were engaged in the provision of 
wireless telephony, including cellular service, Personal Communications 
Service (PCS), and Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) services. Of this 
total, an estimated 261 have 1,500 or fewer employees. Consequently, 
the Commission estimates that approximately half of these firms can be 
considered small. Thus, using available data, we estimate that the 
majority of wireless firms can be considered small.
    145. Cable Companies and Systems (Rate Regulation). The Commission 
has developed its own small business size standards for the purpose of 
cable rate regulation. Under the Commission's rules, a ``small cable 
company'' is one serving 400,000 or fewer subscribers nationwide. 
Industry data indicate that there are currently 4,600 active cable 
systems in the United States. Of this total, all but nine cable 
operators nationwide are small under the 400,000-subscriber size 
standard. In addition, under the Commission's rate regulation rules, a 
``small system'' is a cable system serving 15,000 or fewer subscribers. 
Current Commission records show 4,600 cable systems nationwide. Of this 
total, 3,900 cable systems have fewer than 15,000 subscribers, and 700 
systems have 15,000 or more subscribers, based on the same records. 
Thus, under this standard as well, we estimate that most cable systems 
are small entities.
    146. Cable System Operators (Telecom Act Standard). The 
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, also contains a size standard 
for small cable system operators, which is ``a cable operator that, 
directly or through an affiliate, serves in the aggregate fewer than 
one percent of all subscribers in the United States and is not 
affiliated with any entity or entities whose gross annual revenues in 
the aggregate exceed $250,000,000 are approximately 52,403,705 cable 
video subscribers in the United States today. Accordingly, an operator 
serving fewer than 524,037 subscribers shall be deemed a small operator 
if its annual revenues, when combined with the total annual revenues of 
all its affiliates, do not exceed $250 million in the aggregate. Based 
on available data, we find that all but nine incumbent cable operators 
are small entities under this size standard. We note that the 
Commission neither requests nor collects information on whether cable 
system operators are affiliated with entities whose gross annual 
revenues exceed $250 million. The Commission does receive such 
information on a case-by-case basis if a cable operator appeals a local 
franchise authority's finding that the operator does not qualify as a 
small cable operator pursuant to section 76.901(f) of the Commission's 
rules. Although it seems certain that some of these cable system 
operators are

[[Page 61474]]

affiliated with entities whose gross annual revenues exceed 
$250,000,000, we are unable at this time to estimate with greater 
precision the number of cable system operators that would qualify as 
small cable operators under the definition in the Communications Act.
    147. All Other Telecommunications. ``All Other Telecommunications'' 
is defined as follows: ``This U.S. industry is comprised of 
establishments that are primarily engaged in providing specialized 
telecommunications services, such as satellite tracking, communications 
telemetry, and radar station operation. This industry also includes 
establishments primarily engaged in providing satellite terminal 
stations and associated facilities connected with one or more 
terrestrial systems and capable of transmitting telecommunications to, 
and receiving telecommunications from, satellite systems. 
Establishments providing internet services or voice over internet 
protocol (VoIP) services via client supplied telecommunications 
connections are also included in this industry.'' The SBA has developed 
a small business size standard for ``All Other Telecommunications,'' 
which consists of all such firms with gross annual receipts of $32.5 
million or less. For this category, Census Bureau data for 2012 show 
that there were 1,442 firms that operated for the entire year. Of those 
firms, a total of 1,400 had annual receipts less than $25 million. 
Consequently, we conclude that the majority of All Other 
Telecommunications firms can be considered small.
    148. Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution. The 
Census Bureau defines this category as follows: ``This industry group 
comprises establishments primarily engaged in generating, transmitting, 
and/or distributing electric power. Establishments in this industry 
group may perform one or more of the following activities: (1) Operate 
generation facilities that produce electric energy; (2) operate 
transmission systems that convey the electricity from the generation 
facility to the distribution system; and (3) operate distribution 
systems that convey electric power received from the generation 
facility or the transmission system to the final consumer.'' This 
category includes electric power distribution, hydroelectric power 
generation, fossil fuel power generation, nuclear electric power 
generation, solar power generation, and wind power generation. The SBA 
has developed a small business size standard for firms in this category 
based on the number of employees working in a given business. According 
to Census Bureau data for 2012, there were 1,742 firms in this category 
that operated for the entire year.
    149. Natural Gas Distribution. This economic census category 
comprises: ``(1) Establishments primarily engaged in operating gas 
distribution systems (e.g., mains, meters); (2) establishments known as 
gas marketers that buy gas from the well and sell it to a distribution 
system; (3) establishments known as gas brokers or agents that arrange 
the sale of gas over gas distribution systems operated by others; and 
(4) establishments primarily engaged in transmitting and distributing 
gas to final consumers.'' The SBA has developed a small business size 
standard for this industry, which is all such firms having 1,000 or 
fewer employees. According to Census Bureau data for 2012, there were 
422 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of this 
total, 399 firms had employment of fewer than 1,000 employees, 23 firms 
had employment of 1,000 employees or more, and 37 firms were not 
operational. Thus, the majority of firms in this category can be 
considered small.
    150. Water Supply and Irrigation Systems. This economic census 
category ``comprises establishments primarily engaged in operating 
water treatment plants and/or operating water supply systems. The water 
supply system may include pumping stations, aqueducts, and/or 
distribution mains. The water may be used for drinking, irrigation, or 
other uses.'' The SBA has developed a small business size standard for 
this industry, which is all such firms having $27.5 million or less in 
annual receipts. According to Census Bureau data for 2012, there were 
3,261 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of this 
total, 3,035 firms had annual sales of less than $25 million. Thus, the 
majority of firms in this category can be considered small.

E. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements

    151. Pole Attachment Reforms. The Order adopts the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM's proposal to amend Sec.  1.1409(c) of our rules to 
exclude capital expenses already recovered via non-recurring make-ready 
fees from recurring pole attachment rates. It also establishes a 180-
day ``shot clock'' for Enforcement Bureau resolution of pole access 
complaints filed under section 1.1409 of our rules. Finally, the Order 
interprets sections 224 and 251(b)(4) of the Act in harmony to create a 
reciprocal system of infrastructure access rules in which incumbent 
LECs, pursuant to section 251(b)(4) of the Act, are guaranteed access 
to poles owned or controlled by competitive LECs and vice versa, 
subject to the rates, terms, and conditions for pole attachments 
described in section 224.
    152. Network Change Notifications. The Order adopts changes to the 
Commission's part 51 network change notification rules to expedite the 
copper retirement process and to more generally reduce regulatory 
burdens to facilitate more rapid deployment of next-generation 
networks. First, the Order finds that Sec.  51.325(c)'s prohibition on 
incumbent LECs communicating with other entities about planned network 
changes prior to giving the requisite public notice of those changes 
pursuant to the Commission's rules impedes incumbent LECs' ability to 
freely communicate, engage, and coordinate with the parties that will 
ultimately be affected by those changes. The Order thus eliminates this 
prohibition. Second, the Order finds that the rules adopted by the 
Commission in 2015 governing the copper retirement notice process 
imposed far-reaching and burdensome notice obligations on incumbent 
LECs that frustrate their efforts to modernize their networks. The 
Order revises these rules and returns to the Commission's longstanding 
balance to help carriers get more modern networks to more Americans at 
lower costs.
    153. Specifically, the Order: (1) Eliminates de facto retirement 
from the definition of copper retirement; (2) reduces the scope of 
direct notice by eliminating notice to retail customers and government 
entities, and returning to direct notice to directly interconnecting 
``telephone exchange service providers'' rather than all directly 
interconnected ``entities''; (3) replaces the detailed certification 
requirements with a generally-applicable certificate of service; (4) 
eliminates the requirement that copper retirement notices include ``a 
description of any changes in prices, terms, or conditions that will 
accompany the planned changes''; (5) reduces the waiting period from 
180 days to 90 days generally but to 15 days where the copper being 
retired is not used to provision service to any customers; (6) 
reinstates the pre-2015 objection procedures and eliminates the good 
faith communication requirement; (7) reinstates the pre-2015 objection 
resolution ``deemed denied'' provision; and (8) precludes the need to 
seek a waiver as a result of situations beyond

[[Page 61475]]

an incumbent LEC's control by adopting flexible force majeure 
provisions.
    154. Section 214(a) Discontinuances. The Order adopts the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM's proposal to streamline the approval process for 
discontinuance applications to grandfather low-speed (i.e., below 1.544 
Mbps) legacy voice and data services for existing customers, and 
applies a uniform reduced public comment period of 10 days and an 
automatic grant period of 25 days for all carriers making such 
applications to the Commission. The Order also adopts the Wireline 
Infrastructure NPRM's proposal to streamline the discontinuance process 
for applications seeking authorization to discontinue legacy data 
services below 1.544 Mbps that have previously been grandfathered for a 
period of at least 180 days, and applies a uniform reduced public 
comment period of 10 days and an auto-grant period of 31 days to all 
such applications. Discontinuing carriers that wish to avail themselves 
of this streamlined process may do so by including a simple 
certification that they have received Commission authority to 
grandfather the services at issue at least 180 days prior to the filing 
of the discontinuance application. This certification must reference 
the file number of the prior Commission authorization to grandfather 
the services the carrier now seeks to permanently discontinue. The 
Order also adopts the Wireline Infrastructure NPRM's proposal to 
streamline the discontinuance process for services that have no 
customers or have had no requests for the service for a period of time. 
For low-speed legacy services, the Order therefore reduces the period 
within which a carrier has had no customers or no requests for the 
service to be eligible for streamlining from the prior 180 days to 30 
days, and further reduces the auto-grant period to 15 days. Finally, 
the Order clarifies that a carrier must consider only its own end-user 
customers when determining whether it must seek approval from the 
Commission to discontinue, reduce, or impair a service pursuant to 
section 214(a) of the Act.

F. Steps Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small 
Entities and Significant Alternatives Considered

    155. In this Order, the Commission modifies its pole attachment 
rules to reduce costs for attachers, reform the pole access complaint 
procedures to settle access disputes more swiftly, and increase access 
to infrastructure for certain types of broadband providers. It also 
relaxes or removes regulatory requirements on carriers seeking to 
replace legacy network infrastructure and legacy services with advanced 
broadband networks and innovative new services. Overall, we believe the 
actions in this document will reduce burdens on the affected carriers, 
including any small entities.
    156. Pole Attachments. The Order found that codifying the exclusion 
of capital expenses already recovered via make-ready fees from 
recurring pole attachment rates would help eliminate any confusion 
regarding the treatment of capital expenses already recovered by a 
utility via make-ready fees. As detailed in the Order, the Commission 
considered arguments that it is unnecessary to codify this exclusion. 
However, the Order determined that this exclusion will enhance the 
deployment of broadband services to the extent that codifying the 
exclusion will keep recurring pole attachment rates low and uniform for 
attachers. The Order also found broad support in the record for 
establishing a 180-day shot clock for resolving pole access complaints, 
finding that establishment of such a shot clock could expedite 
broadband deployment by resolving pole attachment access disputes in a 
quicker fashion. As described in the Order, the Commission considered, 
but rejected, arguments opposing a shot-clock, as well as those 
requesting a shorter shot clock. Finally, the Order found it reasonable 
to interpret sections 224 and 251(b)(4) of the Act in harmony to create 
a reciprocal system of infrastructure access rules in which incumbent 
LECs, pursuant to section 251(b)(4) of the Act, are guaranteed access 
to poles owned or controlled by competitive LECs and vice versa, 
subject to the rates, terms, and conditions for pole attachments 
described in section 224. In making this finding, the Order evaluated 
arguments that this interpretation will discourage deployment or create 
additional burdens for competitive LECs. However, the Order found that 
the disparate treatment of incumbent LECs and competitive LECs prevents 
incumbent LECs from gaining access to competitive LEC-controlled 
infrastructure and in doing so dampens the incentives for all LECs to 
build and deploy the infrastructure necessary for advanced 
communications services.
    157. Network Change Notifications. First, for rules pertaining to 
network changes generally, the Order eliminates the prohibition on 
incumbent LEC disclosures regarding potential network changes prior to 
public notice of those changes, but retains the procedures for 
objecting to short-term notices of network changes. In adopting this 
change, the Order considered, but rejected, suggestions that the 
Commission should require incumbent LECs to provide notice of network 
changes to all interconnecting entities before providing public notice, 
and arguments that competing service providers might use the objection 
process to unwarrantedly delay a network change. Second, recognizing 
the uniqueness of copper retirements, the Order retains the distinction 
between copper retirements and other types of planned network changes. 
In making this determination, the Commission evaluated, but discounted, 
arguments that copper retirements require no special treatment as 
compared to other types of network changes. Third, the Order reduces 
the regulatory burdens associated with the copper retirement notice 
process by (i) narrowing the definition of copper retirement, (ii) 
reducing the scope of recipients and the required content of direct 
notice, and (iii) reducing the waiting period before an incumbent LEC 
can implement a planned copper retirement while reinstating the 
objection and associated resolution procedures previously applicable to 
copper retirement notices. As explained in the Order, the Commission 
considered arguments against these rule changes but found that our 
rules will afford sufficient time to accommodate planned changes and 
address parties' needs for adequate information and consumer 
protection. Finally, the Order adopts streamlined copper retirement 
notice procedures related to force majeure events. In adopting these 
rules, the Commission considered, but rejected, alternative solutions, 
including arguments that the Commission should proceed solely via 
waiver in this context.
    158. Section 214(a) Discontinuance Process. The Order streamlines 
the review and approval process for three types of Section 214(a) 
discontinuance applications, those that: (i) Grandfather low-speed 
legacy voice and data services; (ii) discontinue previously 
grandfathered low-speed legacy data services; and (iii) discontinue 
low-speed legacy services with no customers. The Order streamlines the 
approval process for discontinuance applications to grandfather low-
speed legacy services by adopting a uniform reduced public comment 
period of 10 days and an automatic grant period of 25 days for all 
carriers seeking to grandfather legacy low-speed services for existing 
customers. For applications seeking authorization to discontinue legacy 
data

[[Page 61476]]

services below 1.544 Mbps that have previously been grandfathered for a 
period of at least 180 days, the Order applies a uniform reduced public 
comment period of 10 days and an auto-grant period of 31 days to all 
such applications. For applications to discontinue low-speed legacy 
voice and data services below 1.544 Mbps for which the carrier has had 
no customers and no request for service for at least a 30-day period 
prior to filing, the Order adopts a 15-day auto-grant period. In 
adopting these rules, the Order evaluated alternative approaches, and 
found that the adopted streamlining rules strike the appropriate 
balance to provide relief to carriers who wish to transition away from 
the provision of legacy services for which there is rapidly decreasing 
demand, while at the same time ensuring that potential consumers of 
these services have readily available alternatives. Finally, the Order 
clarifies that a carrier need not seek approval from the Commission to 
discontinue, reduce, or impair a service pursuant to section 214(a) of 
the Act when a change in service directly affects only carrier-
customers. In adopting this clarification, the Commission noted that in 
many circumstances the carrier-customer will be able to obtain 
wholesale service from another source without causing a disruption of 
service for the end user, and found that this less burdensome approach 
better conforms with the text of the Act and Commission precedent. The 
Order therefore rejects arguments that the Commission should retain the 
2015 interpretation predicated on the view that as a practical matter, 
if a carrier discontinues wholesale service to a carrier-customer, that 
carrier-customer may be unable to obtain wholesale service from another 
provider and may have no choice but to discontinue service to its end 
users, resulting in a downstream discontinuance of retail service.

G. Report to Congress

    159. The Commission will send a copy of the Report and Order, 
including this FRFA, in a report to be sent to Congress pursuant to the 
Congressional Review Act. In addition, the Commission will send a copy 
of the Report and Order, including this FRFA, to the Chief Counsel for 
Advocacy of the SBA. A copy of the Order and FRFA (or summaries 
thereof) will also be published in the Federal Register.

V. Procedural Matters

A. Congressional Review Act

    160. The Commission will send a copy of this Report and Order, 
including a copy of the Final Regulatory Flexibility Certification, in 
a report to Congress and the Government Accountability Office pursuant 
to the Congressional Review Act. See 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A). In 
addition, the Report and Order and this final certification will be 
sent to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA, and will be 
published in the Federal Register.

B. Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    161. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA), 
the Commission has prepared a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(FRFA) relating to this Report and Order. The FRFA is contained in 
Section IV supra.

C. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 Analysis

    162. The Report and Order contains modified information collection 
requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), 
Public Law 104-13. It will be submitted to the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) for review under section 3507(d) of the PRA. OMB, the 
general public, and other Federal agencies are invited to comment on 
the new or modified information collection requirements contained in 
this proceeding. In addition, we note that pursuant to the Small 
Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44 
U.S.C. 3506(c)(4), we previously sought specific comment on how the 
Commission might further reduce the information collection burden for 
small business concerns with fewer than 25 employees.
    163. In this document, we have assessed the effects of reforming 
our pole attachment regulations, network change notification 
procedures, and section 214(a) discontinuance rules, and find that 
doing so will serve the public interest and is unlikely to directly 
affect businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

D. Contact Person

    164. For further information about this proceeding, please contact 
Michele Levy Berlove, FCC Wireline Competition Bureau, Competition 
Policy Division, Room 5-C313, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554, 
at (202) 418-1477, Michele.Berlove@fcc.gov, or Michael Ray, FCC 
Wireline Competition Bureau, Competition Policy Division, Room 5-C235, 
445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554, (202) 418-0357, 
Michael.Ray@fcc.gov.

VI. Ordering Clauses

    165. Accordingly, it is ordered that, pursuant to sections 1-4, 
201, 202, 214, 224, 251, and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, 
as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151-154, 201, 202, 214, 224, 251, and 303(r), 
this Report and Order is adopted.
    166. It is further ordered that parts 1, 51, and 63 of the 
Commission's rules are amended as set forth in Appendix A of the Report 
and Order, and that any such rule amendments that contain new or 
modified information collection requirements that require approval by 
the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act 
shall be effective after announcement in the Federal Register of Office 
of Management and Budget approval of the rules, and on the effective 
date announced therein.
    167. It is further ordered that this Report and Order shall be 
effective January 29, 2018, except for 47 CFR 1.1424, 51.325(a)(4) and 
(c) through (e), 51.329(c)(1), 51.332, 51.333(a) through (c), (f), and 
(g), 63.60(d) through (i), and 63.71(k), which contain information 
collection requirements that have not been approved by OMB. The Federal 
Communications Commission will publish a document in the Federal 
Register announcing the effective date.
    168. It is further ordered that the Commission's Consumer & 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a 
copy of this Report and Order to Congress and the Government 
Accountability Office pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, see 5 
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
    169. It is further ordered that the Commission's Consumer & 
Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a 
copy of this Report and Order, including the Final Regulatory 
Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small 
Business Administration.

List of Subjects

47 CFR Part 1

    Practice and procedure.

47 CFR Part 51

    Interconnection.

47 CFR Part 63

    Extension of lines, new lines, and discontinuance, reduction, 
outage and impairment of service by common carriers; and Grants of 
recognized private operating agency status.

Federal Communications Commission.
Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary.

Final Rules

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal 
Communications

[[Page 61477]]

Commission amends 47 CFR parts 1, 51, and 63 as follows:

PART 1--PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

0
1. The authority for part 1 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i) and (j), 155, 157, 160, 201, 
224, 225, 227, 303, 309, 310v, 332, 1403, 1404, 1451, 1452, and 
1455.

Subpart J--Pole Attachment Complaint Procedures

0
2. Amend Sec.  1.1409 by revising paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  1.1409  Commission consideration of the complaint.

* * * * *
    (c) The Commission shall determine whether the rate, term or 
condition complained of is just and reasonable. For the purposes of 
this paragraph (c), a rate is just and reasonable if it assures a 
utility the recovery of not less than the additional costs of providing 
pole attachments, nor more than an amount determined by multiplying the 
percentage of the total usable space, or the percentage of the total 
duct or conduit capacity, which is occupied by the pole attachment by 
the sum of the operating expenses and actual capital costs of the 
utility attributable to the entire pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-
way. The Commission shall exclude from actual capital costs those 
reimbursements received by the utility from cable operators and 
telecommunications carriers for non-recurring costs.
* * * * *

0
3. Revise Sec.  1.1424 to read as follows:


Sec.  1.1424   Complaints by incumbent local exchange carriers.

    Complaints by an incumbent local exchange carrier (as defined in 47 
U.S.C. 251(h)) or an association of incumbent local exchange carriers 
alleging that it has been denied access to a pole, duct, conduit, or 
right-of-way owned or controlled by a local exchange carrier or that a 
rate, term, or condition for a utility pole attachment is not just and 
reasonable shall follow the same complaint procedures specified for 
other pole attachment complaints in this part, as relevant. In 
complaint proceedings where an incumbent local exchange carrier (or an 
association of incumbent local exchange carriers) claims that it is 
similarly situated to an attacher that is a telecommunications carrier 
(as defined in 47 U.S.C. 251(a)(5)) or a cable television system for 
purposes of obtaining comparable rates, terms or conditions, the 
incumbent local exchange carrier shall bear the burden of demonstrating 
that it is similarly situated by reference to any relevant evidence, 
including pole attachment agreements. If a respondent declines or 
refuses to provide a complainant with access to agreements or other 
information upon reasonable request, the complainant may seek to obtain 
such access through discovery. Confidential information contained in 
any documents produced may be subject to the terms of an appropriate 
protective order.

0
4. Add Sec.  1.1425 to read as follows:


Sec.  1.1425  Review period for pole access complaints.

    (a) Except in extraordinary circumstances, final action on a 
complaint where a cable television system operator or provider of 
telecommunications service claims that it has been denied access to a 
pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way owned or controlled by a utility 
should be expected no later than 180 days from the date the complaint 
is filed with the Commission.
    (b) The Enforcement Bureau shall have the discretion to pause the 
180-day review period in situations where actions outside the 
Enforcement Bureau's control are responsible for delaying review of a 
pole access complaint.

PART 51--INTERCONNECTION

0
5. The authority for part 51 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 151-55, 201-05, 207-09, 218, 220, 225-27, 
251-54, 256, 271, 303(r), 332, 1302.

0
6. Amend Sec.  51.325 by revising paragraph (a)(4), removing paragraphs 
(c) and (e), and redesignating paragraph (d) as (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  51.325  Notice of network changes: Public notice requirement.

    (a) * * *
    (4) Will result in a copper retirement, which is defined for 
purposes of this subpart as:
    (i) The removal or disabling of copper loops, subloops, or the 
feeder portion of such loops or subloops; or
    (ii) The replacement of such loops with fiber-to-the-home loops or 
fiber-to-the-curb loops, as those terms are defined in Sec.  
51.319(a)(3).
* * * * *

0
7. Amend Sec.  51.329 by revising paragraph (c)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  51.329  Notice of network changes: Methods for providing notice.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (1) The public notice or certification must be labeled with one of 
the following titles, as appropriate: ``Public Notice of Network Change 
Under Rule 51.329(a),'' ``Certification of Public Notice of Network 
Change Under Rule 51.329(a),'' ``Short Term Public Notice Under Rule 
51.333(a),'' ``Certification of Short Term Public Notice Under Rule 
51.333(a),'' ``Public Notice of Copper Retirement Under Rule 51.333,'' 
or ``Certification of Public Notice of Copper Retirement Under Rule 
51.333.''
* * * * *


Sec.  51.332  [Removed]

0
8. Remove Sec.  51.332.

0
9. Amend Sec.  51.333 by revising the section heading and paragraphs 
(a) introductory text, (a)(1), (b), and (c) heading and introductory 
text and adding paragraphs (f) and (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  51.333  Notice of network changes: Short term notice, objections 
thereto and objections to copper retirement notices.

    (a) Certificate of service. If an incumbent LEC wishes to provide 
less than six months' notice of planned network changes, or provide 
notice of a planned copper retirement, the public notice or 
certification that it files with the Commission must include a 
certificate of service in addition to the information required by Sec.  
51.327(a) or Sec.  51.329(a)(2), as applicable. The certificate of 
service shall include:
    (1) A statement that, at least five business days in advance of its 
filing with the Commission, the incumbent LEC served a copy of its 
public notice upon each telephone exchange service provider that 
directly interconnects with the incumbent LEC's network, provided that, 
with respect to copper retirement notices, such service may be made by 
postings on the incumbent LEC's website if the directly interconnecting 
telephone exchange service provider has agreed to receive notice by 
website postings; and
* * * * *
    (b) Implementation date. The Commission will release a public 
notice of filings of such short term notices or copper retirement 
notices. The effective date of the network changes referenced in those 
filings shall be subject to the following requirements:
    (1) Short term notice. Short term notices shall be deemed final on 
the tenth business day after the release of the Commission's public 
notice, unless an objection is filed pursuant to paragraph (c) of this 
section.
    (2) Copper retirement notice. Notices of copper retirement, as 
defined in

[[Page 61478]]

Sec.  51.325(a)(4), shall be deemed final on the 90th day after the 
release of the Commission's public notice of the filing, unless an 
objection is filed pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section, except 
that notices of copper retirement involving copper facilities not being 
used to provision services to any customers shall be deemed final on 
the 15th day after the release of the Commission's public notice of the 
filing. Incumbent LEC copper retirement notices shall be subject to the 
short-term notice provisions of this section, but under no 
circumstances may an incumbent LEC provide less than 90 days' notice of 
such a change except where the copper facilities are not being used to 
provision services to any customers.
    (c) Objection procedures for short term notice and copper 
retirement notices. An objection to an incumbent LEC's short term 
notice or to its copper retirement notice may be filed by an 
information service provider or telecommunications service provider 
that directly interconnects with the incumbent LEC's network. Such 
objections must be filed with the Commission, and served on the 
incumbent LEC, no later than the ninth business day following the 
release of the Commission's public notice. All objections filed under 
this section must:
* * * * *
    (f) Resolution of objections to copper retirement notices. An 
objection to a notice that an incumbent LEC intends to retire copper, 
as defined in Sec.  51.325(a)(4) shall be deemed denied 90 days after 
the date on which the Commission releases public notice of the 
incumbent LEC filing, unless the Commission rules otherwise within that 
time. Until the Commission has either ruled on an objection or the 90-
day period for the Commission's consideration has expired, an incumbent 
LEC may not retire those copper facilities at issue.
    (g) Limited exemption from advance notice and timing requirements 
for copper retirements--(1) Force majeure events. (i) Notwithstanding 
the requirements of this section, if in response to a force majeure 
event, an incumbent LEC invokes its disaster recovery plan, the 
incumbent LEC will be exempted during the period when the plan is 
invoked (up to a maximum 180 days) from all advanced notice and waiting 
period requirements associated with copper retirements that result in 
or are necessitated as a direct result of the force majeure event.
    (ii) As soon as practicable, during the exemption period, the 
incumbent LEC must continue to comply with Sec.  51.325(a), include in 
its public notice the date on which the carrier invoked its disaster 
recovery plan, and must communicate with other directly interconnected 
telephone exchange service providers to ensure that such carriers are 
aware of any changes being made to their networks that may impact those 
carriers' operations.
    (iii) If an incumbent LEC requires relief from the copper 
retirement notice requirements longer than 180 days after it invokes 
the disaster recovery plan, the incumbent LEC must request such 
authority from the Commission. Any such request must be accompanied by 
a status report describing the incumbent LEC's progress and providing 
an estimate of when the incumbent LEC expects to be able to resume 
compliance with the copper retirement notice requirements.
    (iv) For purposes of this section, ``force majeure'' means a highly 
disruptive event beyond the control of the incumbent LEC, such as a 
natural disaster or a terrorist attack.
    (v) For purposes of this section, ``disaster recovery plan'' means 
a disaster response plan developed by the incumbent LEC for the purpose 
of responding to a force majeure event.
    (2) Other events outside an incumbent LEC's control. (i) 
Notwithstanding the requirements of this section, if in response to 
circumstances outside of its control other than a force majeure event 
addressed in paragraph (g)(1) of this section, an incumbent LEC cannot 
comply with the timing requirement set forth in paragraph (b)(2) of 
this section, hereinafter referred to as the waiting period, the 
incumbent LEC must give notice of the copper retirement as soon as 
practicable and will be entitled to a reduced waiting period 
commensurate with the circumstances at issue.
    (ii) A copper retirement notice subject to paragraph (g)(2) of this 
section must include a brief explanation of the circumstances 
necessitating the reduced waiting period and how the incumbent LEC 
intends to minimize the impact of the reduced waiting period on 
directly interconnected telephone exchange service providers.
    (iii) For purposes of this section, circumstances outside of the 
incumbent LEC's control include federal, state, or local municipal 
mandates and unintentional damage to the incumbent LEC's copper 
facilities not caused by the incumbent LEC.

PART 63--EXTENSION OF LINES, NEW LINES, AND DISCONTINUANCE, 
REDUCTION, OUTAGE AND IMPAIRMENT OF SERVICE BY COMMON CARRIERS; AND 
GRANTS OF RECOGNIZED PRIVATE OPERATING AGENCY STATUS

0
10. The authority for part 63 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: Sections 1, 4(i), 4(j), 10, 11, 201-205, 214, 218, 
403 and 651 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 
151, 154(i), 154(j), 160, 201-205, 214, 218, 403, and 571, unless 
otherwise noted.


0
11. Amend Sec.  63.60 by redesignating paragraphs (d) through (h) as 
(e) through (i) and adding new paragraph (d) to read as follows:


Sec.  63.60  Definitions.

* * * * *
    (d) Grandfather means to maintain the provision of a service to 
existing customers while ceasing to offer that service to new 
customers.
* * * * *

0
12. Amend Sec.  63.71 by adding paragraph (k) to read as follows:


Sec.  63.71  Procedures for discontinuance, reduction or impairment of 
service by domestic carriers.

* * * * *
    (k) The following requirements are applicable to certain legacy 
services operating at speeds lower than 1.544 Mbps:
    (1) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a)(5)(i) and (ii) of this section, 
if any carrier, dominant or non-dominant, seeks to:
    (i) Grandfather legacy voice or data service operating at speeds 
lower than 1.544 Mbps; or
    (ii) Discontinue, reduce, or impair legacy data service operating 
at speeds lower than 1.544 Mbps that has been grandfathered for a 
period of no less than 180 days consistent with the criteria 
established in paragraph (k)(4) of this section, the notice shall 
state: The FCC will normally authorize this proposed discontinuance of 
service (or reduction or impairment) unless it is shown that customers 
would be unable to receive service or a reasonable substitute from 
another carrier or that the public convenience and necessity is 
otherwise adversely affected. If you wish to object, you should file 
your comments as soon as possible, but no later than 10 days after the 
Commission releases public notice of the proposed discontinuance. You 
may file your comments electronically through the FCC's Electronic 
Comment Filing System using the docket number

[[Page 61479]]

established in the Commission's public notice for this proceeding, or 
you may address them to the Federal Communications Commission, Wireline 
Competition Bureau, Competition Policy Division, Washington, DC 20554, 
and include in your comments a reference to the Sec.  63.71 Application 
of (carrier's name). Comments should include specific information about 
the impact of this proposed discontinuance (or reduction or impairment) 
upon you or your company, including any inability to acquire reasonable 
substitute service.
    (2) For applications to discontinue, reduce, or impair a legacy 
data service operating at speeds lower than 1.544 Mbps that has been 
grandfathered for a period of no less than 180 days, in order to be 
eligible for automatic grant under paragraph (k)(4) of this section, an 
applicant must include in its application a statement confirming that 
it received Commission authority to grandfather the service at issue at 
least 180 days prior to filing the current application.
    (3) An application filed by any carrier seeking to grandfather 
legacy voice or data service operating at speeds lower than 1.544 Mbps 
for existing customers shall be automatically granted on the 25th day 
after its filing with the Commission without any Commission 
notification to the applicant unless the Commission has notified the 
applicant that the grant will not be automatically effective.
    (4) An application filed by any carrier seeking to discontinue, 
reduce, or impair a legacy data service operating at speeds lower than 
1.544 Mbps that has been grandfathered for 180 days or more preceding 
the filing of the application, shall be automatically granted on the 
31st day after its filing with the Commission without any Commission 
notification to the applicant, unless the Commission has notified the 
applicant that the grant will not be automatically effective.
    (5) An application seeking to discontinue, reduce, or impair a 
legacy voice or data service operating at speeds lower than 1.544 Mbps 
for which the requesting carrier has had no customers and no reasonable 
requests for service during the 30-day period immediately preceding the 
filing of the application, shall be automatically granted on the 15th 
day after its filing with the Commission without any Commission 
notification to the applicant, unless the Commission has notified the 
applicant that the grant will not be automatically effective.

[FR Doc. 2017-27198 Filed 12-27-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6712-01-P