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Proposed Rule

Universal Service Contribution Methodology

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AGENCY:

Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION:

Notice of proposed rulemaking.

SUMMARY:

The Federal Communications Commission (Commission), in a companion Final Rule, proposes to amend the existing approach for assessing contributions to the federal universal service fund (USF or Fund) by raising the interim wireless safe harbor to 37.1 percent and by establishing universal service contribution obligations for providers of interconnected voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. The Commission issues this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to determine what additional steps, if any, it should take to ensure the sufficiency and stability of the Fund.

DATES:

Comments are due on or before August 9, 2006, and reply comments are due on or before September 8, 2006.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by WC Docket No. 06-122, by any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Agency Web Site: www.fcc.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on http://www.fcc.gov/​cgb/​ecfs/​.
  • E-mail: ecfs@fcc.gov, and include the following words in the body of the message, “get form.” A sample form and directions will be sent in response.
  • Mail: Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554.
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: 236 Massachusetts Avenue, NE., Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002.

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number for this rulemaking, WC Docket No. 06-122. All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.fcc.gov/​cgb/​ecfs/​, including any personal information provided. For detailed instructions on submitting comments and additional information on the rulemaking process, see the “Public Participation” heading of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to http://www.fcc.gov/​cgb/​ecfs/​.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Amy Bender, Wireline Competition Bureau, (202) 418-1469, or via e-mail at Amy.Bender@fcc.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This is a summary of the Commission's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 06-122, FCC 06-94, adopted June 21, 2006, and released June 27, 2006. The complete text of this document is available for inspection and copying during normal business hours in the FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. This document may also be purchased from the Commission's duplicating contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc., 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone (800) 378-3160 or (202) 863-2893, facsimile (202) 863-2898, or via e-mail at www.bcpiweb.com. It is also available on the Commission's Web site at http://www.fcc.gov.

Public Participation

Comments may be filed using (1) the Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), (2) the Federal Government's eRulemaking Portal, or (3) by filing paper copies. See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR 24121 (May 1, 1998).

  • Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the ECFS: http://www.fcc.gov/​cgb/​ecfs/​ or the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Filers should follow the instructions provided on the website for submitting comments.
  • For ECFS filers, if multiple docket or rulemaking numbers appear in the caption of this proceeding, filers must transmit one electronic copy of the comments for each docket or rulemaking number referenced in the caption. In completing the transmittal screen, filers should include their full name, U.S. Postal Service mailing address, and the applicable docket or rulemaking number. Parties may also submit an electronic comment by Internet e-mail. To get filing instructions, filers should send an e-mail to ecfs@fcc.gov, and include the following words in the body of the message, “get form.” A sample form and directions will be sent in response.
  • Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and four copies of each filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking number.

Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail (although we continue to experience delays in receiving U.S. Postal Service mail). All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.

  • The Commission's contractor will receive hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission's Secretary at 236 Start Printed Page 38833Massachusetts Avenue, NE., Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002. The filing hours at this location are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be disposed of before entering the building.
  • Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
  • U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail should be addressed to 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554.

All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, Marlene H. Dortch, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554. Parties must also send a courtesy copy of their filing to Antoinette Stevens, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., Room 5-B540, Washington, DC 20554. Antoinette Stevens's e-mail address is Antoinette.Stevens@fcc.gov and telephone number is (202) 418-7387.

Synopsis of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

1. In this NPRM, we seek to further refine the record concerning the interim requirements established in the companion Order published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register for mobile wireless providers and for interconnected VoIP providers, while we continue to examine more fundamental contribution methodology reform. In the Order, we increased the interim wireless safe harbor from 28.5 percent to 37.1 percent to reflect more accurately actual wireless interstate usage. We also require providers of interconnected VoIP service to contribute to the Fund, by reporting their actual interstate revenues, by using a traffic study (if approved by the Commission), or by using a safe harbor of 64.9 percent.

2. First, we seek comment on whether to eliminate or raise the interim wireless safe harbor. Wireless providers may base contributions on actual interstate and international revenues or on traffic studies conducted to approximate these revenues. In light of these options, we seek comment on whether we should eliminate the interim wireless safe harbor or whether there remains a need to perpetuate a wireless safe harbor. We seek comment on whether mobile wireless providers can, or should be able to, determine their actual interstate and international end-user revenues. If we decide to eliminate the wireless safe harbor, we seek comment on how mobile wireless providers would determine their actual usage and whether we should continue to permit wireless providers to use traffic studies. For example, the study relied on in the Order utilized originating and terminating Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs), or area codes, to identify interstate revenues. We seek comment on whether originating and terminating NPAs reflect whether a call is interstate or international. We also seek comment on whether originating and terminating cell sites could be used to determine the jurisdictional nature of a call. Are there other methods of determining jurisdiction? We ask commenters to address associated difficulties and costs of implementation. We also seek comment on whether there are unique difficulties associated with analyzing either outgoing or incoming calls, and whether it is necessary to analyze both types of calls or would, for example, out-bound calls reasonably approximate all interstate and international usage.

3. If we decide to retain a wireless safe harbor, we seek comment on whether a safe harbor of 37.1 percent for interstate and international end-user revenue is appropriate or whether the safe harbor should be raised. Given that mobile wireless providers retain the option of reporting their actual interstate end-user telecommunications revenues, we have found that setting the interim safe harbor at the high end of the market for interstate and international end-user revenue is a reasonable approach. If 37.1 percent does not reflect the high end of the market, what percentage does? Since 1998, we have increased the interim wireless safe harbor twice to reflect more accurately wireless interstate end-user revenue. We are mindful that these increases in the safe harbor percentage lagged market conditions, resulting in collecting fewer Fund contributions than market conditions would have supported. We seek comment on how to determine the safe harbor percentage to better reflect market conditions on an ongoing basis. For example, should we periodically (e.g., annually, quarterly) adjust the interim safe harbor percentage to reflect wireless interstate end-user revenue trends? If so, how would we establish these trends?

4. Second, we seek comment on the USF obligations we have established in this Order for interconnected VoIP providers. We encourage commenters to describe possible ways in which our new requirements for interconnected VoIP providers could be improved. We welcome suggestions for a permanent approach to USF contributions from interconnected VoIP providers.

5. In particular, we seek comment on whether to eliminate or change the interim safe harbor for providers of interconnected VoIP service. We ask commenters to address whether a safe harbor continues to be appropriate for providers of interconnected VoIP service. Can providers of interconnected VoIP service identify the amount of actual interstate and international, as opposed to intrastate, telecommunications they provide? If so, should we require that these providers report based on actual data? If not, is 64.9 percent the most appropriate level, or should we adjust the interim interconnected VoIP safe harbor? We ask that commenters advocating a change to the safe harbor explain the basis of their proposed revised safe harbor and how the safe harbor should be calculated.

6. New Docket. In this NPRM, we open a new docket—WC Docket No. 06-122. All filings made in response to this NPRM and those addressing the Commission's universal service contribution methodology rules generally, should be filed in WC Docket No. 06-122. Although we urge parties that previously filed in CC Docket Nos. 96-45, 98-171, 90-571, 92-237/NSD File No. L-00-72, 99-200, 95-116, 98-170, or WC Docket No. 04-36 on the universal service contribution methodology to re-file in new WC Docket No. 06-122, such filings nevertheless will be considered in this proceeding. CC Docket Nos. 96-45, 98-171, 90-571, 92-237/NSD File No. L-00-72, 99-200, 95-116, 98-170, and WC Docket No. 04-36 will remain open for other non-universal service contribution methodology related filings.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

7. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (RFA), the Commission has prepared the present Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant economic impact on small entities that might result from this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Written public comments are requested on this IRFA. Comments must be identified as responses to the IRFA and must be filed by the deadlines for comments on the NPRM provided above. The Commission will send a copy of the NPRM, including this IRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration. In addition, the NPRM and IRFA (or summaries thereof) will be published in the Federal Register. Start Printed Page 38834

1. Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules

8. In the NPRM, we seek to further refine the record concerning the interim requirements established in the accompanying Order for mobile wireless providers and for interconnected VoIP providers, while we continue to examine more fundamental contribution methodology reform. In the Order, we increased the interim wireless safe harbor from 28.5 percent to 37.1 percent to reflect more accurately actual wireless interstate usage. We also require providers of interconnected VoIP service to contribute to the Universal Service Fund (USF or Fund). These actions are necessary to ensure the stability and sufficiency of the Fund. The objective of the NPRM is to explore whether the Commission should take additional action to meet these goals.

2. Legal Basis

9. The legal basis for any action that may be taken pursuant to the NPRM is contained in sections 1, 2, 4(i), 4(j), 201, 202, 218-220, 254, and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151, 152, 154(i)-(j), 201, 202, 218-220, 254, and 303(r), and sections 1.1, 1.48, 1.411, 1.412, 1.415, 1.419, and 1.1200-1.1216, of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR 1.1, 1.48, 1.411, 1.412, 1.415, 1.419, 1.1200-1.1216.

3. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Proposed Rules May Apply

10. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of and, where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be affected by the proposed rules. 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. 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 Small Business Administration (SBA). The present NPRM might, in theory, reach a variety of industries; out of an abundance of caution, we have attempted to cast a wide net in describing categories of potentially affected small entities. We would appreciate any comment on the extent to which the various entities might be directly affected by our action.

11. Small Businesses. Nationwide, there are a total of approximately 22.4 million small businesses, according to SBA data.

12. Small Organizations. Nationwide, there are approximately 1.6 million small organizations.

13. Small Governmental Jurisdictions. The term “small governmental jurisdiction” is defined generally as “governments of cities, towns, townships, villages, school districts, or special districts, with a population of less than fifty thousand.” Census Bureau data for 2002 indicate that there were 87,525 local governmental jurisdictions in the United States. We estimate that, of this total, 84,377 entities were “small governmental jurisdictions.” Thus, we estimate that most governmental jurisdictions are small.

a. Wireline Carriers and Service Providers

14. We have included small incumbent local exchange carriers in this present RFA analysis. As noted above, a “small business” under the RFA is one that, inter alia, meets the pertinent small business size standard (e.g., a telephone communications business having 1,500 or fewer employees), and “is not dominant in its field of operation.” The SBA's Office of Advocacy contends that, for RFA purposes, small incumbent local exchange carriers are not dominant in their field of operation because any such dominance is not “national” in scope. We have therefore included small incumbent local exchange carriers in this RFA analysis, although we emphasize that this RFA action has no effect on Commission analyses and determinations in other, non-RFA contexts.

15. Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (LECs). Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard specifically for incumbent local exchange services. The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the category Wired Telecommunications Carriers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 1,303 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of incumbent local exchange services. Of these 1,303 carriers, an estimated 1,020 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 283 have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that most providers of incumbent local exchange service are small businesses that may be affected by our action.

16. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs), 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 size standard under SBA rules is for the category Wired Telecommunications Carriers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 769 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of either competitive access provider services or competitive local exchange carrier services. Of these 769 carriers, an estimated 676 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 93 have more than 1,500 employees. In addition, 12 carriers have reported that they are “Shared-Tenant Service Providers,” and all 12 are estimated to have 1,500 or fewer employees. In addition, 37 carriers have reported that they are “Other Local Service Providers.” Of the 39, an estimated 38 have 1,500 or fewer employees and one has more than 1,500 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 our action.

17. Local Resellers. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for the category of Telecommunications Resellers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 143 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of local resale services. Of these, an estimated 141 have 1,500 or fewer employees and two have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of local resellers are small entities that may be affected by our action.

18. Toll Resellers. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for the category of Telecommunications Resellers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 770 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of toll resale services. Of these, an estimated 747 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 23 have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of toll Start Printed Page 38835resellers are small entities that may be affected by our action.

19. Payphone Service Providers (PSPs). Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard specifically for payphone services providers. The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the category Wired Telecommunications Carriers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 654 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of payphone services. Of these, an estimated 652 have 1,500 or fewer employees and two have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of payphone service providers are small entities that may be affected by our action.

20. Interexchange Carriers (IXCs). Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard specifically for providers of interexchange services. The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the category Wired Telecommunications Carriers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 316 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of interexchange service. Of these, an estimated 292 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 24 have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of IXCs are small entities that may be affected by our action.

21. Operator Service Providers (OSPs). Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard specifically for operator service providers. The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the category Wired Telecommunications Carriers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 23 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of operator services. Of these, an estimated 20 have 1,500 or fewer employees and three have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of OSPs are small entities that may be affected by our action.

22. Prepaid Calling Card Providers. Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard specifically for prepaid calling card providers. The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the category Telecommunications Resellers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 89 carriers have reported that they are engaged in the provision of prepaid calling cards. Of these, an estimated 88 have 1,500 or fewer employees and one has more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of prepaid calling card providers are small entities that may be affected by our action.

23. 800 and 800-Like Service Subscribers. Neither the Commission nor the SBA has developed a small business size standard specifically for 800 and 800-like service (“toll free”) subscribers. The appropriate size standard under SBA rules is for the category Telecommunications Resellers. Under that size standard, such a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. The most reliable source of information regarding the number of these service subscribers appears to be data the Commission collects on the 800, 888, and 877 numbers in use. According to our data, at the beginning of January 2005, the number of 800 numbers assigned was 7,540,453; the number of 888 numbers assigned was 5,947,789 and the number of 877 numbers assigned was 4,805,568. We do not have data specifying the number of these subscribers that are not independently owned and operated or have more than 1,500 employees, and thus are unable at this time to estimate with greater precision the number of toll free subscribers that would qualify as small businesses under the SBA size standard. Consequently, we estimate that there are 7,540,453 or fewer small entity 800 subscribers; 5,947,789 or fewer small entity 888 subscribers; and 4,805,568 or fewer small entity 877 subscribers.

b. International Service Providers

24. Satellite Telecommunications and Other Telecommunications. There is no small business size standard developed specifically for providers of international service. The appropriate size standards under SBA rules are for the two broad census categories of “Satellite Telecommunications” and “Other Telecommunications.” Under both categories, such a business is small if it has $13.5 million or less in average annual receipts.

25. The first category of Satellite Telecommunications “comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing point-to-point telecommunications services to other establishments in the telecommunications and broadcasting industries by forwarding and receiving communications signals via a system of satellites or reselling satellite telecommunications.” For this category, Census Bureau data for 2002 show that there were a total of 371 firms that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 307 firms had annual receipts of under $10 million, and 26 firms had receipts of $10 million to $24,999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of Satellite Telecommunications firms are small entities that might be affected by our action.

26. The second category of Other Telecommunications “comprises establishments primarily engaged in (1) providing specialized telecommunications applications, such as satellite tracking, communications telemetry, and radar station operations; or (2) providing satellite terminal stations and associated facilities operationally connected with one or more terrestrial communications systems and capable of transmitting telecommunications to or receiving telecommunications from satellite systems.” For this category, Census Bureau data for 2002 show that there were a total of 332 firms that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 259 firms had annual receipts of under $10 million and 15 firms had annual receipts of $10 million to $24,999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of Other Telecommunications firms are small entities that might be affected by our action.

c. Wireless Telecommunications Service Providers

27. Below, for those services subject to auctions, we note that, as a general matter, the number of winning bidders that qualify as small businesses at the close of an auction does not necessarily represent the number of small businesses currently in service. Also, the Commission does not generally track subsequent business size unless, in the context of assignments or transfers, unjust enrichment issues are implicated.

28. Wireless Service Providers. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for wireless firms within the two broad economic census categories of “Paging” and “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications.” Under both categories, the SBA deems a wireless business to be small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. For the census category of Paging, Census Bureau data for 2002 show that there were 807 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 804 firms had employment of 999 or fewer employees, and three firms had employment of 1,000 employees or more. Thus, under this category and associated small business size standard, Start Printed Page 38836the majority of firms can be considered small. For the census category of Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications, Census Bureau data for 2002 show that there were 1,397 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 1,378 firms had employment of 999 or fewer employees, and 19 firms had employment of 1,000 employees or more. Thus, under this second category and size standard, the majority of firms can, again, be considered small.

29. Cellular Licensees. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for wireless firms within the broad economic census category “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications.” Under this SBA category, a wireless business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 437 carriers reported that they were engaged in the provision of cellular service, Personal Communications Service (PCS), or Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) Telephony services, which are placed together in the data. We have estimated that 260 of these are small, under the SBA small business size standard. Thus, under this category and size standard, the majority of firms can be considered small.

30. Common Carrier Paging. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for Paging, under which a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 375 carriers have reported that they are engaged in Paging or Messaging Service. Of these, an estimated 370 have 1,500 or fewer employees, and 5 have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that the majority of paging providers are small entities that may be affected by our action. In addition, in the Paging Third Report and Order, we developed a small business size standard for “small businesses” and “very small businesses” for purposes of determining their eligibility for special provisions such as bidding credits and installment payments. A “small business” is an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding $15 million for the preceding three years. Additionally, a “very small business” is an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues that are not more than $3 million for the preceding three years. The SBA has approved these small business size standards. An auction of Metropolitan Economic Area licenses commenced on February 24, 2000, and closed on March 2, 2000. Of the 985 licenses auctioned, 440 were sold. Fifty-seven companies claiming small business status won.

31. Wireless Communications Services. This service can be used for fixed, mobile, radiolocation, and digital audio broadcasting satellite uses. The Commission established small business size standards for the wireless communications services (WCS) auction. A “small business” is an entity with average gross revenues of $40 million for each of the three preceding years, and a “very small business” is an entity with average gross revenues of $15 million for each of the three preceding years. The SBA has approved these small business size standards. The Commission auctioned geographic area licenses in the WCS service. In the auction, held in April 1997, there were seven winning bidders that qualified as “very small business” entities, and one that qualified as a “small business” entity.

32. Wireless Telephony. Wireless telephony includes cellular, personal communications services (PCS), and specialized mobile radio (SMR) telephony carriers. As noted earlier, the SBA has developed a small business size standard for “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications” services. Under that SBA small business size standard, a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Commission data, 437 carriers reported that they were engaged in the provision of wireless telephony. We have estimated that 260 of these are small under the SBA small business size standard.

33. Broadband Personal Communications Service. The broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS) spectrum is divided into six frequency blocks designated A through F, and the Commission has held auctions for each block. The Commission defined “small entity” for Blocks C and F as an entity that has average gross revenues of $40 million or less in the three previous calendar years. For Block F, an additional classification for “very small business” was added and is defined as an entity that, together with its affiliates, has average gross revenues of not more than $15 million for the preceding three calendar years.” These standards defining “small entity” in the context of broadband PCS auctions have been approved by the SBA. No small businesses, within the SBA-approved small business size standards bid successfully for licenses in Blocks A and B. There were 90 winning bidders that qualified as small entities in the Block C auctions. A total of 93 small and very small business bidders won approximately 40 percent of the 1,479 licenses for Blocks D, E, and F. On March 23, 1999, the Commission re-auctioned 347 C, D, E, and F Block licenses. There were 48 small business winning bidders. On January 26, 2001, the Commission completed the auction of 422 C and F Broadband PCS licenses in Auction No. 35. Of the 35 winning bidders in this auction, 29 qualified as “small” or “very small” businesses. Subsequent events, concerning Auction 35, including judicial and agency determinations, resulted in a total of 163 C and F Block licenses being available for grant.

34. Narrowband Personal Communications Services. To date, two auctions of narrowband personal communications services (PCS) licenses have been conducted. For purposes of the two auctions that have already been held, “small businesses” were entities with average gross revenues for the prior three calendar years of $40 million or less. Through these auctions, the Commission has awarded a total of 41 licenses, out of which 11 were obtained by small businesses. To ensure meaningful participation of small business entities in future auctions, the Commission has adopted a two-tiered small business size standard in the Narrowband PCS Second Report and Order. A “small business” is an entity that, together with affiliates and controlling interests, has average gross revenues for the three preceding years of not more than $40 million. A “very small business” is an entity that, together with affiliates and controlling interests, has average gross revenues for the three preceding years of not more than $15 million. The SBA has approved these small business size standards. In the future, the Commission will auction 459 licenses to serve Metropolitan Trading Areas (MTAs) and 408 response channel licenses. There is also one megahertz of narrowband PCS spectrum that has been held in reserve and that the Commission has not yet decided to release for licensing. The Commission cannot predict accurately the number of licenses that will be awarded to small entities in future auctions. However, four of the 16 winning bidders in the two previous narrowband PCS auctions were small businesses, as that term was defined. The Commission assumes, for purposes of this analysis, that a large portion of the remaining narrowband PCS licenses will be awarded to small entities. The Commission also assumes that at least some small businesses will acquire narrowband PCS licenses by Start Printed Page 38837means of the Commission's partitioning and disaggregation rules.

35. 220 MHz Radio Service—Phase I Licensees. The 220 MHz service has both Phase I and Phase II licenses. Phase I licensing was conducted by lotteries in 1992 and 1993. There are approximately 1,515 such non-nationwide licensees and four nationwide licensees currently authorized to operate in the 220 MHz band. The Commission has not developed a small business size standard for small entities specifically applicable to such incumbent 220 MHz Phase I licensees. To estimate the number of such licensees that are small businesses, we apply the small business size standard under the SBA rules applicable to “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications” companies. This category provides that a small business is a wireless company employing no more than 1,500 persons. The Commission estimates that nearly all such licensees are small businesses under the SBA's small business size standard.

36. 220 MHz Radio Service—Phase II Licensees. The Phase II 220 MHz service is a new service, and is subject to spectrum auctions. In the 220 MHz Third Report and Order, we adopted a small business size standard for “small” and “very small” businesses for purposes of determining their eligibility for special provisions such as bidding credits and installment payments. This small business size standard indicates that a “small business” is an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding $15 million for the preceding three years. A “very small business” is an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues that do not exceed $3 million for the preceding three years. The SBA has approved these small business size standards. Auctions of Phase II licenses commenced on September 15, 1998, and closed on October 22, 1998. In the first auction, 908 licenses were auctioned in three different-sized geographic areas: three nationwide licenses, 30 Regional Economic Area Group (EAG) Licenses, and 875 Economic Area (EA) Licenses. Of the 908 licenses auctioned, 693 were sold. Thirty-nine small businesses won licenses in the first 220 MHz auction. The second auction included 225 licenses: 216 EA licenses and 9 EAG licenses. Fourteen companies claiming small business status won 158 licenses.

37. 800 MHz and 900 MHz Specialized Mobile Radio Licenses. The Commission awards “small entity” and “very small entity” bidding credits in auctions for Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) geographic area licenses in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands to firms that had revenues of no more than $15 million in each of the three previous calendar years, or that had revenues of no more than $3 million in each of the previous calendar years, respectively. These bidding credits apply to SMR providers in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands that either hold geographic area licenses or have obtained extended implementation authorizations. The Commission does not know how many firms provide 800 MHz or 900 MHz geographic area SMR service pursuant to extended implementation authorizations, nor how many of these providers have annual revenues of no more than $15 million. One firm has over $15 million in revenues. The Commission assumes, for purposes here, that all of the remaining existing extended implementation authorizations are held by small entities, as that term is defined by the SBA. The Commission has held auctions for geographic area licenses in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz SMR bands. There were 60 winning bidders that qualified as small or very small entities in the 900 MHz SMR auctions. Of the 1,020 licenses won in the 900 MHz auction, bidders qualifying as small or very small entities won 263 licenses. In the 800 MHz auction, 38 of the 524 licenses won were won by small and very small entities.

38. 700 MHz Guard Band Licensees. In the 700 MHz Guard Band Order, we adopted a small business size standard for “small businesses” and “very small businesses” for purposes of determining their eligibility for special provisions such as bidding credits and installment payments. A “small business” is an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding $15 million for the preceding three years. Additionally, a “very small business” is an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues that are not more than $3 million for the preceding three years. An auction of 52 Major Economic Area (MEA) licenses commenced on September 6, 2000, and closed on September 21, 2000. Of the 104 licenses auctioned, 96 licenses were sold to nine bidders. Five of these bidders were small businesses that won a total of 26 licenses. A second auction of 700 MHz Guard Band licenses commenced on February 13, 2001 and closed on February 21, 2001. All eight of the licenses auctioned were sold to three bidders. One of these bidders was a small business that won a total of two licenses.

39. Rural Radiotelephone Service. The Commission has not adopted a size standard for small businesses specific to the Rural Radiotelephone Service. A significant subset of the Rural Radiotelephone Service is the Basic Exchange Telephone Radio System (BETRS). The Commission uses the SBA's small business size standard applicable to “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications,” i.e., an entity employing no more than 1,500 persons. There are approximately 1,000 licensees in the Rural Radiotelephone Service, and the Commission estimates that there are 1,000 or fewer small entity licensees in the Rural Radiotelephone Service that may be affected by the rules and policies adopted herein.

40. Air-Ground Radiotelephone Service. The Commission has not adopted a small business size standard specific to the Air-Ground Radiotelephone Service. We will use SBA's small business size standard applicable to “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications,” i.e., an entity employing no more than 1,500 persons. There are approximately 100 licensees in the Air-Ground Radiotelephone Service, and we estimate that almost all of them qualify as small under the SBA small business size standard.

41. Aviation and Marine Radio Services. Small businesses in the aviation and marine radio services use a very high frequency (VHF) marine or aircraft radio and, as appropriate, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (and/or radar) or an emergency locator transmitter. The Commission has not developed a small business size standard specifically applicable to these small businesses. For purposes of this analysis, the Commission uses the SBA small business size standard for the category “Cellular and Other Telecommunications,” which is 1,500 or fewer employees. Most applicants for recreational licenses are individuals. Approximately 581,000 ship station licensees and 131,000 aircraft station licensees operate domestically and are not subject to the radio carriage requirements of any statute or treaty. For purposes of our evaluations in this analysis, we estimate that there are up to approximately 712,000 licensees that are small businesses (or individuals) under the SBA standard. In addition, between December 3, 1998 and December 14, 1998, the Commission held an auction of 42 VHF Public Coast licenses in the 157.1875-157.4500 MHz (ship transmit) and 161.775-162.0125 MHz (coast transmit) bands. For Start Printed Page 38838purposes of the auction, the Commission defined a “small” business as an entity that, together with controlling interests and affiliates, has average gross revenues for the preceding three years not to exceed $15 million dollars. In addition, a “very small” business is one that, together with controlling interests and affiliates, has average gross revenues for the preceding three years not to exceed $3 million dollars. There are approximately 10,672 licensees in the Marine Coast Service, and the Commission estimates that almost all of them qualify as “small” businesses under the above special small business size standards.

42. Fixed Microwave Services. Fixed microwave services include common carrier, private operational-fixed, and broadcast auxiliary radio services. At present, there are approximately 22,015 common carrier fixed licensees and 61,670 private operational-fixed licensees and broadcast auxiliary radio licensees in the microwave services. The Commission has not created a size standard for a small business specifically with respect to fixed microwave services. For purposes of this analysis, the Commission uses the SBA small business size standard for the category “Cellular and Other Telecommunications,” which is 1,500 or fewer employees. The Commission does not have data specifying the number of these licensees that have more than 1,500 employees, and thus is unable at this time to estimate with greater precision the number of fixed microwave service licensees that would qualify as small business concerns under the SBA's small business size standard. Consequently, the Commission estimates that there are up to 22,015 common carrier fixed licensees and up to 61,670 private operational-fixed licensees and broadcast auxiliary radio licensees in the microwave services that may be small and may be affected by the rules and policies adopted herein. We noted, however, that the common carrier microwave fixed licensee category includes some large entities.

43. Offshore Radiotelephone Service. This service operates on several UHF television broadcast channels that are not used for television broadcasting in the coastal areas of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. There are presently approximately 55 licensees in this service. We are unable to estimate at this time the number of licensees that would qualify as small under the SBA's small business size standard for “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications” services. Under that SBA small business size standard, a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees.

44. 39 GHz Service. The Commission created a special small business size standard for 39 GHz licenses—an entity that has average gross revenues of $40 million or less in the three previous calendar years. An additional size standard for “very small business” is: An entity that, together with affiliates, has average gross revenues of not more than $15 million for the preceding three calendar years. The SBA has approved these small business size standards. The auction of the 2,173 39 GHz licenses began on April 12, 2000 and closed on May 8, 2000. The 18 bidders who claimed small business status won 849 licenses. Consequently, the Commission estimates that 18 or fewer 39 GHz licensees are small entities that may be affected by the rules and polices adopted herein.

45. Multipoint Distribution Service, Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service, and ITFS. Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) systems, often referred to as “wireless cable,” transmit video programming to subscribers using the microwave frequencies of the Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) and Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS). In connection with the 1996 MDS auction, the Commission established a small business size standard as an entity that had annual average gross revenues of less than $40 million in the previous three calendar years. The MDS auctions resulted in 67 successful bidders obtaining licensing opportunities for 493 Basic Trading Areas (BTAs). Of the 67 auction winners, 61 met the definition of a small business. MDS also includes licensees of stations authorized prior to the auction. In addition, the SBA has developed a small business size standard for Cable and Other Program Distribution, which includes all such companies generating $12.5 million or less in annual receipts. According to Census Bureau data for 1997, there were a total of 1,311 firms in this category, total, that had operated for the entire year. Of this total, 1,180 firms had annual receipts of under $10 million and an additional 52 firms had receipts of $10 million or more but less than $25 million. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of providers in this service category are small businesses that may be affected by the rules and policies adopted herein. This SBA small business size standard also appears applicable to ITFS. There are presently 2,032 ITFS licensees. All but 100 of these licenses are held by educational institutions. Educational institutions are included in this analysis as small entities. Thus, we tentatively conclude that at least 1,932 licensees are small businesses.

46. Local Multipoint Distribution Service. Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) is a fixed broadband point-to-multipoint microwave service that provides for two-way video telecommunications. The auction of the 1,030 Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) licenses began on February 18, 1998 and closed on March 25, 1998. The Commission established a small business size standard for LMDS licenses as an entity that has average gross revenues of less than $40 million in the three previous calendar years. An additional small business size standard for “very small business” was added as an entity that, together with its affiliates, has average gross revenues of not more than $15 million for the preceding three calendar years. The SBA has approved these small business size standards in the context of LMDS auctions. There were 93 winning bidders that qualified as small entities in the LMDS auctions. A total of 93 small and very small business bidders won approximately 277 A Block licenses and 387 B Block licenses. On March 27, 1999, the Commission re-auctioned 161 licenses; there were 40 winning bidders. Based on this information, we conclude that the number of small LMDS licenses consists of the 93 winning bidders in the first auction and the 40 winning bidders in the re-auction, for a total of 133 small entity LMDS providers.

47. 218-219 MHz Service. The first auction of 218-219 MHz spectrum resulted in 170 entities winning licenses for 594 Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) licenses. Of the 594 licenses, 557 were won by entities qualifying as a small business. For that auction, the small business size standard was an entity that, together with its affiliates, has no more than a $6 million net worth and, after federal income taxes (excluding any carry over losses), has no more than $2 million in annual profits each year for the previous two years. In the 218-219 MHz Report and Order and Memorandum Opinion and Order, we established a small business size standard for a “small business” as an entity that, together with its affiliates and persons or entities that hold interests in such an entity and their affiliates, has average annual gross revenues not to exceed $15 million for the preceding three years. A “very small business” is defined as an entity that, together with its affiliates and persons or entities that hold interests in such an entity and its affiliates, has average annual gross revenues not to exceed $3 Start Printed Page 38839million for the preceding three years. These size standards will be used in future auctions of 218-219 MHz spectrum.

48. 24 GHz—Incumbent Licensees. This analysis may affect incumbent licensees who were relocated to the 24 GHz band from the 18 GHz band, and applicants who wish to provide services in the 24 GHz band. The applicable SBA small business size standard is that of “Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications” companies. This category provides that such a company is small if it employs no more than 1,500 persons. We believe that there are only two licensees in the 24 GHz band that were relocated from the 18 GHz band, Teligent and TRW, Inc. It is our understanding that Teligent and its related companies have less than 1,500 employees, though this may change in the future. TRW is not a small entity. Thus, only one incumbent licensee in the 24 GHz band is a small business entity.

49. 24 GHz—Future Licensees. With respect to new applicants in the 24 GHz band, the small business size standard for “small business” is an entity that, together with controlling interests and affiliates, has average annual gross revenues for the three preceding years not in excess of $15 million. “Very small business” in the 24 GHz band is an entity that, together with controlling interests and affiliates, has average gross revenues not exceeding $3 million for the preceding three years. The SBA has approved these small business size standards. These size standards will apply to the future auction, if held.

d. Cable and OVS Operators

50. Cable and Other Program Distribution. The Census Bureau defines this category as follows: “This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged as third-party distribution systems for broadcast programming. The establishments of this industry deliver visual, aural, or textual programming received from cable networks, local television stations, or radio networks to consumers via cable or direct-to-home satellite systems on a subscription or fee basis. These establishments do not generally originate programming material.” The SBA has developed a small business size standard for Cable and Other Program Distribution, which is: All such firms having $13.5 million or less in annual receipts. According to Census Bureau data for 2002, there were a total of 1,191 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 1,087 firms had annual receipts of under $10 million, and 43 firms had receipts of $10 million or more but less than $25 million. Thus, under this size standard, the majority of firms can be considered small.

51. Cable Companies and Systems. The Commission has also 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, of 1,076 cable operators nationwide, all but eleven are small under this size standard. In addition, under the Commission's rules, a “small system” is a cable system serving 15,000 or fewer subscribers. Industry data indicate that, of 7,208 systems nationwide, 6,139 systems have under 10,000 subscribers, and an additional 379 systems have 10,000-19,999 subscribers. Thus, under this second size standard, most cable systems are small.

52. Cable System Operators. 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 1 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.” The Commission has determined that an operator serving fewer than 677,000 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. Industry data indicate that, of 1,076 cable operators nationwide, all but ten are small 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, and therefore we are unable to estimate more accurately the number of cable system operators that would qualify as small under this size standard.

53. Open Video Services. Open Video Service (OVS) systems provide subscription services. As noted above, the SBA has created a small business size standard for Cable and Other Program Distribution. This standard provides that a small entity is one with $13.5 million or less in annual receipts. The Commission has certified approximately 25 OVS operators to serve 75 areas, and some of these are currently providing service. Affiliates of Residential Communications Network, Inc. (RCN) received approval to operate OVS systems in New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., and other areas. RCN has sufficient revenues to assure that they do not qualify as a small business entity. Little financial information is available for the other entities that are authorized to provide OVS and are not yet operational. Given that some entities authorized to provide OVS service have not yet begun to generate revenues, the Commission concludes that up to 24 OVS operators (those remaining) might qualify as small businesses that may be affected by the rules and policies adopted herein.

e. Internet Service Providers

54. Internet Service Providers. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). ISPs “provide clients access to the Internet and generally provide related services such as web hosting, web page designing, and hardware or software consulting related to Internet connectivity.” Under the SBA size standard, such a business is small if it has average annual receipts of $23 million or less. According to Census Bureau data for 2002, there were 2,529 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of these, 2,437 firms had annual receipts of under $10 million, and an additional 47 firms had receipts of between $10 million and $24, 999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of these firms are small entities that may be affected by our action.

f. Other Internet-Related Entities

55. Web Search Portals. Our action pertains to VoIP services, which could be provided by entities that provide other services such as email, online gaming, web browsing, video conferencing, instant messaging, and other, similar IP-enabled services. The Commission has not adopted a size standard for entities that create or provide these types of services or applications. However, the Census Bureau has identified firms that “operate web sites that use a search engine to generate and maintain extensive databases of Internet addresses and content in an easily searchable format. Web search portals often provide additional Internet services, such as e-mail, connections to other Web sites, auctions, news, and other limited content, and serve as a home base for Internet users.” The SBA has developed a small business size standard for this category; that size standard is $6.5 million or less in average annual receipts. According to Census Bureau data for 2002, there were 342 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of these, 303 had annual receipts of under $5 million, and Start Printed Page 38840an additional 15 firms had receipts of between $5 million and $9,999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of these firms are small entities that may be affected by our action.

56. Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services. Entities in this category “primarily * * * provid[e] infrastructure for hosting or data processing services.” The SBA has developed a small business size standard for this category; that size standard is $23 million or less in average annual receipts. According to Census Bureau data for 2002, there were 6,877 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of these, 6,418 had annual receipts of under $10 million, and an additional 251 firms had receipts of between $10 million and $24,999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of these firms are small entities that may be affected by our action.

57. All Other Information Services. “This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing other information services (except new syndicates and libraries and archives).” Our action pertains to VoIP services, which could be provided by entities that provide other services such as email, online gaming, web browsing, video conferencing, instant messaging, and other, similar IP-enabled services. The SBA has developed a small business size standard for this category; that size standard is $6.5 million or less in average annual receipts. According to Census Bureau data for 2002, there were 155 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of these, 138 had annual receipts of under $5 million, and an additional four firms had receipts of between $5 million and $9,999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of these firms are small entities that may be affected by our action.

58. Internet Publishing and Broadcasting. “This industry comprises establishments engaged in publishing and/or broadcasting content on the Internet exclusively. These establishments do not provide traditional (non-Internet) versions of the content that they publish or broadcast.” The SBA has developed a small business size standard for this census category; that size standard is 500 or fewer employees. According to Census Bureau data for 2002, there were 1,362 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of these, 1,351 had employment of 499 or fewer employees, and six firms had employment of between 500 and 999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of these firms are small entities that may be affected by our action.

59. Software Publishers. These companies may design, develop or publish software and may provide other support services to software purchasers, such as providing documentation or assisting in installation. The companies may also design software to meet the needs of specific users. The SBA has developed a small business size standard of $23 million or less in average annual receipts for all of the following pertinent categories: Software Publishers, Custom Computer Programming Services, and Other Computer Related Services. For Software Publishers, Census Bureau data for 2002 indicate that there were 6,155 firms in the category that operated for the entire year. Of these, 7,633 had annual receipts of under $10 million, and an additional 403 firms had receipts of between $10 million and $24,999,999. For providers of Custom Computer Programming Services, the Census Bureau data indicate that there were 32,269 firms that operated for the entire year. Of these, 31,416 had annual receipts of under $10 million, and an additional 565 firms had receipts of between $10 million and $24,999,999. For providers of Other Computer Related Services, the Census Bureau data indicate that there were 6,357 firms that operated for the entire year. Of these, 6,187 had annual receipts of under $10 million, and an additional 101 firms had receipts of between $10 million and $24,999,999. Consequently, we estimate that the majority of the firms in each of these three categories are small entities that may be affected by our action.

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

60. The NPRM addresses required USF contribution levels; these levels, plus associated routine reporting requirements, constitute compliance burdens. The NPRM seeks comment, first, on whether to eliminate or raise the interim wireless safe harbor. The NPRM asks whether mobile wireless providers can, or should be able to, determine their actual interstate and international end-user revenues. If we decide to eliminate the wireless safe harbor, the NPRM seeks comment on how mobile wireless providers would determine their actual usage and whether we should continue to permit wireless providers to use traffic studies. For example, the NPRM seeks comment on whether originating and terminating Numbering Plan Areas (NPAs) reflect whether a call is interstate or international. The NPRM also seeks comment on whether originating and terminating cell sites could be used to determine the jurisdictional nature of a call. The NPRM asks commenters to address associated difficulties and costs of implementation. The NPRM also seeks comment on whether there are unique difficulties associated with analyzing either outgoing or incoming calls, and whether it is necessary to analyze both types of calls or would, for example, out-bound calls reasonably approximate all interstate and international usage.

61. If we decide to retain a wireless safe harbor, the NPRM seeks comment on whether the new interim safe harbor of 37.1 percent for interstate and international end-user revenue is appropriate or whether the safe harbor should be raised. Given that mobile wireless providers retain the option of reporting their actual interstate end-user telecommunications revenues, we have found that setting the interim safe harbor at the high end of the market for interstate and international end-user revenue is a reasonable approach. The NPRM asks whether a safe harbor of 37.1 percent reflects a reasonable approximation of the high end of wireless interstate and international end-user usage today, and if not, what percentage does. Since 1998, the Commission has increased the interim wireless safe harbor twice to reflect more accurately wireless interstate end-user revenue. We are mindful that these increases in the safe harbor percentage lagged market conditions, resulting in collecting fewer Fund contributions than market conditions would have supported. The NPRM seeks comment on how to determine the safe harbor percentage to better reflect market conditions on an ongoing basis, and on whether the Commission should periodically (e.g., annually, quarterly) adjust the interim safe harbor percentage to reflect wireless interstate end-user revenue trends.

62. The NPRM also seeks comment on the USF obligations we have established in the Order for interconnected VoIP providers. We encourage commenters to describe possible ways in which our new requirements for interconnected VoIP providers could be improved. Given the interim nature of this order, we welcome suggestions for a permanent approach to USF contributions from interconnected VoIP providers.

63. In particular, the NPRM seeks comment on whether to eliminate or change the interim safe harbor established in the Order for providers of interconnected VoIP service. Start Printed Page 38841Commenters are asked to address whether a safe harbor continues to be appropriate for providers of interconnected VoIP service, and whether providers of interconnected VoIP service can identify the amount of actual interstate and international, as opposed to intrastate, telecommunications they provide. If so, the NPRM asks whether these providers should be required to report based on actual data. If not, the NPRM seeks comment on whether 64.9 percent is the most appropriate level, or whether we should adjust the interim interconnected VoIP safe harbor. The NPRM asks that commenters advocating a change to the safe harbor explain the basis of their proposed revised safe harbor and how the safe harbor should be calculated.

5. Steps Taken To Minimize Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities, and Significant Alternatives Considered

64. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant alternatives that it has considered in reaching its proposed approach, which may include (among others) the following four alternatives: (1) The establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance or reporting requirements under the rule for small entities; (3) the use of performance, rather than design, standards; and (4) an exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities.

65. The NPRM specifically seeks comment on whether the Commission should revise the USF obligations established for interconnected VoIP providers. In addition, the NPRM seeks comment on the appropriateness of the interim safe harbors established for wireless carriers and interconnected VoIP providers. We seek comment here on the effect the various proposals summarized above will have on small entities, and on what effect alternative rules would have on those entities. How can the Commission achieve its goal of ensuring the stability and sufficiency of the Fund while also imposing minimal burdens on small entities? What specific steps could the Commission take in this regard?

6. Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the Proposed Rules

66. None.

Ordering Clauses

67. Accordingly, it is ordered that, pursuant to sections 1, 2, 4(i), 4(j), 201, 202, 218-220, 254, and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151, 152, 154(i)-(j), 201, 202, 218-220, 254, and 303(r), this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WC Docket No. 06-122 is adopted.

68. It is further ordered that the Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, shall send a copy of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.

Start Signature

Federal Communications Commission.

Marlene H. Dortch,

Secretary.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 06-6060 Filed 7-7-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6712-01-P