By: Andrew Regitsky
The FCC released an Order on April 16, 2021, in Docket 21-148 listing the requirements for ILECs as they file their 2021 Annual Access Filings accompanied by their Tariff Review Plans (TRPs). As usual, the proposed access rates will become effective on July 1st. The schedule for the year’s filing is as follows:
15-Day ILEC Tariff Filings – June 16, 2021
Petitions Opposing the Filings – June 23, 2021
Replies to Oppositions – June 28, 2021 (due no later than 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time)
7-Day ILEC Tariff Filings – June 24, 2021
Petitions Opposing the Filings – June 28, 2021 (due no later than 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time)
Replies to Oppositions – June 30, 2021 (due no later than 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time)
Please note that under the FCC’s rules, an ILEC may file a new or revised access charge, classification, regulation, or practice on a streamlined basis which is deemed lawful and effective in 7 days when the proposed access rates are reduced, or effective in 15 days when the proposed access rates are increased unless the Commission acts before the end of that 7 or 15-day period.
Price Cap ILECs must make Annual Access Filings every year. Conversely, Rate-of-Return (ROR) ILECs normally must do so every other year. However, to comply with the FCCs 2011 Order which transitioned most terminating access rates to bill-and-keep, all ROR ILECs must file this year. ROR ILECs must also reduce their authorized rate-of-return to the July 1, 2021, permitted level – 9.75 percent.
This year’s Annual Access Filings are unique because they begin the FCC’s recently ordered 8YY 3-year transition to bill-and-keep.
[A]ll price cap and rate-of-return incumbent LECs are required to transition their interstate and intrastate toll free (or 8YY) originating end office access service rates to bill-and-keep over a three-year period. As an initial step, rate-of-return incumbent LECs were required to cap the rate for all intrastate originating access service rate elements for toll free calls, including toll free database query charges, as of December 28, 2020. As part of the transition, beginning July 1, 2021, price cap and rate-of-return incumbent LECs are required to tariff separate rate elements for toll free and non-toll-free interstate and intrastate originating end office access service. These incumbent LECs then must reduce their intrastate toll-free originating end office access service rates to interstate levels when intrastate rates exceed comparable interstate rates. Also, all incumbent LECs are required to tariff rate elements for interstate and intrastate non-toll-free originating transport service between an end office and tandem switch and remove these rate elements from their tariffs for toll free originating traffic, consistent with a bill-and-keep methodology. Further, all incumbent LECs are required to tariff a single rate element of no more than $0.001 per minute for joint tandem switched transport access service for toll free calls. In addition, beginning July 1, 2021, incumbent LECs are required to reduce the intrastate and interstate toll free database query charges in their tariffs to no more than $0.004248 per query. Incumbent LECs charging database query charges lower than this rate, however, may not increase their rates. (Docket 21-148, Released April 16, 2021, at para. 5).
For this year’s filing, the Commission grants NECA a limited waiver of section 51.909(a)(4) of the Commission’s rules. This section requires NECA to adjust its switched access rate caps when carriers enter and exit its tariff pools and notify carriers participating in the traffic-sensitive pool of the change by May 1st. However, with only 6 carriers entering or exiting the pools this year, the effects are too small to have any meaningful effect on rates, so this requirement is waived.
We are still waiting for the Commission to decide USTelecom’s Petition to allow ILECs new sources of revenue to recover lost 8YY revenues. That might include higher Subscriber Line Charge (SLCs) caps or changes in the Access Recovery Charge (ARCs). If that Petition is granted, it could have a significant impact on the 2021 Annual Access Filings. We will report the decision as soon as it is made. Regardless, of what the FCC decides, with the 8YY transition in full swing this year, there is only one place in the industry where all tariff changes can be swiftly found. Of course, that is with CCMI. We thank you for your continued support!