ICB Toll Free (800/888) News by: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News
Tuesday April 15 1997 at 08:53:55 AM EDT

FCC Negates Toll Free Industry in the Guise of the "Public Interest"

This FCC Ruling - 80 pages of dismissive arrogance - reads over-regulation, anti-competition, and government imposition. Can Congressional auction of toll-free numbers be far behind?

New York, NY US - The COMMISSION ESTABLISHES RULES PROMOTING EFFICIENT USE, FAIR DISTRIBUTION OF TOLL FREE NUMBERS. Report No: CC-97-17. by 2nd R&O & FNPRM. Action by: the Commission. Adopted: April 4, 1997. Dkt No.: CC-95-155. (FCC No. 97-123)

New York, NY, April 15, 1997, (ICB TOLL FREE NEWS) In an angry document that leads this writer to question it's motives, the FCC has lashed out against the toll free industry.

Most curious is the Commission's negation of almost every comment filed in response to the original NPRM, nonchalantly dismissing the admittedly biased, but nonetheless knowledgeable suggestions of the carriers, marketers and industry gurus who know and understand the marketplace, the "public interest", and their long-term needs, best.

One almost wonders why it bothered to ask. Here are the highlights.

The FCC has interpreted Section 201(b) of the Communications Act to . empower the Commission to ensure that toll free numbers, which are a scarce and valuable national public resource, are allocated in an equitable and orderly manner that serves the public interest..

1. Subscriber interests denied.

We find that there is a "legitimate governmental interest or rational basis" for declaring that toll free numbers are a public resource..

2. Presumption of Hoarding.

Hoarding is defined as a toll free subscriber acquiring more numbers from a RespOrg than it intends to use immediately.

Commission asserts the right to question the use of toll free numbers even if subscribers are paying their bills. Routing multiple toll free numbers to a single subscriber will create a rebuttable presumption of hoarding or brokering.

Furthermore, . There is no way to determine if a subscriber is maintaining an inventory because it may soon have a need for the numbers, or if the subscriber is building a supply of numbers for possible sale, but in either scenario the numbers are unavailable for toll free subscribers that have an immediate need..

Telemarketing Service Bureaus appear to be exempt. The language is interesting:

. We conclude that, to the extent that telemarketing service bureaus are performing legitimate services, and not merely buying and selling numbers, such activity would not be considered "hoarding."

Other factors that may be considered if a toll free subscriber is alleged to be hoarding or brokering numbers are the amount of calling of a particular number and the rate at which a particular subscriber changes toll free numbers..

3. Presumption of Warehousing.

Similarly, . ...if a Responsible Organization does not have an identified toll free subscriber agreeing to be billed for service associated with each toll free number reserved from the database, or if a Responsible Organization does not have an identified, billed toll free subscriber before switching a number from reserved or assigned to working status, then there is a rebuttable presumption that the Responsible Organization is warehousing numbers. Responsible Organizations that warehouse numbers will be subject to penalties..

4. RespOrg Penalties.

. We conclude that the Commission's exclusive jurisdiction over the portions of the North American Numbering Plan that pertain to the United States, found at 251(e)(1) of the Communications Act, as amended, authorizes the Commission to penalize RespOrgs that warehouse toll free numbers. We may impose a forfeiture penalty under 503(b). In addition, if a person violates a provision of the Communications Act or a rule or regulation issued by the Commission under authority of the Communications Act, the Commission can refer the matter to the Department of Justice to determine whether a fine, imprisonment, or both are warranted under 501 or 502 of the Communications Act. We also may limit any RespOrg's allocation of toll free numbers or possibly decertify it as a RespOrg under 251(e)(1) or 4(i). In addition, RespOrgs that falsely indicate that they have identified subscribers for particular numbers may be liable for false statements under Title 18 of the United States Code. We direct DSMI, and any successor toll free administrator, to monitor reserved numbers that are being automatically recaptured after 45 days and to submit regular reports to the Common Carrier Bureau, indicating which RespOrgs repeatedly reserve toll free numbers without having an identified subscriber..

5. Subscriber Penalties.

. Toll free subscribers that hoard or broker numbers will be subject to penalties similar to those we will impose for warehousing. The penalties may include, but are not limited to, a forfeiture penalty under 503(b) of the Communications Act. If a subscriber hoards numbers, that subscriber's service provider must terminate toll free service..

Author/Correspondent's Profile: Judith Oppenheimer, Publisher, ICB Toll Free (800/888) News

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