BEFORE THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION In the Matter of COMMON CARRIER BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON NORTH AMERICAN NUMBERING COUNCIL REPORT CONCERNING TELEPHONE NUMBER POOLING AND OTHER OPTIMIZATION MEASURES ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) NSD File No. L-98-134 COMMENTS OF THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION December 21, 1998 I. Introduction and New Hampshire Background On November 6, 1998, the Common Carrier Bureau (CCB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued Public Notice DA98-2265 seeking comment on the North American Numbering Council Report (NANC Report) Concerning Telephone Number Pooling And Other Optimization Measures. On the same date, NANPA sent to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NHPUC) a document which officially declared New Hampshire's 603 area code to be in "extraordinary jeopardy." The State of New Hampshire has approximately 800,000 access lines and 200,000 wireless subscribers among a population of about 1.2 million whereas there are approximately 7.7 million telephone numbers in the 603 numbering plan area (NPA) code. On December 14, 1998, NHPUC submitted its Petition for Reconsideration responsive to the FCC's September 28, 1998 Memorandum Opinion and Order addressing area code issues before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In our Petition for Reconsideration, the NHPUC requested that the FCC: (1) remove the condition in Paragraph 24 that requires a state commission to decide upon a specific form of area code relief before it is allowed to impose central office code (NXX) conservation measures; (2) authorize state commissions to implement NXX conservation measures that do not interfere with the FCC's guidelines for traditional area code relief; and, (3) clarify the authority state commissions have to order return of NXXs. This confluence of events heightens our concerns about this critical telecommunications public policy issue. The NHPUC therefore respectfully submits the following comments on this Public Notice in order to offer our initial assessment of potential short term and long term solutions to those problems. First and foremost, the NHPUC believes that time is of the essence. The need for individual states, including New Hampshire, to be able to move forward quickly and invoke any and all reasonable and prudent number conservation and optimization measures is obvious. If conservation measures are not quickly implemented, New Hampshire will face the irrational and harmful prospect of adding a new area code, with the associated costs to customers, in the face of a number-to-lines ratio of 8 to 1. Thus, any delays in decisionmaking in order to ferret out minutiae will come at a significant, though difficult to quantify, cost. Second, as a general policy matter, the NHPUC supports the notion that more choice among competing number conservation options is better than less choice, as it gives states the maximum flexibility to implement those options that are best suited to the individual, perhaps even unique, conditions in that state. Therefore, we urge the FCC to adopt as many of the NANC's recommended options as the FCC finds viable. Having said this, we duly recognize the FCC's need to ensure a certain level of consistency of numbering across the entire geographic area served by the North American Numbering Plan (NANP). II. Comments Following review of the NANC Report, the NHPUC makes the following general recommendations, which are discussed in more detail in the paragraphs which follow: (1) that, as soon as possible, the FCC order the use of Thousand Number Block Pooling (TNP), as defined in Section 5 of the NANC Report; (2) that the FCC adopt Individual Telephone Number Pooling (ITN), as delineated in Section 4 of the NANC Report, as the long term solution and move forward to order service providers to become LNP-capable as soon as practicable; and, (3) that the FCC require revision of Industry Assignment (CO Code) Guidelines, particularly those addressing fill rate and inventory level requirements and reclamation of unused codes and thousand number blocks. We also comment briefly on the other issues for which the FCC sought comment: Unassigned Number Porting (UNP), Expanded Local Calling Areas (ELCA), and Mandatory 10-digit dialing. In addition to those areas, we address questions relating to the role of NANPA, code sharing and transparent routing number assignment, the lack of useful cost data, and potential issues relating to public safety. A. TNP Of the fourteen options defined by NANC, the NHPUC believes that the most important short-term relief option targeted for comment is Thousand Number Block Pooling (TNP). As stated in the Executive Summary to the NANC Report, "Based on the work of the NRO-WG to date, as documented in this report, thousands block pooling is the only number pooling alternative that potentially meets the FCC's December 1999 date for deployment of number pooling in LNP areas in accordance with a consistent nationwide plan." Given this statement, and the need for timely policy implementation, this alternative, above all others, urgently requires affirmative action by the FCC, including, but not limited to, ordering vendors to implement needed hardware and software changes in a timely fashion. This solution dovetails with what we perceive to be the long-term solution to the numbering resources problem in the United States: Individual Telephone Number Pooling or ITN, as spelled out in Section 4 of the NANC Report. B. ITN While Thousand Number Block Pooling may mitigate the numbering problem in the short term, a long-term solution to the numbering problem needs to be identified. We concur generally with the view of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that having a long term solution in place will enable the FCC to focus its efforts upon those short-term solutions which best fit with the long run solution chosen, but point out that maximum short-term flexibility is required for addressing imminent number exhaust situations. Though certain technological and other obstacles may exist at present, the long run solution is to move to Individual Telephone Number Pooling (ITN). ITN will fully utilize our numbering resources by assigning every assignable number in an NXX code before another NXX code is put into use. Thus, from a pure efficiency standpoint in terms of number utilization, ITN is unassailable as a solution to the numbering resource dilemma. C. UNP The NHPUC is intrigued by the possibilities afforded by Unassigned Number Porting (UNP) as an interim (i.e., jeopardy-avoiding) solution and believes that it may warrant further inquiry and approval as another temporary tool in the numbering conservation arsenal. However, UNP should be endorsed only as an additional measure and not in place of TNP and ITN. The NHPUC has a concern that the costs may be too high relative to the short term benefits produced and that it would be difficult to find a neutral third party to govern sharing between providers. D. CO Code Assignment Guidelines The NHPUC generally supports the Comments of the Colorado PUC with respect to code assignment guidelines, but recognizes that such efforts, though necessary and useful, may not be implemented in time to resolve short term number exhaust issues in New Hampshire. The NHPUC believes that revision of the guidelines governing reclamation of unused codes should be a priority, as well revision of those guidelines addressing fill rates and inventory level requirements. Also, to the extent that number utilization audits and penalties can provide the correct incentives for service providers to implement LNP on a shorter timeline, such measures should be made effective without delay, with the caveat that they be applied in a competitively-neutral manner. E. ELCA Although the NHPUC has not fully analyzed the details necessary to implement Extended Local Calling Areas (ELCAs) between wireline providers in NH, we believe this option may have merit. In order to provide statewide coverage in NH today, a CLEC needs 32 NXXs or, under the current system, 320,000 telephone numbers. With ELCA, certain CLECs, such as those who primarily provide service to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), would be able to provide comparable service by using only one NXX rather than 32. States should be allowed to consider ELCA among the available number conservation measures. F. Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing The NHPUC considered mandatory 10-digit dialing in protracted hearings in 1993 and chose instead to implement 7-digit dialing for all in-state toll calls. New Hampshire consumers, then and now, have a strong preference for avoiding mandatory 10-digit dialing. Where, as here, alternative conservation measures are available, imposing the inconvenience of mandatory 10-digit dialing should be a last resort. G. The role of NANPA The FCC has encouraged commenting parties to address, "what entity or entities should be assigned the responsibility of requesting number usage data from carriers and other code holders and whether the NANPA or some other entity should perform forecast analyses on such data." At the NHPUC, we have already begun an informal state survey of NXX code utilization, including a request to code holders and potential code holders (to the extent they are known) to provide a limited forecast of anticipated demand for new NXX codes through the year 2001. More extensive efforts need to be undertaken at the national level. This important information gathering and forecasting function should be assigned to an unbiased entity capable of efficient, accurate performance. State-specific information should then be shared fully with state commissions. As presently constituted, NANPA relies on reaching industry consensus. Experience suggests it is usually difficult, if not impossible, to achieve such consensus because of the competing interests of the stakeholders involved in the process. Given this fact, the FCC should take whatever immediate steps are within its authority to accelerate the decisionmaking process at NANPA, either by implementing measures which redefine how NANPA operates or through any other measures which, collectively, lead to the desired information flow and policy implementation efficiency gains. Again, at the risk of emphasizing this point unnecessarily, there is an urgent need to make decisions soon enough to avoid absurd results. Clearly, at a basic level, the role of NANPA in this process needs to be re-examined. The NHPUC is interested in learning more about the merits of the proposals put forth by the Colorado PUC regarding fundamental changes to the way in which NANPA operates. H. Cost data and other information gaps The recalcitrance of industry participants to release relevant cost data concerning implementation costs for Local Number Portability (LNP) and other number optimization measures should not be allowed to delay the process of implementing conservation measures. There are ways to protect the proprietary nature of the data provided and yet still reveal the underlying cost constraints required to bring about full LNP. Carriers and other relevant parties should not be allowed to hide behind the "proprietary" veil and thus thwart efforts to meet public needs in the most efficient manner possible. The bottom line is simply that the implementation costs of each of the fourteen options examined in the NANC Report need to be better understood and there needs to be a reasonable process in place to reach an accurate determination of these costs. I. Other Though the FCC has not sought comment on code sharing and transparent routing number assignment at this time, the NHPUC believes these options deserve attention as stop-gap measures having significant potential either to forestall the need for the introduction of a new area code or else to mask its introduction from an end user perspective. Transparent routing, in particular, has the additional benefit of allowing for an overlay of a new area code, on a temporary basis, that is transparent (unknown) to the end user. This would allow states to move forward with implementation of other number conservation measures which could ultimately allow the transparent NPA to be returned to NANPA for redistribution. In the meantime, consumers and businesses are not faced with the clearly avoidable costs associated with a non-transparent area code change. The NHPUC views these solutions as having merit as interim tools with the understanding that, like the other measures discussed in the NANC Report, the implementation costs associated with these options require further elucidation. One final area which merits attention is the issue of public safety. Here, the NHPUC applauds the effort of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to focus attention on this important subject. III. Conclusion As stated previously, the NHPUC believes that timeliness regarding area code policy implementation is of paramount importance and urges quick action by the Commission. The NHPUC also urges the FCC to order the implementation of as many alternative measures as are viable, while focusing its attention on those options that will provide immediate relief to states facing imminent area code exhaust due to inefficient allocation of numbering resources.