This excerpt taken from the VZ 10-K filed Feb 26, 2010.
The FCC has jurisdiction over our interstate telecommunications services and other matters under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (Communications Act). The Communications Act generally provides that we may not charge unjust or unreasonable rates, or engage in unreasonable discrimination when we are providing services as a common carrier, and regulates some of the rates, terms and conditions under which we provide certain services. The FCC also has adopted regulations governing various aspects of our business including: (i) use and disclosure of customer proprietary network information; (ii) telemarketing; (iii) assignment of telephone numbers to customers; (iv) provision to law enforcement agencies of the capability to obtain call identifying information and call content information from calls pursuant to lawful process; (v) accessibility of services and equipment to individuals with disabilities if readily achievable; (vi) interconnection with the networks of other carriers; and (vii) customers ability to keep (or port) their telephone numbers when switching to another carrier. In addition, we pay various fees to support other FCC programs, such as the universal service program discussed below. Changes to these mandates, or the adoption of additional mandates, could require us to make changes to our operations or otherwise increase our costs of compliance.
The FCC has adopted a series of orders that recognize the competitive nature of the broadband market and impose lesser regulatory requirements on broadband services and facilities than apply to narrowband or traditional telephone services. With respect to facilities, the FCC has determined that certain unbundling requirements that apply to narrowband facilities of local exchange carriers do not apply to broadband facilities such as fiber to the premise loops and packet switches. With respect to services, the FCC has concluded that both wireline and wireless broadband Internet access services qualify as largely deregulated information services. Separately, certain of our wireline broadband services sold primarily to larger business customers were largely deregulated when our forbearance petition was deemed granted by operation of law. The latter relief has been upheld on appeal, but is subject to a continuing challenge before the FCC.
The FCC has a body of rules that apply to cable operators under Title VI of the Communications Act of 1934, and these rules also generally apply to telephone companies that provide cable services over their networks. In addition, the Act generally requires companies that provide cable service over a cable system to obtain a local cable franchise, and the FCC has adopted rules that interpret and implement this requirement.
Interstate Access Charges and Intercarrier Compensation
The FCCs current framework for interstate switched access rates was established in the Coalition for Affordable Local and Long Distance Services (CALLS) plan which the FCC adopted in 2000, and it has more recently adopted a separate framework that applies to dial-up Internet-bound traffic. The FCC currently is conducting a broad rulemaking to determine whether and how these existing frameworks should be modified.
The FCC is also conducting a rulemaking proceeding to address the regulation of services that use Internet protocol. The issues raised in the rulemaking as well as in several petitions currently pending before the FCC include whether, and under what circumstances, access charges should apply to voice or other Internet protocol services and the scope of federal and state commission authority over these services.
The FCCs current rules for special access services provide for pricing flexibility and ultimately the removal of services from price regulation when prescribed competitive thresholds are met. More than half of special access revenues are now removed from price regulation. The FCC currently has a rulemaking proceeding underway to determine whether and how these rules should be modified.
The FCC also has a body of rules implementing the universal service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, including rules governing support to rural and non-rural high-cost areas, support for low income subscribers and support for schools, libraries and rural health care. The FCCs current rules for support to high-cost areas served by larger non-rural local telephone companies were previously remanded by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which had found that the FCC had not adequately justified these rules. The FCC has initiated a rulemaking proceeding in response to the courts remand, but its rules remain in effect pending the results of the rulemaking. In response to growth in the size of the fund, the FCC has capped the amount of support competitive carriers (including all wireless carriers) may receive. In its 2008 order approving Verizon Wirelesss acquisition of Alltel, the FCC also required Verizon Wireless to phase out the high-cost universal service support the merged company receives by 20 percent during the first year following completion of the acquisition and by an additional 20 percent for each of the following three years, after which no support will be provided. The FCC currently is considering other changes to the rules governing contributions to, and disbursements from, the fund. Any change in the current rules could result in a change in the contribution that local telephone companies, wireless carriers or others must make and that would have to be collected from customers, or in the amounts that these providers receive from the fund.
Unbundling of Network Elements
Under Section 251 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, incumbent local exchange carriers are required to provide competing carriers with access to components of their network on an unbundled basis, known as UNEs, where certain statutory standards are satisfied. The FCC has adopted rules defining the network elements that must be made available, including criteria for determining whether high-capacity loops, transport or dark fiber transport must be unbundled in individual wire centers. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 also adopted a cost-based pricing standard for these UNEs, which the FCC interpreted as allowing it to impose a pricing standard known as total element long run incremental cost or TELRIC.
On October 22, 2009, the FCC initiated a proceeding in which it proposes to adopt so-called net neutrality rules that it describes as intended to preserve the openness of the Internet. The proposed rules would apply to all providers of broadband Internet access services, whether wireline or wireless, but would not apply to providers of applications, content or other services. The FCC proposes to adopt as rules four principles taken from a previous policy statement that applied to wireline broadband services and to add two new requirements, all of which would be subject to the ability of network providers to engage in reasonable network management practices and to meeting the needs of law enforcement, public safety and national security. Specifically, the proposed rules would provide that a broadband Internet access provider: 1) may not prevent its users from sending or receiving lawful content over the Internet; 2) may not prevent its users from running or using lawful applications and services; 3) may not prevent its users from connecting to and using on its networks their choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network; 4) may not deprive its users of their entitlement to competition among network providers, applications, content or services; 5) must treat lawful content, applications or services in a nondiscriminatory manner; and 6) must disclose information on network management and other practices reasonably required for users and application, content and service providers to enjoy the protections of the rules. If final rules are adopted that limit our flexibility in managing our broadband networks and delivering broadband services, these rules could have a significant adverse effect on our broadband business, restrict our ability to compete in the marketplace and limit the return we can expect to achieve on past and future investments in our broadband networks.
The FCC regulates the licensing, construction, operation, acquisition and transfer of wireless communications systems, including the systems that Verizon Wireless operates, pursuant to the Communications Act, other legislation, and the FCCs rules. The FCC and Congress continuously consider changes to these laws and rules. Adoption of new laws or rules may raise the cost of providing service or require modification of Verizon Wirelesss business plans or operations.
To use the radio frequency spectrum, wireless communications systems must be licensed by the FCC to operate the wireless network and mobile devices in assigned spectrum segments. Verizon Wireless holds FCC licenses to operate in several different radio services, including the cellular radiotelephone service, personal communications service, wireless communications service, and point-to-point radio service. The technical and service rules, the specific radio frequencies and amounts of spectrum Verizon Wireless holds, and the sizes of the geographic areas it is authorized to operate in, vary for each of these services. However, all of the licenses Verizon Wireless holds allow it to use spectrum to provide a wide range of mobile and fixed communications services, including both voice and data services, and Verizon Wireless operates a seamless network that utilizes those licenses to provide services to customers. Because the FCC issues licenses for only a fixed time, generally 10 years, Verizon Wireless must periodically seek renewal of those licenses. Although the FCC has routinely renewed all of Verizon Wirelesss licenses that have come up for renewal to date, challenges could be brought against the licenses in the future. If a wireless license were revoked or not renewed upon expiration, Verizon Wireless would not be permitted to provide services on the licensed spectrum in the area covered by that license.
The FCC has also imposed specific mandates on carriers that operate wireless communications systems, which increase Verizon Wirelesss costs. These mandates include requirements that Verizon Wireless: (i) meet specific construction and geographic coverage requirements during the license term; (ii) meet technical operating standards that, among other things, limit the radio frequency radiation from mobile devices and antennas; (iii) deploy Enhanced 911 wireless services that provide the wireless callers number, location and other information to a state or local public safety agency that handles 911 calls; (iv) provide roaming services to other wireless service providers; and (v) comply with regulations for the construction of transmitters and towers that, among other things, restrict siting of towers in environmentally sensitive locations and in places where the towers would affect a site listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Changes to these mandates could require Verizon Wireless to make changes to operations or increase its costs of compliance. In its November 4, 2008 order approving Verizon Wirelesss acquisition of Alltel, the FCC adopted conditions that impose additional requirements on Verizon Wireless in its provision of Enhanced 911 services and roaming services.
The Communications Act imposes restrictions on foreign ownership of U.S. wireless systems. The FCC has approved the interest that Vodafone Group Plc holds, through various of its subsidiaries, in Verizon Wireless. The FCC may need to approve any increase in Vodafones interest or the acquisition of an ownership interest by other foreign entities. In addition, as part of the FCCs approval of Vodafones ownership interest, Verizon Wireless, Verizon and Vodafone entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation which imposes national security and law enforcement-related obligations on the ways in which Verizon Wireless stores information and otherwise conducts its business.
Verizon Wireless anticipates that it will need additional spectrum to meet future demand. It can meet spectrum needs by purchasing licenses or leasing spectrum from other licensees, or by acquiring new spectrum licenses from the FCC. Under the Communications Act, before Verizon Wireless can acquire a license from another licensee in order to expand its coverage or its spectrum capacity in a particular area, it must file an application with the FCC, and the FCC can grant the application only after a period for public notice and comment. This review process can delay acquisition of spectrum needed to expand services. The Communications Act also requires the FCC to award new licenses for most commercial wireless services through a competitive bidding process in which spectrum is awarded to bidders in an auction. Verizon Wireless has participated in spectrum auctions to acquire licenses for radio spectrum in various bands. Most recently, Verizon Wireless participated in the FCCs auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, and was the high bidder on 109 700 MHz licenses. The FCC granted all of those licenses to Verizon Wireless on November 26, 2008. The 700 MHz spectrum was used for UHF television operations, but by law those operations ceased on June 12, 2009.
The FCC also adopted service rules that will impose costs on licensees that acquire the 700 MHz band spectrum, including minimum coverage mandates by specific dates during the license terms, and, for approximately one-third of the spectrum, open access requirements, which generally require licensees of that spectrum to allow customers to use devices and applications of their choice, subject to certain limits. Seven of the licenses that Verizon Wireless acquired in the 700 MHz auction, which in the aggregate cover the U.S. except for Alaska, are subject to these requirements.
The FCC is also conducting several proceedings to explore making additional spectrum available for licensed and/or unlicensed use. These proceedings could increase radio interference to Verizon Wirelesss operations from other spectrum users and could impact the ways in which it uses spectrum, the capacity of that spectrum to carry traffic, and the value of that spectrum.