NCTA, Sprint, and HD Tandem discuss access stimulation with the FCC

This was an interesting round of ex parte filings to document discussions with the FCC over their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to address access stimulation, i.e., domestic traffic pumping. Three organizations, NTCA, Sprint, and HD Tandem, presented three markedly different views.

Here’s a recap.

NTCA

The Rural Broadband association said that:

  1. Support for “Prong 1” approach in the NPRM, i.e., the terminating LEC pays the access fee, is based on the existing definition of access stimulation.
  2. Any change in the definition of access stimulation should be done carefully to ensure that “smaller rural carriers do not become embroiled in disputes and self-help measures by larger carriers simply due to traffic imbalances that have no relationship whatsoever to access stimulation.”

Sprint

Similar to the recent Inteliquent report, Sprint reports extreme spikes in traffic destined for entities involved in access stimulation.

Sprint made test calls to some of the called numbers and found advertisements offering payment for generating high traffic, measured in minutes, to chat lines. In their filing, Sprint provided transcripts of some of these recordings.

Sprint recommended that the FCC should:

  1. Adopt Prong 1 but not Prong 2 of the NPRM, i.e., the access stimulating LEC should bear the access termination costs (Prong 1) but not accept direct connection from an IXC (Prong 2).
  2. Remove revenue sharing from the definition of access stimulation.
  3. Add an alternative definition based upon traffic balance and volume thresholds.

Sprint explained the rationale for these suggestions using an example of HD Tandem, who provides termination services, and Free Conferencing, a teleconference service. They have common ownership. HD Tandem was created by the founder of Free Conferencing, and HD Tandem seeks to have carriers deliver call traffic for Free Conferencing through the HD Tandem network. HD Tandem claims that it is not a certified LEC or entity regulated by the FCC.

Sprint maintains that this arrangement suggests revenue sharing, but that it would be difficult to prove. That’s why they want to remove revenue sharing from the access stimulation definition: it may exist but be difficult to establish. It would be easier with the alternative definition.

This arrangement also explains why Sprint recommended removing Prong 2. Free Conferencing wants traffic to flow through HD Tandem.

HD Tandem

HD Tandem encouraged the FCC to:

  • Provide clear rules and definitions regarding access stimulation
  • Allow LECs and IXCs plenty of time to adapt their business arrangements to comply with the rules and definitions
Three different views on access stimulation