206 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2000), 99-1094, Bell Atlantic Tele. Co. v. Fed. Commun. Comm'n.
|Docket Nº:||99-1094, 99-1095, 99-1097, 99-1106, 99-1126,99-1134, 99-1136, 99-1145,|
|Citation:||206 F.3d 1|
|Party Name:||Bell Atlantic Telephone Companies, Petitioner v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America, Respondents Telecommunications Resellers Association, et al.,Intervenors|
|Case Date:||March 24, 2000|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit|
Argued November 22, 1999
On Petitions for Review of a Declaratory Ruling of the Federal Communications Commission
Mark L. Evans and Darryl M. Bradford argued the causes for petitioners. With them on the briefs were Thomas F. O'Neil, III, Adam H. Charnes, Mark B. Ehrlich, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Jodie L. Kelley, John J. Hamill, Emily M. Williams, Theodore Case Whitehouse, Thomas Jones, Albert H. Kramer, Andrew D. Lipman, Richard M. Rindler, Robert M. McDowell, Robert D. Vandiver, Cynthia Brown Miller, Charles C. Hunter, Catherine M. Hannan, Michael D. Hays, Laura H. Phillips, J. G. Harrington, William P. Barr, M. Edward Whelan, III, Michael K. Kellogg, Michael E. Glover, Robert B. McKenna, William T. Lake, John H. Harwood, II, Jonathan J. Frankel, Robert Sutherland, William B. Barfield, Theodore A. Livingston and John E. Muench. Maureen F. Del Duca, Lynn R. Charytan, Gail L. Polivy, John F. Raposa and Lawrence W. Katz entered appearances.
Christopher J. Wright, General Counsel, Federal Communications Commission, argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Daniel M. Armstrong, Associate General Counsel, and John E. Ingle, Laurence N. Bourne and Lisa S. Gelb, Counsel. Catherine G. O'Sullivan and Nancy C. Garrison, Attorneys, U.S. Department of Justice, entered appearances.
David L. Lawson argued the cause for intervenors in opposition to the LEC petitioners. With him on the brief were Mark C. Rosenblum, David W. Carpenter, James P. Young, Emily M. Wiliams, Andrew D. Lipman, Richard M. Rindler, Robert D. Vandiver, Cynthia Brown Miller, Theodore Case Whitehouse, Thomas Jones, John D. Seiver, Charles C. Hunter, Catherine M. Hannan, Carol Ann Bischoff and Robert M. McDowell.
William P. Barr, M. Edward Whelan, Michael E. Glover, Mark L. Evans, Michael K. Kellogg, Mark D. Roellig, Dan Poole, Robert B. McKenna, William T. Lake, John H. Harwood, II, Jonathan J. Frankel, Robert Sutherland, William B. Barfield, Theodore A. Livingston and John E. Muench were on the brief for the Local Exchange Carrier intervenors.
Robert J. Aamoth, Ellen S. Levine, Charles D. Gray, James B. Ramsay, Jonathan J. Nadler, David A. Gross, Curtis T. White, Edward Hayes, Jr., and David M. Janas entered appearances for intervenors
Before: Williams, Sentelle and Randolph, Circuit Judges.
Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge Williams.
Williams, Circuit Judge:
The Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151-714, requires local exchange carriers ("LECs") to "establish reciprocal compensation arrangements for the transport and termination of telecommunications." Id. § 251(b)(5). When LECs collaborate to complete a call, this provision ensures compensation both for the originating LEC, which receives payment from the end-user, and for the recipient's LEC. By regulation the Commission has limited the scope of the reciprocal compensation requirement to "local telecommunications traffic." 47 CFR § 51.701(a). In the ruling under review, it considered whether calls to internet service providers ("ISPs") within the caller's local calling area are themselves "local." In doing so it applied its so-called "end-to-end" analysis, noting that the communication characteristically will ultimately (if indirectly) extend beyond the ISP to websites out-of-state and around the world. Accordingly it found the calls non-local. See In the Matter of Implementation of the Local Competition Provisions in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Intercarrier Compensation for ISP-Bound Traffic, 14 FCC Rcd 3689, 3690 (p 1) (1999) ("FCC Ruling").
Having thus taken the calls to ISPs out of § 251(b)(5)'s provision for "reciprocal compensation" (as it interpreted it), the
Commission could nonetheless itself have set rates for such calls, but it elected not to. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, CC Docket 99-68, the Commission tentatively concluded that "a negotiation process, driven by market forces, is more likely to lead to efficient outcomes than are rates set by regulation," FCC Ruling, 14 FCC Rcd at 3707 (p 29), but for the nonce it left open the matter of implementing a system of federal controls. It observed that in the meantime parties may voluntarily include reciprocal compensation provisions in their interconnection agreements, and that state commissions, which have authority to arbitrate disputes over such agreements, can construe the agreements as requiring such compensation; indeed, even when the agreements of interconnecting LECs include no linguistic hook for such a requirement, the commissions can find that reciprocal compensation is appropriate. FCC Ruling, 14 FCC Rcd at 3703-05 (p p 24-25); see § 251(b)(1) (establishing such authority). "[A]ny such arbitration," it added, "must be consistent with governing federal law." FCC Ruling, 14 FCC Rcd at 3705 (p 25).
This outcome left at least two unhappy groups. One, led by Bell Atlantic, consists of incumbent LECs (the "incumbents"). Quite content with the Commission's finding of § 251(b)(5)'s inapplicability, the incumbents objected to its conclusion that in the absence of federal regulation state commissions have the authority to impose reciprocal compensation. Although the Commission's new rulemaking on the subject may eventuate in a rule that preempts the states' authority, the incumbents object to being left at the mercy of state commissions until that (hypothetical) time, arguing that the commissions have mandated exorbitant compensation. In particular, the incumbents, who are paid a flat monthly fee, have generally been forced to provide compensation for internet calls on a per-minute basis. Given the average length of such calls the cost can be substantial, and since ISPs do not make outgoing calls, this compensation is hardly "reciprocal."
Another group, led by MCI WorldCom, consists of firms that are seeking to compete with the incumbent LECs and which provide local exchange telecommunications services to ISPs (the "competitors"). These firms, which stand to receive reciprocal compensation on ISP-bound calls, petitioned for review with the complaint that the Commission erred in finding that the calls weren't covered by § 251(b)(5).
The end-to-end analysis applied by the Commission here is one that it has traditionally used to determine whether a call is within its interstate jurisdiction. Here it used the analysis for quite a different purpose, without explaining why such an extension made sense in terms of the statute or the Commission's own regulations. Because of this gap, we vacate the ruling and remand the case for want of reasoned decision making.
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In February 1996 Congress passed the...
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