On Saturday, September 6, the FCC released a decision granting forbearance from filing Automatic Reporting Management Information System (ARMIS) Report Nos. 43-05, 43-06, 43-07, and 43-08 to all carriers currently required to file those reports.  (Editorial note: Who knew the FCC ever did anything on Saturdays?)  These reports were originally designed to monitor what the FCC calls a “theoretical concern” that price-cap carriers might reduce service quality or network investment to increase short-term profits. The FCC has now concluded that the information is of only limited benefit to consumers, because the reports are filed by only some large wireline carriers and not by smaller wireline carriers or cable or wireless telephone service providers, so the reports paint an incomplete picture of the industry. It rejected complaints by states that they need the reports for state regulatory purposes, finding that it does not have the authority to maintain federal regulatory requirements solely to help state commissions undertake intrastate regulation.

To help consumers make “truly informed choices” about services available to them, the FCC believes that information should be obtained from all relevant service providers; so it has invited comment on whether it should initiate a new industry-wide data collection effort, with a short comment period of only 30 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. The FCC asks what kind of data it should collect, which carriers should be required to report, and what level of confidentiality should be afforded to information that is filed.

In the interim, the FCC will rely on the voluntary commitment of the large carriers to continue to make public filings with service quality and customer satisfaction data in ARMIS Report Nos. 43-05 and 43-06 for the next two years, along with continuation of the agency’s current collection of outage and broadband deployment information and consumer complaints.Finally, reasoning that the reasoning in its recent AT&T Cost Assignment Forbearance Order applies equally to Verizon and Qwest, the FCC has on its own motion extended the same conditional forbearance to Verizon and Question, conditioned on those carriers providing any accounting data the FCC may later request for regulatory purposes.