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ACA: FCC’s Special Access Data Collection Violates Paperwork Reduction Act

Trade Group Asks OMB To Roll Back Requirements On Small Cable Operators

PITTSBURGH, January 9, 2014 - The American Cable Association called on the Office of Management and Budget to use its authority under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) to roll back onerous burdens imposed on small cable operators by the Federal Communications Commission's proposed mandatory "special access" data collection.

"The FCC is required by the PRA to balance the need for specific data with the burdens imposed.  Evidence gathered from our members demonstrates that the proposed data collection is not compliant with the PRA, especially the directive to minimize the paperwork burden for smaller entities.  It needs to be extensively revised before it is issued," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

ACA's views were set forth in comments filed January 8 with OMB.  ACA submitted evidence to OMB demonstrating that this data collection, which would cover the provision of dedicated lines and Internet access service to businesses, would require each of these operators to spend from $50,000 to more than $1.5 million and take many hundreds of hours of time to comply.

ACA stressed to OMB that it told the FCC that the data collection would be unduly burdensome for small cable operators because they do not collect much of the information in the normal course of business and would need to create it for the first time in response to the collection.  The FCC, however, made only minor changes to its proposal in response to ACA's evidence.

So that it could provide accurate information to OMB about the burdens imposed by the mandatory data collection, ACA reached out to many of its Members who provide dedicated services and best-efforts Internet service to business customers and thus need to comply with the data collection.

In separate declarations, four operators provided their estimates of the time and resources required to respond to the data collection and the reasons for these estimates.  These were prepared by MetroCast Communications, Sjoberg's Inc., Frankfort Plant Board, and ImOn Communications.

Among other things, these ACA Member declarations demonstrated that they will need to spend significant time and resources to create the data for the first time.  These new efforts lie principally in three areas:  fiber maps, location information, and billing and revenues information.

ACA also confirmed that these compliance burdens were not unique to the four ACA Members.  ACA canvassed other ACA Members on the issues raised by the four operators.  These other members confirmed that they too would generally suffer the same burdens as those identified by these four operators.  Based on the attributes of members sampled for purposes of these comments, it estimated that between 100 to 150 ACA Members will need to respond to the FCC's data collection.

Enacted in 1980, the PRA is a federal law designed to minimize the paperwork burden for individuals, small businesses, educational and nonprofit institutions, federal contractors, state, local and tribal governments, and other persons resulting from the collection of information by or for the federal government.

ACA urged OMB to alleviate the burdens on small cable operators, including by: 

  • Not requiring them to create a new Shapefile fiber maps;
  • Having them produce revenue data and purchaser data about bandwidth which they collect in the normal course of business.

Just taking the issue of fiber maps alone, ACA pointed out that the FCC's assumption that cable operators have the data in the specialized Shapefile format or know where their fiber traverses without conducting a site survey is not accurate.  In many instances, cable operators do not install fiber themselves but rely on third-party construction entities, and they largely leave the particular routes to the discretion of those entities so long as the proper points are connected and the proper authorizations are received.  In addition to not having maps, the field crews for these third parties often fail to keep accurate map routes.

"Although the FCC clarified the scale and format for reporting fiber routes, it did not address the basic, underlying fact that few cable operators have these maps in the requested format.  Thus, it would cost cable operators many millions of dollars to comply," Polka said.

About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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