Collections agents, skip-tracers and other personnel associated with repossessions and recovery will have to wait a while longer for a federally operated database of reassigned phone numbers to become available.
Despite objections from a private sector company, an order released by the Federal Communications Commission last week said the regulator’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) and the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) granted, in part, a request for an extension of time filed by the North American Numbering Council’s (NANC) Numbering Administration Oversight Working Group (NAOWG).
In December 2018, the FCC adopted rules that would establish a single, comprehensive database containing reassigned numbers information. The database will enable any caller to verify whether a number has been permanently disconnected before calling that number, “and it will help consumers avoid unwanted calls intended for others,” according to the FCC.
The FCC directed the NANC to present a technical requirements document (TRD) containing the NANC’s recommendations on certain technical aspects of database establishment, operation, and funding no later than June 13, Specifically, the FCC directed the NANC and its NAOWG to consider technical issues surrounding how the database administrator can collect fees from callers that use the database.
In a letter dated April 30, the NANC requested an extension of the deadline from June 14 of this year until April 13 of next year. On June 12, the bureaus granted the NANC an additional three months setting a new deadline of Sept. 13 to provide its reassigned numbers database recommendations to the FCC.
The FCC’s bureaus also required that the NANC provide a progress report by July 12 so that the commission could evaluate its progress toward the deadline.
Well, according to the latest FCC document, a letter dated July 11 said the NANC chair provided the FCC status report that indicated that the NAOWG was “making progress but that an additional extension would likely be needed to complete the NAOWG’s work.”
Then on Aug. 14, the NAOWG submitted a letter requesting an additional seven-month extension of the deadline to April 13, 2020 as mentioned in its earlier extension request.
“The NAOWG asserts that although it has continued to work diligently, additional time is necessary to complete its work on the database’s Technical Requirements Document and to make recommendations on the funding, pricing, and fee structure issues,” the latest FCC order said.
“In addition, the NAOWG claims that progress has been slow because of the complexity of the task, which has been made greater by a reluctance by vendors of similar databases to provide assistance out of fear of disqualification from bidding on the reassigned numbers database contract,” the document continued.
“In support of its request, the NAOWG argues that it has been diligently engaged in meeting the Commission’s deadline, conferencing for approximately four hours each week, and resolving details which, if left unresolved, would be deferred to another time,” the document also said.
The FCC explained what elements went into making its latest decision.
“In this instance, however, it is important that the commission receive a complete set of technical recommendations in order to establish an operational database efficiently,” officials said in the order. “At the same time, it is important that the Reassigned Numbers Database be launched as quickly as possible.
As a result, the FCC granted the NANC an additional four months, until Jan. 13, to complete its work on the Technical Requirements Document associated with the Reassigned Numbers Database and to present its recommendations to the commission.
“The additional time will ensure the development and consideration of a complete record on the complex technical aspects of the database’s establishment, operation and funding,” officials said. “The additional time is also necessary for the NAOWG’s, and in turn the NANC’s, development of fully informed recommendations and thus serves the public interest.
“To ensure that we can monitor the NANC’s progress and encourage timely completion, we condition the entirety of the extension on the NAOWG submitting an adequate work plan, including a detailed timeline by Sept. 30, showing how the NANC will complete its work by the specified dates,” they went on to say.
“We do not believe that a grant of the NAOWG’s requested seven months is warranted under the circumstances. In the NAOWG’s extension request, it notes that the NAOWG will likely complete the Technical Requirements Document by the end of year,” officials added. “We find, therefore, that the bureaus’ four-month extension allows sufficient time for the NAOWG to complete its work, seek agreement from the NANC, and present the Technical Requirements Document to the Commission by the Jan. 13 deadline we establish herein.
Meanwhile in the same order, the FCC also touched on a letter it received from Somos, Inc. that challenged the need for the NANC to receive any additional time to complete its work.
“Specifically, Somos argues, among other things, that the reassigned numbers database will not be difficult to set up, based on its experience with administration of toll-free numbers, and that the Commission could outsource the NAOWG’s remaining tasks to bidders,” FCC officials said. “We treat Somos’s filing as an opposition and note that it was untimely filed later than the 10-day deadline specified pursuant to … the commission’s rules.
“Even if we were to consider Somos’s opposition on the merits, however, we find it unpersuasive because we accept the NAOWG’s expert view that preparing the Technical Requirements Document poses significant complexities and that preparing a detailed TRD will benefit the procurement,” officials continued. “We believe that there are complexities to the Reassigned Numbers Database, as described in the NANC’s requests, that are different from a toll-free number database and that necessitate the NANC’s expertise and the additional time it seeks.
“Indeed, the NANC is the commission’s expert advisory body on these matters and we see nothing in Somos’ filing that would justify reversing the commission’s directive to consult the NANC on the relevant issues, or that persuades us that additional time is unnecessary,” officials went on to say. “Moreover, we are concerned that outsourcing the remaining tasks to bidders could negatively impact the procurement because doing so would require bidders to speculate on the matters the NANC has not addressed and make it extremely difficult for the commission to consistently compare bids.”