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By Brandon Ross
Aug. 26 — Time Warner Cable Inc. will pay $1.1 million to settle an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission into the company's failure to report a “substantial number” of network outages with the proper documentation.
Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), in agreeing to a consent decree with the FCC Enforcement Bureau (EB)—which conducted the investigation—admitted its failure to file the proper documentation after submitting a number of notifications of network outages to the FCC, an Aug. 25 FCC order announcing the settlement and now-ceased investigation said.
“In response to an inquiry from the [Enforcement] Bureau's Spectrum Enforcement Division, TWC admitted that it failed to timely file with the Commission a substantial number of required Initial Reports and/or Final Reports,” the consent decree, released alongside the order, said.
“We look forward to working with the FCC to ensure that its reporting rules are properly implemented and followed,” Bobby Amirshahi, vice president of public relations at Time Warner Cable, said in an e-mailed statement Aug. 26.
“Prompt access to accurate information regarding the operation and security of crucial segments of the national telecommunications infrastructure would enable it [the FCC] to prevent disruptions in service that could threaten homeland security, public health and safety, as well as our nation's economic well-being,” the Aug. 25 order said.
While the Enforcement Bureau will begin to look, where appropriate, to implement a wider range of tools—less resource-intensive and less harsh than a full-blown investigation—it will substantially focus its limited resources on violators that pose the greatest harm to consumers, EB Acting Chief Travis LeBlanc said at a Federal Communications Bar Association luncheon in D.C. July 18.
Lawyers at the July luncheon voiced concern over consent decrees—deals that can be struck avoiding a formal lawsuit from the FCC—not being as desirable for companies as they once were.
“I still think that consent decrees are a good deal for the industry,” LeBlanc said in July, pointing out that they save everyone involved money in legal fees and time, in most cases.
“In express reliance on the covenants and representations in this Consent Decree and to avoid further expenditure of public resources, the Bureau agrees to terminate the Investigation,” the Aug. 25 consent decree said.
At the luncheon, LeBlanc said consent decrees used to be a “boondoggle” for the industry and that he did not approve of the practice that companies were free from having to admit any wrongdoing if settling with the commission.
While very rare exceptions may be made, LeBlanc made it clear at the July luncheon that he thinks the admission of liability is an important part of ensuring future industry-wide compliance with rules.
“Wireline communications providers must file with the Commission an electronic Notification within 120 minutes of discovering a reportable outage, an Initial Communications Outage Report (Initial Report) within 72 hours of discovery, and a Final Communications Outage Report (Final Report) within 30 days of discovery,” the Aug. 25 consent decree said.
Each report gets progressively more detailed than the previous one.
In September 2013, the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau notified TWC that it had failed to submit a final report for an outage for which it had earlier submitted a notification on time, the consent decree said.
Further investigation revealed that TWC filed notifications but failed to file the initial and final reports in many cases, the decree said.
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The FCC order and consent decree are available at: http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=tbay-9ncncf.
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