AT&T asks FCC for permission to retire busy line verification/interrupt voice services

AT&T (NYSE: T) is seeking permission from the FCC to stop offering a number of legacy operator services due to low usage.

Specifically, the service provider asked the FCC in a filing for approval to discontinue six operator services: collect calling, person-to-person calling, billed to third party, busy line verification (BLV), busy line interrupt (BLI) and international directory assistance.

The service provider cited how businesses and consumers have replaced BLV/I services with alternative services such as VoIP or mobile voice services -- neither of which offer BLV/I.

One of AT&T's affiliates that provides BLV/I service reported that in 2013 that it received less than 10 requests per month for the service.

"To be clear, this number reflects the total number of BLV/I requests that AT&T Corp. received from the general public as well as requests from public safety officials," AT&T said in a FCC filing. "It is clear from the extremely small demand that AT&T's customers including public safety officials use other options to determine whether a telephone line is in use."

Other ILECs have also continued to see sharp declines in BLV/I services.

Waldron Telephone Company discontinued its operator services including BLV/I throughout its service territory in Michigan due what it said was a lack of customer demand, and stated that its "operator services time for the preceding 12 months total[ed] only 13.8 minutes."

That's not to say that AT&T's proposal was initially welcomed by users of these services. The telco did receive 13 comments, which cited their concern about the continued availability of BLV/I, collect calling and international directory assistance.

AT&T said it sent a letter to each commenter to respond to their specific concerns, explained its reasons for discontinuing these services, and provided information on alternative services, resources or applications that are available to replace these services.

"Although AT&T is not aware of a replacement service for BLV/I functionality that is provided on legacy TDM voice services, the market indicates that there is no need for a replacement service," AT&T said. "As AT&T indicated in its Application, new technologies as well as new products and services have rendered BLV/I services unnecessary and obsolete. Customers use more modern (and often more economical) technologies to inform them when someone is trying to call them."

Citing an industry-wide trend in traditional POTS voice usage, AT&T said that it continues to see less of its wireline customer base buying traditional voice services.

"By the end of this year only 14% of the housing units in the states in which AT&T is deemed the incumbent telephone company (ILEC) will purchase residential basic local phone service from an incumbent telephone company," AT&T said.

BLV/I is just one of several services that AT&T has asked the FCC for permission to retire over the past year.

In November 2015, AT&T sought permission to shut down its BellSouth analog video service in Carbon Hill, Ala., and Kings Point, Fla., two markets where it is conducting TDM-to-IP service trials.

AT&T is not the only provider looking to shed its legacy voice regime.

Fellow ILEC Verizon (NYSE: VZ) petitioned the FCC for permission to stop offering postpaid calling card and personal 800 services via its MCI subsidiary. Similar to AT&T's request, Verizon's request also illustrates the ongoing decline of legacy services as customers turn to alternative wireline and wireless options.

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

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