This is provided as general guidance and is not comprehensive. The full and specific requirements applicable to telephone utilities operating in New Hampshire are set forth in the relevant statutes and in the Puc 400 Rules for Telephone Utilities. In the event of any apparent conflicts, the statutes and rules prevail. (Ver 1.3, June 2016)
Under New Hampshire law, any company or other non-municipal entity that “owns, operates, or manages” equipment for the “conveyance of telephone messages… for the public” is a telephone utility, with three notable limitations:
- Offering cellular phone service does not make a company a public utility.
- Delivering telephone service to customers using Internet Protocol (VoIP or IP-enabled) transport does not make a company a public utility. (This means that cable television providers offering telephone service are not public utilities. See New Hampshire RSA 362:7 for the formal definition of VoIP and IP-enabled communications.)
- Providing wholesale telephone service to other companies, rather than directly “for the public,” does not make a company a public utility.
As of 2015, all New Hampshire telephone utilities are classified as Excepted Local Exchange Carriers (ELECs).
Any entity seeking to provide telephone service as a telephone utility must first obtain authorization from the Commission. The entity shall seek authorization by filing Form T-8 Application to Provide Voice Service. Unless the application is denied pursuant to Puc 404.03, the applicant will be provided with a Telephone Utility Identification Number.
When a company stops offering telephone service in New Hampshire, how does it drop its ELEC authorization?
For companies that are not ILECs:
The company must first cease operating as a telephone utility in the state: that is, it must stop providing service to New Hampshire customers. Depending on contractual obligations, this may mean waiting for service agreements to expire or reaching other service termination agreements. Once the company has no current customers, it can file a Form T-9: Withdrawal of Authorization to Operate as a Telephone Utility in New Hampshire. This form is provided as a convenience; the utility could instead withdraw its authorization by sending a letter to the Commission containing the information and attestations in that form.
If a company sells its telephone business to another entity, different rules apply. See Transfer of Customer Base below.
For companies that are ILECs:
Each of the eleven Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers would need approval by the Commission and by the Federal Communications Commission to cease offering telephone service. See New Hampshire RSA 374:30, II.
Each ELEC must file two forms no later than March 31 of each year: a T-1 Contact and Trade Name Information form, and a T-2 Assessment Report. In addition, each ELEC that operated any payphones in New Hampshire at any time during the previous year must file a T-6 Payphone Location Report by March 31.
Telephone utilities are also required to file reports with the Commission when any of the following events occurs:
Change in contact information: Whenever a change occurs in the information an ELEC has previously reported on a T1 form, for example a change in mailing address, telephone number, person listed as a contact for particular functions, or trade name used in New Hampshire, the ELEC shall file a new T1 Contact and Trade Name Information form.
Reportable accident: Whenever a reportable accident, as defined in Puc 402.15, has occurred in connection with the utility’s property or facilities, the utility shall notify the Commission immediately by telephone as described in Puc 404.07, and within ten days shall file a T-3 Utility Accident Report. Fatalities, property damage over $100,000, and closure of a state highway are examples of factors that make an accident reportable under Puc 402.15.
Transfer of customer base: When all or part of a customer base is acquired by sale or transfer to a telephone utility, the acquiring utility shall file a T-4 Transfer of Customer Base Report at least 30 days prior to the transfer. When a telephone utility sells or transfers all or part of its customer base to an entity that is not a telephone utility, the telephone utility shall file a T-4 Transfer of Customer Base Report at least 30 days prior to the transfer. In both cases, the telephone utility shall also file a copy of information submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, as described in Puc 405.03.
Significant facilities disruption: When a telephone utility experiences a significant outage of its facilities as described in Puc 402.18 (generally, an outage that is so significant that it must also be reported to the Federal Communications Commission), the telephone utility shall notify the Commission by e-mail within 120 minutes. The e-mail shall be sent to the address TelOutages@puc.nh.gov from an address which accepts replies from the Commission. The telephone utility shall also file a Form T-5 Facility Disruption Report within ten days.
Entering an exchange: When a telephone utility first becomes eligible to provide service in an exchange, for example because it has constructed or leased lines in the exchange, and it requests telephone numbers to serve the exchange, it shall file a Form T-7 Exchange Eligibility Report.
Offering voice service in a new area: When an entity plans to offer voice service as a telephone utility where it is not authorized to provide such service, it shall file a Form T-8 Application for Registration to Provide Voice Service. Note that this requirement is triggered when an entity first starts operating as a telephone utility in New Hampshire, or when a telephone utility seeks to expand into areas where it is not yet authorized. Also note that no filing is required for telephone service delivered using IP, since that is not considered a telephone utility service.
No ELEC is required to file a rate schedule or tariff with the Commission for retail services that it offers. However, each ELEC must maintain a publicly-accessible web site and keep it current with the rates, terms, and conditions of the services it offers.
Each ILEC, whether it is also an ELEC or not, must offer basic service as defined in RSA 374:22-p throughout its service area. Rates for basic service can be increased within limits each year. Each ILEC must notify the Commission whenever it changes the rates for basic service.
Telephone utilities that offer wholesale telephone services to other carriers must maintain a tariff with the Commission pursuant to the Puc 1600 rules for three types of service: those required of the utility by 47 U.S.C. § 251(c), such as access to unbundled network elements or resale; those referred to as “tariffed” in interconnection agreements; and intrastate access service. See Puc 404.05 for the precise requirements.
Puc 410 rules describe additional obligations of ILECs, including filing obligations.
Entities that are not operating as telephone utilities in New Hampshire, but are offering telecommunications services, are not required to register with the Commission. However, they may choose to register and thereby obtain an acknowledgement from the Commission of their status, which may be useful in asserting rights with third parties. Pursuant to Puc 413, telecommunications carriers choosing to register shall file Form TC-1 Telecommunications Carrier Registration. Pursuant to New Hampshire RSA 363-A:2, III, each entity that is registered as a telecommunications carrier shall be subject to a $1000 annual assessment.
A Registered Telecommunications Carrier can withdraw its registration by filing Form TC-2: Withdrawal of Registration as a Telecommunications Carrier in New Hampshire.
For the most part, the companies that our rules previously called CLECs, CTPs, or PSPs are now called “ELECs” in the rules. A company that operates in more than one of these categories will now file as a single ELEC entity, rather than filing (for example) both CLEC and CTP forms. Some regulations are still based on the types of services an ELEC provides, for example an ELEC must be operating as a Local Exchange Carrier to assess intrastate access charges. A company that operates payphones, whether or not it also offers other telephone services, will file as an ELEC (including the T-6 Payphone Location Report.)
Three exceptions are worth noting.
- A company that provides telephone service over VoIP or IP-enabled transport (as defined in New Hampshire RSA 362:7) is not a telephone utility and is not an ELEC.
- A company that operates as a “data CLEC” providing data communications service but not voice services, whether or not it was previously registered as a CLEC in New Hampshire, is not a telephone utility and is not an ELEC.
- A company that only provides telephone services at wholesale to other telephone companies and not to retail customers, whether or not it was previously registered as a CLEC or CTP in New Hampshire, is not a telephone utility and is not an ELEC.
The Puc 400 rules and forms do not apply in these three cases, although the company may choose to file an application for registration as a telecommunications carrier.
Companies that offer telephone service to the public using only Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are not classified as “telephone utilities.” Do they have any obligations as telephone providers under state law?
Yes. New Hampshire RSA 362:7, which excludes VoIP providers from the definition of “telephone utility,” also specifies that this classification shall not “affect, mandate, or prohibit the assessment of taxes or nondiscriminatory 911 fees, telecommunications relay service fees, or other fees of general applicability.” The obligation of these companies to pay into the New Hampshire Telecommunications Relay Service, and the New Hampshire E911 fund, remains in place. Companies with revenue from VoIP services may also be subject to an assessment under New Hampshire RSA 363-A:2, I(d). The VoIP Provider Assessment Report form is available as a convenience in complying with this law.