Common carriers are required to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tariff schedules containing “charges, classifications, regulations, or practices” for interstate telecommunications services subject to Section 203 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act). Tariffs, including tariffed terms and conditions and rates, must be “just and reasonable and may not be unreasonably discriminatory” under Section 201(b) and 202(a) of the Act. Tariffs are administered by the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, Pricing Policy Division. The FCC’s rules pertaining to tariffs are found in 47 CFR Part 61.
Tariffs are filed at the FCC by incumbent local exchange carriers (LECs or carriers), including price cap and rate-of-return carriers. Rate-of-return carriers that do not separately file access charge tariffs may elect to file access charges pursuant to tariffs administered by the National Exchange Carrier Association, Inc. (NECA). Competitive LECs (CLECs) may also file tariffs with the FCC, though they are not required to do so.
Carriers typically file tariffs at the FCC which include charges for:
- End User access, the connection between the end user and the LEC, the interstate portion of which is mainly recovered through the Subscriber Line Charge (SLC); the Access Recovery Charge (ARC); and the Federal Universal Service Fund Charge.
- Switched access, used primarily for long-distance calls originating and/or terminating over a local exchange connection.
- Business data services (special access), a dedicated line provided by a LEC to a customer, which could be a long-distance company, for the customer's exclusive use.
- Rates, terms and conditions for services that include Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) from certain carriers, packet-switched services, long-distance directory assistance access, and other services.
While the Commission comprehensively reformed all charges between carriers, carriers do not file tariffs for local and intrastate services with the FCC. Tariffs for those services are filed with the individual states.
In 2011, the FCC comprehensively reformed intercarrier compensation—the payments carriers make to each other for the use of each other’s networks. Among other things, the FCC required carriers to bring tariffed intrastate and interstate terminating end office rates to parity by July 2013 to reduce, over a period of years, their tariffed termination and certain transport rates to bill-and-keep (zero). This transition concluded in 2020. As part of this transition, the FCC required incumbent LECs and permitted competitive LECs, to file tariffs with state commissions and the FCC implementing these reforms.
Electronic Tariff Filing System
The Electronic Tariff Filing System (ETFS) is the FCC’s online portal through which all carriers with interstate tariffs must submit their tariffs, tariff revisions, transmittal letters, tariff review plans (TRPs), and any required associated supporting materials to the FCC. Certain tariff filings require an application fee. More information about FCC application fees including tariff filing fees can be found here The public may also use ETFS to view these tariffs and documents by searching for tariffs using the “Public Access” link on the ETFS landing page.
The ETFS landing webpage is available here
Tariffs are typically filed on a streamlined basis pursuant to Section 204(a)(3) of the Act. Streamlined tariffs become “deemed lawful” and effective 7 days (for rate reductions) and 15 days (for rate increases and changes in terms and conditions) after the date the tariff was filed, unless the FCC either rejects the tariff, or suspends and investigates the tariff, before the relevant time period has elapsed. That gives the public 15 or 7 days' notice before the tariff becomes effective to file comments addressing or challenging a tariff. Once a tariff has been "deemed lawful," it is subject only to prospective liability, but the carrier cannot be required to provide refunds for rates paid pursuant to the deemed-lawful tariff. Tariffed rates that are suspended and investigated before the effective date and that are found by the FCC to be unlawful, may be subject to refund liability. Tariffs and tariff revisions may also be rejected by the FCC.
Applications for Special Permission
Carriers may file for waiver of the tariff filing rules via an Application for Special Permission. Special permission applications must include the information specified in 47 CFR § 61.17. Applications must be granted prior to a tariff being filed. A fee is required to file an Application for Special Permission.
Base Tariff Documents
Pursuant to 47 CFR § 61.16, carriers are required to keep on file with the FCC a complete tariff which incorporates all effective revisions, as of the last day of the preceding month. If tariff revisions were filed that became effective up to and including the last day of the month, a new Base Document incorporating those revisions must be submitted via ETFS within the first five business days of the month following. There is no fee to file a Base Document.
Annual Access Tariff Filings Effective July 1
Pursuant to section 203 of the Act and the FCC’s rules, price cap carriers are required to file annual access charge tariffs every year effective July 1 and rate-of-return carriers are required to file annual access charge tariffs every other year effective July 1. Rate-of-return carriers subject to section 61.38 of the FCC’s rules file in even-numbered years and rate-of-return carriers subject to section 61.39 of the FCC’s rules file in odd-numbered years. Carriers are permitted to file their annual access charge tariffs on a streamlined basis either 15 or 7 days prior to the scheduled effective date of their tariff revisions, depending on the type of changes they propose to make.
As part of the annual access tariff filings for those services still requiring cost support, every year the FCC develops and releases standardized Tariff Review Plans (TRPs) that set forth the summary material carriers file to support revisions to the rates in their interstate access service tariffs. The TRP worksheets display data on rate development for review by the FCC and interested parties. Carriers submit completed TRP worksheets to the FCC with their annual access tariff filings. The most recent TRPs for 2021 are available on the 2021 Tariff Review Plans webpage, https://www.fcc.gov/2021-tariff-review-plans:
Domestic Interexchange Service Detariffing
Effective May 1, 2000, all non-dominant carriers were required to cancel (detariff) their interexchange service tariffs and thereafter provide their domestic interstate interexchange services on a non-tariffed basis. For more information, please see 47 CFR § 61.19 and the FCC’s order adopting May 1, 2000 as the effective date for these reforms: https://www.fcc.gov/document/matter-policy-and-rules-concerning-intersta....
International Service Detariffing
Effective January 28, 2002, all non-dominant carriers were required to cancel (detariff) their international interexchange tariffs and thereafter provide their international interexchange services on a non-tariffed basis. Non-dominant carriers may not file new or revised contract tariffs or tariffs for other long term international service arrangements. For more information, please see 47 CFR § 61.19 and the FCC’s order adopting these reforms: https://www.fcc.gov/document/matter-2000-biennial-regulatory-review-poli....
Business Data Services (Special Access) Detariffing
Price Cap Carriers – Effective August 1, 2020, price cap carriers were required to detariff certain business data services (special access) offerings including:
- Packet-based business data service;
- Circuit-based business data services above the DS3 bandwidth level;
- Transport services;
- DS1 and DS3 end user channel terminations, and all other tariffed special access services, in any market deemed competitive; and
- DS1 and DS3 end user channel terminations, and all other tariffed special access services, in any grandfathered market for which the price cap local exchange carrier was granted Phase II pricing flexibility prior to June 2017.
The FCC also adopted an incentive regulation framework incorporating certain FCC rules applicable to price cap carriers. In particular, the FCC adopted a productivity factor (X-factor) of 2.0% and a measure of inflation, which price cap carriers use to adjust their business data services rates. The FCC required price cap carriers to make a one-time filing to revise their TRPs to implement the new X-factor effective December 1, 2017
Rate-of-Return Carriers – In 2018, the FCC allowed rate-of-return carriers receiving fixed universal service support through the Alternative Connect America Model (ACAM) or Alaska Plan to voluntarily elect to detariff certain business data service offerings effective July 1, 2019 or July 1, 2020.
Competitive LECs - Effective August 1, 2020, competitive LECs were required to detariff all business data services.
More information about detariffing business data services is available on the Business Data Services (formerly Special Access) webpage: https://www.fcc.gov/general/special-access-data-collection-overview-0
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) Detariffing
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) are permitted, but not required, to file tariffs for certain interstate services. The rates and regulations for these services are subject to 201(b) and 202(a) of the Act, regardless of whether the competitive LEC offers them pursuant to tariff. Competitive LECs’ switched access rates are subject to a benchmark rate requirement, the intercarrier compensation rules, and, in some cases, the FCC’s Truth-in-Billing rules.
Additional Information can be found below:
Section 204 of the Act provides that the FCC may institute an investigation into the lawfulness of any tariff before or after it becomes effective. Investigations can be instituted on the FCC's own initiative or in response to a complaint filed by a carrier or consumer. The process typically begins when, prior to the tariff’s effective date, the FCC suspends the tariff for a day and initiates an investigation into the lawfulness of the tariff. During the period of suspension and investigation, the carrier will typically be required to maintain accurate books of account for potential refunds. The FCC will designate issues for investigation and seek comment on those issues. At the end of the investigation, the FCC may release an order addressing issues raised in the record and terminating the investigation. The FCC may also direct the carrier to file a refund plan, if applicable. The tariff may not be suspended for more than 5 months from when it would otherwise go into effect.
A list of recent releases related to the FCC tariff investigations are available here: https://www.fcc.gov/wireline-competition/pricing-policy-division/tariffs...