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Effort reduces data reporting burden on members

By Tanja Curovic, senior director – Rates, Average Schedules and Advanced Analytics, and PJ Louis, director – Technology Planning & Implementation

Working with our members to provide effective tariff services and remain compliant with FCC regulations requires a great deal of current information. Among the key functions this data supports are: setting rates for the annual tariff filing, including determining Access Recovery Charges and CAF ICC Support; calculating demand for other NECA tariff services; and understanding the access services and technologies member companies are deploying to meet customer needs. We recognized we needed to do our part to reduce members' workload and the challenges associated with reporting this data. We formed a work group to identify areas where we could either eliminate or reduce the amount of data requested. 

Cuts reduce requested data

One of the first steps we took was to reduce the data requested in the Company Services Questionnaire. Rather than complete nine sections, members were asked to complete only four. The second step was to trim the number of CSQ data requested in those four sections. We eliminated over 50 data points from these four sections. The modified CSQ meant members were requested to respond to less than half of the original CSQ issued in previous years.

We are grateful for the time and effort members put into filling out our CSQ each year. The data members provide is excellent and necessary. We use it in our analysis of new access services and changes to existing access services. CSQ data is also used to support cost studies, provide documentation for NECA's data validation reviews and allows us to provide regulators and lawmakers with aggregate information they need to make decisions in the best interests of our members and their customers.

Sampling saves time and effort

Another significant reduction of reporting burden was accomplished this year with the Advanced Services Data Request. In the past, all study areas were asked to respond to this data survey annually to support accurate tariff rates by service type. Because the data collected is used in the aggregate, this year we started a practice of collecting the data from a sample of companies. 

A well-designed sample provides a desired level of precision and reliability and eliminates the need to collect data from the entire population of cost and average schedule companies. By employing statistical sampling methods, NECA and pool members save time, labor and money without sacrificing accuracy.

To accomplish this, we developed a five-year sampling design in which about 200 study areas are sampled every year, with most companies being sampled once or twice in the five-year period. The sampling design is similar to the one used for average schedule studies, in which a stratified random method is used to achieve the best possible representation of NECA’s diverse pool. This stratified sample helps produce statistical results with a desired level of precision at a fraction of the resource cost of examining the entire population.

In addition to asking fewer companies to answer the ASDR, we are also asking fewer questions than in the past, with two out of ten sections dropped from the survey. 

Thanks to the great cooperation from the sampled companies, this year’s response rate was 80 percent, more than twice the response level from past years. A high response rate, as close to 100 percent as possible, is crucial for this new method to work. We are grateful to those members who took time out of their busy schedules to complete the ASDR for making this first year of our five-year sampling design a success.

We aren’t done

In 2017 we will take additional steps to ensure the CSQ is as streamlined as possible by once again reviewing and removing data points and asking members to review only a handful of sections. The assumption we are making is some sections reflect network data that has not changed from our last request. The sections we will ask members to review will focus on areas of the network we believe may affect the planning of new tariff offerings. Our search also continues for ways to streamline the remaining sections of future ASDRs.  

We know how valuable your time is and appreciate your willingness to provide key input to data collections such as the CSQ and ASDR. Only with your participation can we help your company adapt to the new regulatory landscape and continue delivering vital communications services to your customers.

 

Filed under July 2017, Tagged with Data collections, Tariffs


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