In a move criticized by the NCTA (National Cable & Telecommunications Association) and at least one commissioner, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday officially launched a broad-reaching, mandatory data collection initiative that will inform future review of the controversial special access regulations.
The commission hopes to determine if and where competition exists for special access services across the United States.
Both the NCTA and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai called the data collection effort burdensome, according to a Broadcasting & Cable report. The initiative will collect data from every building, cell tower and other facility in the country. The industry, rather than the FCC, will need to code each street address. Pai argued the data collection should have started with sample markets.
Special access services are provided by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) under Title II regulation to competitors that need to install dedicated lines to businesses that can't be reached by other companies' networks. Special access lines are generally last-mile, legacy lines ranging from 56K to Ethernet speeds.
Because ILECs are required to provide these connections, major telcos including AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) lobbied the FCC successfully in 1999 to allow deregulation of prices on request in certain areas--meaning they are able to raise and lower special access prices at will. Competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) that have to pay those rates to run dedicated lines to customers are, understandably, not happy about that ability.
Re-regulating special access pricing has been a hot-button issue throughout 2012. In August, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to temporarily suspend rules that automatically grant price deregulation requests by ILECs. The data collection project is part of the information the FCC is gathering as it considers the issue.
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