AT&T, Comcast: Special access market is already competitive

DALLAS -- AT&T (NYSE: T) and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) often don't agree on much, but the telco and cable MSO say that the FCC's proposals on special access could actually hinder a market where there's already plenty of service choices.

During a morning keynote session at the TIA 2016 trade show here, the two service providers sounded off on how the FCC's proposals could do more harm than good.

Being a relatively new entrant in business and wholesale services, Comcast is concerned that the FCC will impose rules that would make it more challenging for newer business service providers like Comcast to build out their network to expand their service presence.  

David Cohen, senior EVP of Comcast, said that the emergence of cable and other competitive providers in the business services, said that it is unfair for the FCC to enact rules on new entrants like cable.

"This is a market that's healthy and competitive and the entry of cable companies shows that competition is growing," Cohen said. "The government should step back and regulate less and yet the general approach that the FCC chairman has taken is that this is a market that needs more regulation."

Cohen added that the potential danger is that further regulation could hinder service providers from making new investments in their networks.

"Extending legacy regulatory approaches to the larger parts of the market will absolutely cause new as well as existing players in the market to reconsider their investment plans and investment decisions," Cohen said. 

Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president for AT&T, agreed but added that the FCC does not recognize that the market is competitive.

"If they do acknowledge there is competition, it's hard for them to impose their will on the industry," Cicconi said. "It is a license for the FCC to intervene in any market at any time to advance the interests of any company they want."

Cicconi added that the FCC "is picking winners and losers."

Special access, or what FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler now calls Business Data Services (BDS) has been one of the hottest issues he has dealt with during his tenure.

In April, the FCC voted 3-2 to approve the Tariff Investigation Order and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing a new regulatory framework for the provision of special access services.

Meanwhile, fellow telco Verizon worked to develop a joint proposal to regulate special access service based on common technology neutral principles, a number of which Wheeler's NPRM also called for.

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