AT&T joins ILEC chorus on copper retirement, says competitors have enough notice

AT&T (NYSE: T) has sided with fellow ILEC Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and vendor Adtran on the copper retirement issue, asking that competitive service provider TelePacific's request of the FCC to modify its recently enacted copper retirement rules be denied.

For its part, the FCC expanded the timeframe for copper retirement to six months, doubling the notice service providers have to provide to wholesale customers that rent facilities to deliver services like Ethernet to their business customers.  

In August 2015, the FCC voted to approve a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will ensure consumers and businesses are not harmed as ILECs transition from legacy copper and TDM-based networks to IP-based networks. Through their report and Order, the FCC said it is adopting rules protect consumers through the transitions from legacy copper  networks to modern networks by adopting rules to  ensure that consumers have options, and sufficient options as telcos shut down these facilities.

In a FCC filing, AT&T said that competitive providers like TelePacific have plenty of time to determine if a service they provide to their business customers would be affected by an ILEC retiring copper in a specific market.

"AT&T agrees with ADTRAN that this newly established 180-day time period should be more than sufficient for an affected carrier to determine whether any service that it is currently providing will be affected by the copper retirement to the degree that it would need to file a Section 214 discontinuance application," said AT&T in a FCC filing.  "Moreover, as other commenters have noted, adopting TelePacific's suggestion that a provider's copper retirement notice be held up until a Section 214 application -- submitted by another carrier and over which the provider has no control -- is approved would create inappropriate opportunities for other parties to inject delay and uncertainty."

AT&T added that "TelePacific's Petition fails to justify the additional delay in retiring copper facilities that would result from its proposal" and there "is no basis for the Commission to modify its newly-established copper retirement notice requirements.

At issue for TelePacific is the relationship between the FCC's Section 251(b) retirement process and the Section 214(a) service discontinuance process. The CLEC is concerned that an ILEC's copper loop retirement could potentially cause it from having to discontinue provisioning service to a community or part of a community.

TelePacific said in its filing that if Verizon or another telco were to retire copper in part of its serving area it would not be able to provide Ethernet over Copper (EoC) services to a number of the schools, libraries and rural healthcare clinics (RHC) it serves. Out of the 96 customers it has under the e-Rate and RHC programs, the CLEC said that "63 have no fiber-based broadband alternative."

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

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