AT&T reiterates stance for FCC to eliminate non-discrimination requirements on the U.S.-Cuba route

AT&T (NYSE: T) has reiterated its argument that the FCC should remove the existing nondiscrimination requirements that apply to facilities-based IMTS traffic arrangements on the U.S.-Cuba route.

By removing the nondiscrimination rules, AT&T said consumers would benefit by gaining more economical methods to communicate with relatives and friends who live in Cuba.

In particular, AT&T says that removing this rule would enable consumers to get lower calling rates.

"This proposed new policy approach will provide optimal benefits to consumers," AT&T said in an FCC filing. "As AT&T has described, consistent with the framework that the FCC applies to all other routes, removing the last vestige of traditional regulation to allow development of market-based arrangements would best encourage lower rates that would benefit users in both the United States and Cuba."

Since the agreements U.S.-based telcos and wireless operators are establishing with Cuba's incumbent provider Etecsa are still relatively new, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) said the FCC "should therefore wait for these commercial relations to become more firmly established before it removes all nondiscrimination requirements on this route."

In March, Verizon established a direct connection agreement with Cuba's government-run telecommunications carrier Etecsa, illustrating the U.S. service provider's desire to expand to a market that was off limits until recently.

AT&T reemphasized that it disagreed with fellow telco Verizon's request to maintain parts of the nondiscrimination agreements.

For its part, Verizon said that U.S. service providers currently pay 60 cents a minute to terminate calls in Cuba, adding that removing the International Settlements Policy (ISP) regulation "is more likely to result in lower rates than maintaining this antiquated regime."

"Verizon acknowledged in 2011 that the public filing of agreements – which Verizon now seeks to require to be kept in place on the U.S.-Cuba route even if all nondiscrimination requirements are now removed – 'can harm the competitive process by creating disincentives for foreign carriers to agree to reduced rates,'" AT&T said. "Moreover, there is certainly no basis to maintain the nondiscrimination condition in the TeleCuba Waiver Order after removal of the ISP on the U.S.-Cuba route."

AT&T said that the FCC should adopt a policy that it finds will "stimulate the increased communication benefiting consumers at both ends of international routes that is the goal of U.S. policy toward Cuba."

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

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