CenturyLink says FCC should deny Windstream's UNE loop request

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) is taking another shot in the special access war, saying that Windstream's request for the FCC to mandate that ILECs continue to unbundle next-gen DS1/DS3 loops should be denied.

CLECs leverage these facilities to deliver traditional voice and Ethernet over Copper-based data services in areas where they can't build a business case to roll out their own facilities.

Windstream has requested that the FCC require ILECs to make unbundled DS1- and DS3-capacity loops available even after they have migrated to IP or other post-TDM technologies.

CenturyLink maintains that these facilities will only serve a small part of the business marketplace and their vendor partners are phasing out support for related equipment.

"As CenturyLink has stated, by next year, DS1 and Dedicated Internet Access services combined will account for only three percent of the broadband marketplace for small and medium businesses, the market that is the focus of Windstream's concern," CenturyLink said in a FCC filing. "Moreover, DSn equipment manufacturers have begun to discontinue the facilities used to provide these archaic services. That is, the reason why ILECs are migrating away from legacy DSn-capacity loops is not simply that they have found next-generation means by which to satisfy legacy demand, but that demand itself is shifting."

Windstream has building out its on-net fiber network and using fixed wireless facilities and wholesale carrier partnerships in expanding its Ethernet growth outside its ILEC service territory.

In mid-February, Windstream announced plans to expand its fiber network in Charlotte, N.C., and is planning additional network builds in Tennessee and Virginia. In addition to building out fiber, the service provider is also extending Ethernet and other IP-based services to businesses via its fixed wireless assets that it gained when it purchased Business Only Broadband in 2014. Windstream uses the fixed wireless assets to deliver wireless-based Ethernet and MPLS-based services in various markets including Chicago, New York City, northern New Jersey and Milwaukee.

Given the investment Windstream and others are making in upgrading their networks from TDM networks to IP and fiber and other technologies, CenturyLink said that "a backward-looking requirement that ILECs retrofit next-generation loops to provide unbundled DSn capacity service would be senseless and contrary to public policy.

For their part, Windstream said in an earlier FCC filing that it leverages use an all-copper, end-to-end DS0 UNE loop to deliver EoC services ranging from 20-45 Mbps, for example.

However, Windstream and other carriers can't use these UNE loops to provide services above 50 Mbps.

"UNEs, which Windstream uses to provide both circuit-switched dedicated services and packet-switched dedicated services to the end user, are an important last-mile option at locations where a competitive provider does not own facilities," Windstream said. "But CLECs' use of UNEs faces significant limitations legally and practically, and UNEs cannot be used to provide service across the full range of bandwidth sought by dedicated services end users."

CenturyLink's filing comes on the heels of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlining a proposal to revamp special access regulation.

As Wheeler issued his plan, fellow ILEC Verizon and Incompas, an advocacy group for CLECs, developed a similar proposal..

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

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