COMPTEL, industry orgs ask FCC to protect competition in ILEC IP transition

COMPTEL and a group of organizations that represent businesses and competitive ISPs have sent a letter to the FCC asking the regulator to include in their technology transitions an order that will protect and promote competition, universal service and public safety while ensuring business and residential customers can get services as telcos migrate their networks to all-IP.

While COMPTEL and their constituents are not opposed to the IP transition, a chief concern is that businesses and consumers need to be able to get equivalent services at similar prices from a number of providers.

Similar to the telecom industry's migration of the voice network from analog to digital switching in the 1970s and 1980s, the group says that the transition to IP should provide similar benefits in terms of services and competitive choice for users.

"Prior transitions, such as analog to digital, yielded substantial benefits for residential and business users alike--from a technical standpoint the IP transition should likewise yield substantial benefits," the group wrote in its letter. "But the Commission must take action to ensure that network users are better off as a result of technological advances."

One of the key elements that COMPTEL and its CLEC member companies such as Windstream and Granite Telecommunications have continued to fight for in the IP transition has been access to wholesale special access services.

"As technology transitions and more services move to IP based solutions, we encourage you to protect the wholesale access market so that competitive telecommunications companies can continue to maintain access to reach their end users," wrote the group. "By keeping the marketplace open for more competition, the FCC will help ensure that competition will flourish, promoting the availability of competitive choice so that our members will have multiple paths to conduct their businesses and serve their customers."

Competitive local exchange carriers and incumbent LECs continue to lock horns over the IP transition. CLECs have long argued that ILECs like AT&T (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), which are dominant carriers in their regions, should be required to provide IP services at equivalent rates they charge today for TDM-based special access services. Service providers like Windstream and Granite Telecommunications say if AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) discontinue these services and don't provide similar service at equivalent rates it could potentially harm both the CLECs and their customers, who right now can choose from a number of lower priced service options besides the ILEC.

Granite, which has built a business selling low-cost voice services to multi-site businesses, wrote in a separate filing that it would like the FCC to adopt a provision so ILECs like AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon provide an equivalent TDM-based service post-IP transition.

Despite the CLECs' proposals, AT&T and CenturyLink wrote in their own filings that Granite's requests to combine or "comingle" elements of unbundled local circuit switching and shared transport services could hold up the ILEC industry's ongoing movement to IP. Granite signed a wholesale agreement with AT&T that lasts through 2017.

For more:
- see this FCC letter (PDF)

Related articles:
Granite, MetTel argue for wholesale ILEC voice access, say it ensures business service choice
CenturyLink asks FCC to allow TDM voice shutdown if alternatives are available
AT&T, CenturyLink claim Granite's request to combine Section 271, wholesale services will delay IP transition

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