FCC takes next step with special access reform

The Federal Communications Commission released its revised data request on the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking providing instructions covering special access. It will use it to see if it has to make any changes to its pricing flexibility rules.

The regulator said that it clarifies "the scope of the collection to reduce burden where doing so is consistent with our delegated authority and will not impact the Commission's ability to analyze the data; (2) provide instructions and record format specifications for submitting information; and (3) modify and amend questions and definitions contained in the collection."

This new order drew dissenting reactions from acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

Clyburn said in statement that the order will give them a clear picture of how the special access market operates.

"Because these services are such a critical input in our economy, I am pleased that the Wireline Competition Bureau's data collection clarification order and instructions mark an important step forward in our data-driven examination of the marketplace for these services," she said. "This Order will give the Commission the detailed and comprehensive data we need to conduct a robust analysis of the entire special access market."

Pai expressed concern over the fact that the order exempts cable operators but not CLECs from reporting existing but not operational facilities that could be providing dedicated service.

"Exemption is not 'consistent with the terms of' the Data Collection Order, which made clear that the Bureau should collect data about all communications pathways with the 'capability to provide a dedicated service'--no matter 'the medium used (e.g., whether it is fiber, copper, or coaxial cable),'" he said.

Reforming special access pricing has been a key issue at the FCC and the CLECs and IXCs that that purchase last mile access and PSTN access to serve their customers.

Today, the special access market is mainly controlled by the ILECs, with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) holding nearly a combined market share of 80 percent. In 1999, the major telcos lobbied the FCC for deregulation of prices on request in certain areas--meaning they can raise and lower special access prices whenever they want. 

The FCC voted last August 3 to 2 to temporarily suspend rules that automatically grant price deregulation requests by ILECs. Later in December 2012, the regulator launched mandatory data collection initiative.

For more:
- see the Report and Order (.pdf)

Related articles:
FCC launches special access data collection initiative
FCC temporarily suspends effort to deregulate special access
Special access regulation only a first step, says NoChokePoints coalition
Reforming universal service and intercarrier compensation

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