No Choke Points coalition turns up the heat in 'special access' fee battle

The rhetoric is flying hot and heavy as a new coalition spearheaded by Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile looks to put a cap on the wholesale access fees they pay companies like AT&T and Verizon for access to broadband lines.

The No Choke Points coalition says the fees—which have been a contentious point between the haves and have-nots for years--are stifling capex outlays and sidetracking the Obama administration’s goal of expanding broadband across the United States. It also claims the access fees cost businesses and consumers some $10 billion a year and reap the telcos profit margins that exceed 100 percent.

Not so, says AT&T, which responded to the coalition’s statements with a broadside aimed squarely at Sprint and its continuing struggle to make sense of its merger with Nextel. AT&T said the company’s appeal to cap the special access fees was a “cynical attempt to obtain government-mandated reductions ... in order to alleviate some of the short-term financial and business pressures."

AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Embarq and Windstream contend that a cap on access fees would deter other companies from building out their own Internet connections, thus hamstringing deployment further. A USTelecom statement says the coalition is looking to “minimize their own investment in U.S. broadband.”

The "No Choke Points" coalition's members also include Clearwire, tw telecom, Cbeyond, Covad Communications, Group One Communications and XO Communications.

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal article

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