Special access revamp needs technology-neutral approach, interest group says

Public Knowledge, a nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based public interest group, says that if the FCC wants to successfully regulate the broadband data services (BDS) market it needs to have a technology neutral policy regime.

In a letter to the FCC, the group said that by having a technology neutral policy structure the commission can look at how competitive a special access market is in existing TDM and future all-IP network areas.

"As the BDS FNPRM explains, in the future there may be non-competitive BDS markets where time division multiplexing-based services are no longer available," Public Knowledge said in a letter to the FCC. "A technology neutral framework is essential to ensure that the Commission can address the lack of BDS competition during and after the ongoing technology transitions."

The FCC needs to also have a clear understanding of what BDS competition looks like. Without this knowledge, Public Knowledge says the FCC "will be ineffective at designing, implementing, and enforcing policies that promote competition and protect customers from unjust and unreasonable rates."

At the same time, the FCC should refrain from trying to predict future competition and deregulation on potential competition.

Public Policy said that "the Commission's determinations regarding whether markets are competitive and policies to promote competition should be based on actual competition, not the specter of potential competition."

Although competitors have continued to emerge, the BDS market is still largely dominated by the large telcos such as AT&T (NYSE: T), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ).

A recent Consumer Federation of America report found that the market power held by incumbent BDS providers and their pricing practices "totaled approximately $75 billion over the past five years, and have directly cost American consumers over $150 billion since 2010."

Public Policy suggested that the FCC "should first establish benchmarks for pricing so that it can recognize when prices are truly competitive."

In April, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out his draft Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) proposal in a blog post.

With the FNPRM, Wheeler proposed four key tenets for new special access regulation: identifying competitive markets, taking a technology-neutral approach, encouraging transitions from TDM to IP, and addressing current and future transitions.

Later that month, the FCC voted along party lines to pass an order to explore how it can realign BDS.  

For more:
- see this letter (PDF)

Related articles:
CenturyLink: Cable operators have 22 times more Ethernet-capable locations than BDS data lists
CenturyLink sounds off on special access debate, wants cable operators included as competition
AT&T, Comcast: Special access market is already competitive
Verizon's Silliman: Special access regulation should encourage competition for buyers, sellers
Frontier says special access changes won't impact revenue, services

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