FCC moves closer to special access fee regulation

As expected, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on how to look at the special access market, formally opening a debate that likely will pit AT&T and Verizon against Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and other companies. Those companies, which don't have wireline divisions, pay the big telcos fees to backhaul their wireless traffic over their competitors' wireline networks, and have been arguing that AT&T and Verizon hold a monopoly on the lines and are charging too much for access.

The FCC notice will seek comments on how the agency should look at the market data to determine, among other things, whether the commission's current pricing flexibility rules ensure "just and reasonable rates." The FCC said commenters will have 45 days to submit comments, and that there will be a 30-day period for reply comments.

"Some parties assert that the commission's current rules are working as intended and contend that there is extensive actual and potential competition in the market for special access," the FCC said in the notice. "Other parties assert that there is little or no competition for special access services."

The No Choke Points coalition, whose members include Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Clearwire and small, independent LECs, has said that the interconnection fees are a big barrier to broadband access. The praised the FCC's move to open debate on the topic. "This public notice is an important next step towards releasing the captive special access market from AT&T and Verizon's long-standing choke hold," No Choke Points spokeswoman Maura Corbett said in a statement. "The data will show that AT&T, Verizon and other large incumbents are exploiting their control over high-capacity facilities to reap outrageous profits at the expense of the broadband economy."

Earlier this summer, Jim Cicconi, a senior vice president at AT&T, said in a letter sent to Congress that looking at all of the data for access lines and prices would show "an abundance of facilities and well-functioning market-based pricing."

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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