Wireless carriers without wireline divisions are asking the FCC to put a cap on the special access fees they must pay to backhaul their customers' voice and data traffic across their competitors' wireline networks. Carriers such as Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and U.S. Cellular, along with a coalition called No Choke Points (whose members include Clearwire and small independent LECs such as Covad Communications), claim the interconnection fees are a big barrier to broadband access.
Specifically, the No Choke Points coalition claims wireline carriers AT&T and Verizon Communications control 80 percent to 90 percent of the backhaul network in the U.S., and that all operators need to access these backhaul networks to transfer their voice and data traffic from the cell site to the switch. Sprint says one-third of its operating costs for each cell tower are devoted to these access fees.
But AT&T says Sprint's efforts at getting government-mandated reductions in these access fees is a strategy designed to alleviate some of its financial and business pressures that are a result of its merger with Nextel Corp. In addition, the wireline carriers say capping their special access prices would deter Internet deployment because then companies would not build their own connections.
FCC acting chairman Michael Copps has requested more data on access charges, however there has been no more progress on the proposal.
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