The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”), in continuing the process of reviewing its special access rules “to ensure that they reflect the state of competition today [in the market for special access services] and promote competition, investment, and access to dedicated communications services,” issued a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 18, 2012. Special Access for Price Cap Local Exchange Carriers, WC Docket No. 05-25, AT&T Corporation Petition for Rulemaking to Reform Regulation of Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier Rates for Interstate Special Access Services, RM-10593, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 12-153, ¶ 1 (Dec. 18, 2012), available at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db1219/FCC-12-153A1.pdf.
The Report and Order, which was initially circulated to the Commission in June 2012 during preliminary discussions concerning special access reform, “propose[s] to adopt rules that will allow for the relaxation or even elimination of price cap regulation” and “initate[s] a comprehensive data collection and seek[s] comment on a proposal to use the data to evaluate competition in the special access market.” Id. ¶¶ 1, 81. (For a summary of the FCC’s discussions held in June, see Special Access Order Proposing Reform). The Report and Order also seeks additional comment on “how the special access pricing flexibility rules might change after [it] conduct[s] the market analysis.” Id. ¶ 80.
More specifically, with a few very limited exceptions, the Report and Order mandates that providers—“any entity subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction under the Communications Act . . . that provides special access services or provides a connection that is capable of providing special access services”— and purchasers—“any entity subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction . . . that purchases special access services”—provide the Commission with data, information, and documents, including market structure data, price data, demand data, terms and conditions data, and competition and pricing decision data, concerning “the full array of traditional special access services,” including “best efforts business broadband Internet access services,” for calendar years 2010 and 2012. Id. ¶¶ 20, 22, 27-28. The Report and Order also seeks comment on a “one-time, multi-faceted market analysis;” an analysis which the Commission proposes will, by obtaining “a more accurate picture of competition for special access,” not only assist in determining whether the special access rates are just and reasonable, but will also help identify what regulatory changes, if any, are necessary. Id. ¶¶ 66-68.
The deadline to comment on how the rules might change is August 19, 2013 and the deadline to file reply comments is September 30, 2013. Further comment is also sought on the Commission’s Paperwork Reduction Act Analysis and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis.