On January 25, 2013, U.S. TelePacific Corp., ACN Communications Services, Inc., Level 3 Communications, LLC, TDS Metrocom, LLC, and Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking the FCC to “refresh the record and take expedited action to update its copper retirement rules to preserve and promote affordable broadband over copper.”

The petition is a seemingly counterpunch by competitive telecommunications providers to the recent petition filed by AT&T with the FCC in which is requesting that the FCC forbear and/or eliminate, among other things, existing copper loop retirement restrictions on ILECs in the purported advancement of the FCC’s desired transition from TDM to IP networks. The widely understood implication of AT&T’s request would be the effective end of existing ILEC network unbundling requirements for loops.

According to the new competitive petition, “the uncertainty created by AT&T . . . that they intend to ‘kill the copper’ hinders investment in technologies such as Ethernet over Copper, which many small and medium businesses rely on today for affordable, high-speed broadband access.” Based on this, the petition requests that the FCC, as an alternative to the AT&T proposal, update its existing copper loop retirement requirements to “require ILECs to provide CLECs with access to unbundled copper loops even where ILECs have received [FCC] permission to ‘retire’ such copper loops and prohibit ILECs from removing copper loops from their network without affirmative permission from the [FCC]. The current rules regarding retirement should be clarified to make clear that retirement only allows the ILEC to retire such loops for its own use and does not relieve the ILEC of its duty to provide unbundled access to copper loops that remain in place in the network.” According to the petition, the requested update is necessary “to ensure that in today’s challenging economic environment, no customer loses the affordable broadband it receives from its chosen provider, and more customers have the option of adopting high-speed broadband using affordable Ethernet over copper.”

The petition was filed in existing FCC dockets, including the docket created to respond to AT&T’s petition. The FCC has yet to respond to the petition and/or set dates for comments and reply comments.