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Network access and interconnection

Regulation

What rules, requirements and procedures govern network-to-network access and interconnection?

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 amended the Communications Act of 1934 and imposed network access and interconnection requirements on telecoms carriers. Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are required to provide network-to-network access and interconnection to competitive local exchange carriers, which often buy wholesale access from the ILECs and compete with them. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) only evaluates the reasonableness of interstate and international services, as the Communications Act only gives the FCC jurisdiction for those rates. State commissions regulate intrastate rates, although deregulation is increasing at the state level for most services outside of basic services. Further, the net neutrality rules regulate internet access services, preventing internet service providers from blocking access to their customers or throttling legal internet applications. The FCC has jurisdiction over internet interconnection disputes that it will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Pricing

Are access/interconnection prices subject to regulation?

Rates offered by incumbent local exchange carriers can be subject to rate regulation, especially for unbundled network elements and interconnection. The standard by which rates are evaluated is whether the rate is “just and reasonable” (47 USC Sections 201(a) and 202(b)). For certain services, the telecoms carriers are required to file tariffs containing the rates, terms and conditions of the services offered. These services include end-user access, switched access, special access and other services. Non-dominant carriers are not required to file tariffs and were detariffed in 2000. States also have some authority to require interconnection and evaluate the reasonableness of rates.

Disputes

How are access/interconnection disputes resolved?

Carriers can resolve disputes through voluntary negotiations, mediation, mandatory arbitration or through procedures established by state commissions. Carriers can also file complaints with the FCC if a state commission fails to act. 

Next-generation access

Have any regulations or initiatives been introduced or proposed with respect to next-generation access?

The FCC is in the process of identifying initiatives for next-generation access, including identifying spectrum for advanced services. The current proposal includes opening up spectrum in the high-band frequency to develop for 5G use.

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