Democratic members of the House Communications & Technology Subcommittee have urged other House members in a “dear colleague” letter to support swift action by the FCC to adopt proposed rules that aim to replace the agency’s current regulatory approach to “special access,” or business data services (BDS), with a technology-neutral framework that would extend rate and other regulations that have applied traditionally to incumbent local exchange carriers to cable operators and other alterative providers of BDS.
Signers of the letter released last Friday include ranking subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and subcommittee members Mike Doyle (D-PA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT). Endorsing the effort the FCC launched with the adoption of a further rulemaking notice last April, the lawmakers called on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to “complete this important . . . . priority without delay.” As they emphasized that BDS “make[s] up a $45 billion per year market that provides connectivity for wireless broadband services and connects anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and public safety responders” as well as “businesses large and small,” the lawmakers declared it time “for the FCC to use the extensive data collected over the last several years to undertake competition-based reform of the BDS market in urban and rural areas alike.” In fulfillment of that goal, the lawmakers urged their colleagues “to support the FCC’s evidence-based efforts to unleash benefits for America’s businesses and consumers and to lead the world in next-generation communications infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, in reply comments responding to the further rulemaking notice, dozens of cable multiple system operators (MSOs), incumbent telcos and other parties warned the FCC this week that plans to extend BDS rate and other rules would jeopardize investment and thereby undercut the competitive environment which the FCC seeks to promote. Stressing that cable MSOs and other competitive BDS providers “have been investing billions of dollars to extend facilities to business customers all over the country,” the National Cable & Telecommunications Association urged the FCC to “focus on taking steps to promote . . . competition, not regulating rates in a manner that discourages entry and investment.” Along a similar vein, AT&T cautioned that “overregulating the BDS market will have a predictable and very concerning result—disincentivizing investment in broadband infrastructure.” Countering that “incumbent providers continue to obscure the facts,” the Competify Coalition, which consists of competitive local exchange carriers and public interest groups, called on the FCC to “heal this long-broken marketplace” by completing “a comprehensive review of the robust data in the record and reach[ing] a pro-competitive, pro-consumer result.”