For better or worse, you decide, the FCC is challenged when adopting policies or making decisions that impact enterprise customers. This is the first of two entries on enterprise customers and the FCC.
Open Internet Order. With no explanation, the FCC excluded high speed Internet access service sold to enterprise customers from the rules adopted last year in its Open Internet Order. These customers do not benefit from the bright line rules, principally the rule that ISPs not block publication of or access to lawful Internet content, and the broadband Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”) rules. By including mobile broadband service in the definition of regulated, mass market Broadband Internet Access Service (“BIAS”), the FCC appears to be saying that the Open Internet rules apply only when employees purchase wireless service directly, but not when purchased under enterprise wireless agreements.
Assuming the Open Internet Order survives judicial review, the merits of two regulatory regimes for the same service will be determined in the marketplace.
Special Access Service Investigations. Since at least 2002, the FCC has been investigating—with varying degrees of focus—whether the rates charged by the price cap ILECs for special access services (principally DS-1 and DS-3) are or are not “just and reasonable” under Title II of the Communications Act. (In other words, are special access rates too high?) The high water mark came in 2012 when the FCC suspended its rules granting price cap ILECs special access pricing flexibility because the FCC determined that the “collocation triggers [for pricing flexibility] are a poor proxy for the presence of competition sufficient to constrain special access prices.” To assess the extent of competition, the FCC sought data on both TDM and Ethernet-based dedicated access services. With data collection now complete, the FCC and services providers are engaged in a lengthy data review process.
Concerns raised by competing carriers prompted the FCC in 2015 to open another proceeding to investigate price cap carrier special access tariff pricing plans. The FCC noted that the competing carriers allege these pricing plans “incorporate a complicated web of all-or-nothing bundling, loyalty and term commitments, complex enforcing penalties, circuit migration rules and other provisions.”
That the FCC recognizes special access pricing is problematic is positive. The remaining questions are whether, when and how the FCC will respond.