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Business Data Service Deregulation Still on FCC Docket

The FCC released its agenda for the April 20 meeting, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai's proposed revamp of broadband business data service regs is still on the docket.

BDS includes hookups to ATMs, credit card readers, and institutions.

Pai had gotten pushback from fans of his predecessor Tom Wheeler's more regulatory approach, prominently from INCOMPAS, whose members include Google Fiber, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.

INCOMPAS had asked Pai to delay the vote until the FCC released a list of the counties the FCC was concluding were competitive and in which incumbent carriers like AT&T and CenturyLink could have their rates deregulated.

In a blog post INCOMPAS president Chip Pickering, invoking the kind of data-driven decisionmaking Pai was calling for under Wheeler, called for a cost-benefit analysis and a study of the impact on the market of "consolidation of Level 3, XO Communications and EarthLink on the BDS market" before the FCC took any action, in addition to renewing his call for releasing the list of affected counties.

Pickering minced no words, saying he too wanted reform but not what Pai was offering up.

"Americans are screaming for more broadband competition. That is why reforming the broken business data services market is a national priority. It’s a rigged system dominated by monopoly control and consumers and small businesses are paying the price," a price INCOMPAS says will only go up if the FCC deregulates the rates of those "monopoly" incumbents.

But a vote delay was always unlikely given Pai's criticism of the Wheeler proposal. The Wheeler FCC had concluded that BDS competition was uneven, while Pai suggested it was robust. Pai's proposal does include duopolies as competitive, as well as "nearby" competition.

The agenda lists the BDS item as a "Report and Order that recognizes the strong competition present in the business data services market and modernizes the Commission’s regulatory structure accordingly to bring ever new and exciting technologies, products, and services to businesses and consumers."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.