FCC Approves BDS Reform Item

As expected, the FCC has declared the broadband business data services market generally competitive and is deregulating the rates incumbent providers like AT&T and CenturyLink can charge for services like wireless backhaul, credit card readers, ATMs and institutional hookups to schools and libraries.

There had been plenty of last-minute pushback by critics, from the European Union and competitive carriers to Democrats and consumer groups, but the two FCC Republicans had the votes to push through the deregulatory item, asserting that competition in the marketplace was "strong."

The FCC will provide a "reasonable" transition period—it had not specified that time frame at presstime—which critics of the proposal said was the least it could do if it proceeded, before it deregulates incumbent providers of BDS service. 

The vote was two to one, with commissioner Mignon Clyburn offering a scathing review. "[T]his Order is one of the worst I have seen in my years at the Commission. It is abhorrent that the policy goal is deregulation at all costs, and the entire Order—facts, policy, and law—are all calibrated to achieve that goal."

She was part of the Democratic majority that supported a BDS notice of proposed rulemaking that concluded the marketplace was not sufficiently competitive.

Of the calls for delaying the vote, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said 12 years of delay was enough, and it was time to act. He said that companies that were calling for delay were the same ones calling for the FCC to act when the reform proposal was that of his predecessor.

Pai cited the FCC's $224 billion in aggregated consolidation approvals in recent years and the votes to approve by Clyburn, referring to arguments that the vote should be delayed because of recent consolidation of BDS providers.

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.