NCTA Asks FCC To Rethink Special Access Data Collection

According to the National Cable & Telecommunication Association, the FCC's Wireline Bureau was wrong in not amending its special access data collection order based on feedback during the order's vetting for Paper Reduction Act issues, and suggested if the FCC did not address concerns about the security of maps and proprietary customer info, cable ops would not be comfortable reporting that data.

That came in a petition Monday asking the full commission to review the bureau order, reduce the paperwork burden and insure the security of sensitive information submitted. The burea order was submitted Monday to the Office of Management & Budget for its review of the rules to insure they do not represent undue paperwork burdens on industry.

The data collection cannot begin until OMB has signed off on it.

"In 2012, the Commission both suspended its old pricing flexibility triggers and authorized a highly detailed, extremely onerous data collection that it views as a prerequisite to adopting new triggers," NCTA said. "However well-intentioned, this combination of decisions has left the Commission completely adrift, with no meaningful ability to regulate or deregulate in a critically important sector of the communications marketplace."

In a 3-2 party line vote in August 2012, the FCC suspended its benchmarks for deregulating the rates of special access services while it better determines where there is competition for that service. In December 2012, the commission launched the new data collection effort.

Under FCC rules, telcos are required to lease special access lines to competitors, like cable operators. But the FCC deregulated AT&T and others' special access lines in 2009 in cases where competitive triggers are met.

Those lines are the "last mile" dedicated broadband lines to businesses, which incumbent local exchange carriers like AT&T dominate. By contrast, residential customers can generally choose from cable or phone lines for their service.

The commission more than a dozen years ago removed "dominant pricing" regulations, while continuing to regulate interconnection and reasonable pricing per its Title II common carrier regulation of Independent Local Exchange Carrier (ILECs). Ever since, the commission has been under pressure from public interest groups to re-regulate special access.

Celebrating the submission of the order to OMB was the NoChokePoints coalition, calling it "another important milestone in the reform of the $18 billion special access market."

John Eggerton

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.