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NCTA: No Blanket Deregulation for Telcos

WASHINGTON — The National Cable & Telecommunications Association says it is fine with the Federal Communications Commission’s revisiting the dominant-carrier designation for telephone companies’ traditional circuit-switched phone service, given the rise of competitive digital voice produtcs.

But cable’s main lobby said it won’t support a blanket designation that all incumbent local- exchange carriers should be regulated — or, more to the point, deregulated — as non-dominant carriers.

The NCTA shared its views in reply comments to a USTelecom petition for a declaratory ruling that its members are no longer dominant in switched-access phone service. Should the FCC make such a finding, deregulation of telco rates would follow.

Declining national circuit-switched voice traffic is not a sufficient reason in itself to justify a blanket determination, the NCTA said. Nor would deregulating local phone companies be analogous to the FCC’s analysis of the cable programming market, where the FCC found that “withholding programming from competitors becomes less profitable as a cable operator loses market share, thereby making regulation less necessary,” the trade group argued.

USTelecom, the telco industry’s main advocacy group, had invoked that analysis to buttress its case that declining circuit-switched lines justified general deregulation.

While the NCTA agreed that nonincumbent voice providers — like cable operators serving residential customers — have provided consumers with increasing alternatives, USTelecom has not demonstrated that all carriers should be considered nondominant. “The commission needs a much clearer understanding of the scope of the petition and the consequences of the requested relief before it can consider granting the petition,” the NCTA said.

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.