NCTA Offers Variation on BDS Reform Theme

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has offered the FCC its own plan for business data services (BDS) reform.

It did that in comments to the FCC opposing the Verizon/INCOMPAS proposal that forms the basis of the FCC's proposed reforms, "including application of the same regulatory framework to all BDS providers regardless of their market power and imposition of onerous ex ante rate regulation on BDS providers in virtually every census block in the country."

In April, the FCC proposed new rules on BDS "in an Internet Protocol environment" in which services or providers would potentially face regulation regardless of whether or not a carrier is considered an incumbent or a competitor. That raises the prospect for the first time of price-cap regulation for cable operators' business services, in the category now called BDS and formerly called special access.

Special access lines are dedicated connections used by businesses and institutions to deliver voice and data traffic, including for ATMs and credit card transactions. The regs have been applied to the larger ILECs—Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier—but the chairman thinks they should apply across the board where more competition is needed.

NCTA's proposal would only regulate legacy BDS rates where only a single provider has BDS-capable facilities and therefore there is not choice of provider, or where there are fewer than 10 BDS customers, which means less demand for added providers, or where no customer purchases fiber-based Ethernet BDS.

The regulations would sunset in 2025 if at least one provider offered Ethernet services in the tract.

The FCC could also have an expedited  complaint process for customers in competitive markets who still think the prices offered by common carriers are unjust or unreasonable.

NCTA also cited a letter submitted by seven economists, including two former FCC chief economists, who argue that the FCC should only regulate markets with only a single facilities-based provider.

"Limiting regulation to areas where there is only one provider, the incumbent LEC, while lifting regulation in the presence of one additional competitor [say, a cable operator], is fully consistent with the record," NCTA said.

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.