NCTA, Others Seek More Time for BDS Comment

Cable and telco ISPs have joined to ask the FCC for more time to respond to the commission's proposal to remake the regulatory framework for business data (formerly "special access") services.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, USTelecom, and ITTA – The Voice of Mid-Size Communications Companies joined in the motion to extend the July 26 reply comment deadline by three weeks.

They said that "brief" extension of time was warranted given a variety of factors including 1) the "voluminous" initial comments, the fact that it is a "complicated and extremely consequential" rulemaking; 2) that the FCC is high on a Verizon/INCOMPAS compromise proposal that could include their members; 3) the FCC's release, on the same day the initial comments were due, the peer reviews of the report on the business data services market that the FCC used in coming up with its proposed remake.

NCTA et al. said the report was "fundamental to the Commission’s proposed regulations, and a thorough review of these peer reviews and staff response is essential."

They also cite delays in getting access to 2013 data that is the basis for much of the FCC's analysis.

"For all of these reasons," they said, "the Commission should grant the brief extension requested by Petitioners."

The FCC does not routinely grant extensions, but it did extend the broadband privacy comment deadline for a few days on its own initiative, citing the volume of comments and after denying motions for lengthier extensions.

"As the Commission recently recognized in the context of its broadband privacy proceeding, a voluminous record provides a strong basis for granting additional time for reply comments," NCTA et al. pointed out.

Business data services 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 to and BDS provider in markets where the FCC decides more competition is needed.

Cable operators say Wheeler's proposal amounts to "onerous regulations on an industry that is stepping up to offer meaningful choices to business customers. The FCC will not achieve competition if it burdens new facilities-based entrants with regulation.”

Not surprisingly, companies backing the FCC proposal saw it differently.

“The latest request to extend the deadline for reply comments in the BDS proceeding should be seen for what it is – a stall tactic designed to stymie needed reform," said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association. "The FCC is on the right path. I urge the FCC to move forward promptly with BDS reform to support competition in today’s wireless market and help America become the 5G world leader.”

"For over a decade, INCOMPAS has been working to fix the broken business market and help consumers save money. With the FCC’s guidance, and historic data collection, we have seen constructive progress towards a solution that will benefit business customers," said the group, which also represenents competitive carriers, in a statement. "The suggestion for an additional delay is simply a tactic to deny business customers more choices and increased innovation."

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.