Representatives Tell FCC Not to Delay BDS Remake

A quartet of House Democrats are calling on the FCC not to delay action on its business data services (BDS) reforms and are asking their congressional colleagues to add their voices to that call.

Some ISPs have argued that the FCC needs to take a fresh look at the marketplace in light of some new data, or actually old data not submitted by major cable operators until recently, before acting on the proposal.

A politically divided FCC voted April 28 to propose remaking regulation of the business broadband marketplace and potentially regulating rates for cable operators' BDS (formerly known as "special access") service.

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The FCC is phasing out the presumption of regulating the rates of historically "dominant carriers" – the ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) – as a way to boost competition from "nondominant" CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) and from cable competitors and instead regulate the rates of any of them as it deems necessary. That is in the name of boosting price and service competition for the "special-access" services.

In a "dear colleague letter" this week, which is essentially a solicitation of support for their position from other members of Congress, House Communications Subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Reps. Doris Matsui (Calif.), Peter Welch (Mass.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) say the FCC already has all the info it needs.

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"Chairman Wheeler has stated that reform of this market is essential for promoting competition, benefiting individual and business consumers, and unleashing the true potential of next generation wireless services," they wrote. "During the most recent Energy & Commerce Committee FCC Oversight Hearing in July, he testified that BDS reform is not only important for competition today, but necessary to meet our national priority of leading the world in 5G wireless services.

"The time has come for the FCC to use the extensive data collected over the last several years to undertake competition-based reform of the BDS market in urban and rural areas alike. We commend Chairman Wheeler for his leadership on this important issue."

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Cable operators are not happy with the FCC proposal, which would for the first time apply regs, including potentially rate regs, to all players in the BDS market, not just the incumbent telcos who have dominated access to the business lines and have been required to provide access on reasonable terms and conditions to new entrants like cable operators. Those cable operators say that the reward they get for building out plant is to get regulated like an incumbent.

The letter came only a couple of days after a group of senators urged the FCC to factor in more recent cable information into their calculation for revamping its rules, though they did not say that would necessarily delay the process.

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The FCC collected data from stakeholders on the BDS marketplace for several years before releasing the first report, which it used to buttress its case for BDS reforms. It only recently put out the peer reviews. But cable operators had to submit some new data and the report was tweaked and re-released along with the new data. That came on the same day initial comments were due on the BDS proposal based in part on the report.

CenturyLink and the others say that should warrant new peer reviews of the report, which should then be put out for comment.

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.