Special Access Gets Special Attention in D.C.

The FCC's vote to remake the framework for regulating business broadband access service drew a host of commenters on both side of the issue, which divided the FCC along party lines once again.

“Cable’s entry into the market for business data services over the last few years has resulted in improved services and lower prices for businesses all across America," said the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. "It is disappointing that Chairman [Tom] Wheeler is responding to this unquestionably positive development by asking the Commission to consider imposing onerous new rate regulation on these competitive services."

Wheeler has said that the proposal is basically an effort to promote competition and level the playing field, and a "bunch of questions"—some in the form of proposals—about how to do that.

NCTA says that it is confident that the answers to those questions "will expose the obvious harm to investment created by such an approach and that the Commission will reject the Chairman’s proposal to abandon four decades of bipartisan pro-competitive policy.” NCTA also laid into the proposal in a blog before the Thursday vote at the FCC's public meeting.

"Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a significant step in reforming the long broken market for business data services," said Sprint, among a number of fans of the FCC proposal. "These services are the foundation of the broadband economy, providing connectivity for everything from ATMs and credit card machines, to cell phone towers and anchor institutions like schools, libraries, and healthcare facilities. Driven by the largest market data collection in the FCC’s history, today’s action establishes a basis for real reform."

Importantly, the FCC formally recognized what competitive carriers have long experienced, that large incumbents exercise overwhelming market power and impose unreasonable rates, terms and conditions over a critical part of our nation’s networks. In laying out a framework for reform, the FCC sets the stage for greater broadband competition that will ultimately benefit all consumers."

Competify, a group pushing for more competition in the business broadband market said the FCC had "confirmed its diagnosis of the critical market for dedicated high-speed ‘business data services,’ finding significant market power over these essential broadband inputs, with chronic symptoms extending throughout the broadband economy."

Competify partners include INCOMPAS, Level 3, Public Knowledge, BT, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

In a separate statement, BT called it a major step forward in reforming a "broken" market.

“After many years of hard work, the FCC has taken an important step forward today by advancing a proposal to update the special access regime," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). "Now, businesses, competitive carriers, wireless service providers and others who rely on it can take full advantage of robust and competitive broadband services.”

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.