USTelecom: Cable Is BDS Alternative

USTelecom has been talking up cable at the FCC as a strong competitor in the business data services (BDS) market.

In a supplemental filing at the commission on its BDS revamp proposal—potentially regulating, including rates, new entrants like cable as they have historically regulated incumbent telecoms like those represented by USTelecom—the telecom trade group said small and medium-sized businesses (between 5 and 100 employees) using business data services see cable as a competitive alternative.

It said its survey found that among data networking customers who did not currently use cable, 70% of decisionmakers said they were willing to consider cable, and only 12% said they would be unwilling.

It also said the data showed a "very strong" willingness to substitute cable-provided service.

"Given the significant growth in deployment of cable fiber and Ethernet services in the last couple of years," said USTelecom, "it is likely that cable Data Networking services were, in fact, widely available."

Related: FCC's BDS Price Rules Would Cripple Competition

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.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said he wants to act on the BDS revamp proposal by the end of the year.

Special-access lines are dedicated connections used by businesses and institutions to deliver voice and data traffic, including for ATMs and credit card transactions. They also include wireless backhaul services, so the move also ties to the FCC's promotion of wireless broadband.

Under FCC rules, telcos are required to lease special access lines to competitors, like cable operators. But the FCC deregulated AT&T and others' special access lines in 2009 in cases where competitive triggers are met.

Those lines are the "last mile" dedicated broadband lines to businesses, which incumbent local exchange carriers like AT&T dominate. By contrast, residential customers can generally choose from cable or phone lines for their service.

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.