Nearly a year after it ordered sweeping deregulation of the business data services (“BDS”) market, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) proposed new rules that would allow certain small rural carriers to move from longstanding rate-of-return regulation to price cap regulation for their BDS offerings.  The transition would reduce the regulatory obligations of such carriers, including the need to prepare and file complex cost studies, which the FCC stated would allow carriers to rededicate resources to building and maintaining networks in underserved areas.  The FCC also proposed removing pricing restrictions on lower-speed BDS offerings in areas with sufficient competition and sought input on whether pricing restrictions for higher-speed DBS offerings also should be eliminated.

Unlike prior BDS actions, where the issue was hotly contested for years and deregulation passed on a party-line vote, the proposed rulemaking was supported by all five Commissioners, at least for purposes of gathering a record. It’s not clear if this unanimity will hold throughout the proceeding, but the FCC may be on the verge of turning a page in its focus on these services, which are a bedrock for both retail offerings and for competitive carriers extending their networks.


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laptop  On May 18, 2017, at the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or “Commission”) May Open Meeting, the Commission adopted, on a two-one vote, a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”), titled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” that would negate and replace the Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which the NPRM refers to as the “Title II Order.”  This action begins a process that re-ignites differences between the Republicans and lone Democrat on the Commission, and signals that the effort to repeal the rules will be bumpy.  Despite all the immediate public interest and controversy surrounding the proposal, however, the notice and comment process initiated looks to take at least four months before any rule changes can be adopted, and likely several months after that before they take effect.  There are also other legal avenues that could impact the network neutrality debates—the Supreme Court could review a previous D.C. Circuit decision to uphold the Title II Order, or Congress could intervene by writing an update to the Communications Act or FTC Act that would reconsider FCC jurisdiction over Internet access services.  Either action could moot the proceeding begun today.

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fcc_equipEnding a decade-long examination of incumbent carrier special access and related services, the Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC), on April 28, 2017, released a Report & Order (the Order) setting forth a deregulatory framework for business data services (BDS).  The Commission found that, in most instances, BDS – “dedicated point-to-point transmission of data at certain guaranteed speeds and service levels using high-capacity connections” – exists in “a dynamic and increasingly competitive marketplace.”  The Order generally eliminates ex ante pricing regulation with the exception of end user channel termination services at DS1 and DS3 levels in counties that fail a competitive market test adopted in the Order, in the hope of stimulating growth and investment in new services.

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iStock_000006131068MediumOn April 27, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) released the draft text of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would launch a new FCC proceeding (WC Docket No. 17-108) to roll back the Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order and take steps to “restore Internet freedom” by deregulating broadband Internet access service (BIAS).  As discussed in more detail below, in the NPRM, the Commission proposes to restore the regulatory framework in place before the 2015 Open Internet Order (which the NPRM calls the “Title II Order”), and seeks comment on how best to achieve that outcome.

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