Among the items being considered at the upcoming April 12, 2019 Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) open meeting is possible regulatory forbearance of certain legacy regulatory and structural requirements applicable to Bell Operating Companies (“BOCs”), price cap local exchange carriers (“LECs”), and independent rate-of-return carriers (“RoR carriers”). Acting on a nearly year-old USTelecom petition, the FCC’s draft Memorandum Opinion and Order (“Order”) proposes to forbear from enforcement of three regulatory requirements: (i) that independent RoR carriers offer in-region long distance service through a separate affiliate (“structural separations”); (ii) that BOCs and price cap LECs do not discriminate in service provisioning intervals and that they file special access provisioning reports; and (iii) that BOCs provide nondiscriminatory access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way (collectively, “pole attachments”). However, the draft Order declines to decide on USTelecom’s request for forbearance from certain network unbundling and resale requirements. The Commission’s deferral on the unbundled network elements (“UNE”)/resale issue is not surprising in light of the significant industry and consumer opposition to this aspect of USTelecom’s petition. With the exception of the few comments supporting USTelecom’s petition, the vast majority of comments were relatively silent regarding the other forbearance requests. If adopted, the draft Order will be effective upon release.

Continue Reading FCC Considering Partial Grant of Regulatory Forbearance for Incumbent Carriers

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.

Continue Reading The FCC Deregulates Most Business Data Services

Since 2002, purchasers of special access services from the incumbent local telephone companies have been asking the FCC to revise its pricing rules for the services.   Last month, CompTel (the leading trade association for competitive carriers) and a coalition of others asked the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to require the FCC to resolve its pending special access proceeding within six months.  The CompTel petition is a petition for mandamus — a court order compelling action by the agency.  The FCC has not yet responded to the petition. 

This is not the first time competitive carriers have gone to the court for action.  Back in 2003, the old AT&T (pre-acquisition by SBC) asked the same court to compel the FCC to act on AT&T’s Petition for Rulemaking filed in 2002 to revise the special access rules.  In reliance on the FCC’s representations that it was diligently working the proceeding, the court required the FCC to file periodic status reports.  The court eventually dismissed the AT&T mandamus petition after the FCC issued the current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in early 2005.  Six years later, the FCC has not completed that proceeding and CompTel asks the court to require a resolution. 

Continue Reading CompTel Asks Court to Compel Action on Special Access