AT&T petitions to deregulate special access (business) service in San Francisco/Oakland and San Antonio will be de facto granted after there was no vote Monday on a special access reform proposal by Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski hat would have blocked that approval by suspending all such pending petitions and eliminating the competitive benchmarks for deregulating the service.
An FCC official speaking on background said the petitions (as well as one by Windstream) were being granted under the old rules and after "productive discussions among the commissioners," but added that "pursuant to ongoing discussions we expect the Commission will soon vote on an order setting out a path to reform them."
Under FCC rules, telcos are required to lease special access lines to competitors. 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.
The commission removed the "dominant pricing" regulations, while continuing to regulate interconnection and reasonable pricing per its Title II common carrier regulation of ILECs. Ever since the commission has been under pressure from public interest groups to reregulate special access.
"We are pleased the FCC has allowed our petitions to be granted," said AT&T in a statement. "Our petitions measured the level of competition from facilities-based competitors, and clearly and easily met the triggers. In fact, they underestimate the true level of competition by not measuring the cable companies and other pure facilities competitors who do not rely on incumbent investments to provide competitive services.
"The granting of these petitions underscores the vital importance of the Commission gathering data from the CLECs on a mandatory basis before drawing any conclusions on the true state of competition in these markets. It has always been our position that policy judgments in this industry must be based scrupulously on fact and not rhetoric. It is our hope that facts based on the Commission's promised data collection will inform its judgments on this market and allow it to focus on the transition to an all-IP world."
The FCC official said the commission plans to issue a "mandatory, comprehensive data request, to collect the necessary data from incumbent and competitive providers."
"We are pleased that the pricing flexibility petitions submitted by AT&T and Windstream for relief have been granted," said a senior official in the office of commissioner Ajit Pai. "These petitions sought relief under a longstanding, Clinton-era deregulatory framework and were unopposed. Looking to the future, the Commission should promote investments in IP technologies rather than referee increasingly anachronistic disputes over legacy infrastructure. A mandatory, near-term data collection is also critical; past voluntary requests just haven't worked. We stand willing to work with our Commission colleagues in these efforts."