Bells Gain More Fiber Relief from FCC


The Baby Bells gained additional deregulation for fiber deployments in a decision by the Federal Communications Commission late Friday that represents another step in establishing broadband parity between the phone giants and cable operators.

In the ruling, the FCC decided to take recent decisions to deregulate Bells’ fiber deployments to the home and curb and extend them to unbundling requirements found in telecommunications-law provisions that govern Bell entry into the long-distance market.

The Bells had asked the FCC to broaden the initial rulings to ensure that the agency’s previous actions could not be diminished by regulatory provisions in the long-distance-entry rules.

“The FCC found that the relief included in this decision will benefit consumers by making the [Bells] more vigorous competitors to cable-modem service, which plays a significant role in the current broadband market,” the FCC said in a press release.

However, FCC commissioner Michael Copps dissented, saying that the ruling would mean that broadband providers that did not own their own fiber lines would lose “competitive access to last-mile bottleneck facilities.”

Medley Global Advisors analyst Jessica Zufolo said the FCC ruling “gives the Bells the keys to the `last-mile’ kingdom.”

FCC commissioner Kathleen Abernathy addressed the Bell-monopoly argument by noting, “Cable operators enjoy a significant lead over wireline incumbents” in signing up high-speed-data customers.

“It is difficult to justify saddling the less-dominant platform -- but not the market leader -- with unbundling obligations,” she said in a prepared statement.