WASHINGTON -Competitive local phone carriers' market share surged 53 percent in the first half of the year, according to federal data released Monday.
But the incumbent phone operators retained a commanding 93-percent grip on the overall market.
The Federal Communications Commission said that as of June 30, competitive local-exchange carriers (CLECs) controlled 12.7 million access lines, or 6.7 percent of the 192 million access lines in service. That compared with 8.3 million lines, or 4.4 percent, at the beginning of the year.
Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, local phone companies have continued to retain market-share levels of more than 90 percent, despite the FCC's persistent attempts to pry open monopoly phone markets through resale, extensive unbundling and cost-based pricing for the lease of local loops.
By contrast, the FCC's campaign to inject competition into the pay TV industry has been more successful. The cable industry's share of the multichannel programming-distribution market has slipped to 79 percent-after years of near-total dominance-due mainly to growth by direct-broadcast satellite providers.
The cable industry, led by AT&T Broadband and Cox Communications Inc., also has a toehold in the local phone market. Through Sept. 30, cable operators had 568,000 local phone customers, or about 4.4 percent of the lines controlled by competitive carriers.
Although MSOs such as AT&T and Cox rely largely on their own facilities to serve customers, other competitors remain largely dependent on an incumbent's physical plant.
For example, the FCC said CLECs reached one-third of their customers with their own local loops, but accessed the other two-thirds by reselling incumbent services or leasing RBOC-owned unbundled loops.