FCC Approves BDS Reform Item

Clyburn calls 'deregulation at all costs' stance 'abhorrent'

As expected, the FCC has declared the broadband business data services market generally competitive and is deregulating the rates incumbent providers (former Bell operating companies) like AT&T and CenturyLink can charge for services like wireless backhaul, credit card readers, ATMs and institutional hookups to schools and libraries.

There had been plenty of last-minute pushback by critics, from the European Union to competitive carriers to congressional Democrats and consumer groups, but the two FCC Republican commissioners had the votes to push through the deregulatory item, asserting that competition in the marketplace was "strong."

The FCC will provide a "reasonable" transition period -- it had not specified that time frame at press time -- which critics of the proposal said was the least it could do if it proceeded, before it deregulates incumbent providers of BDS service.

The vote was 2 to 1, with commissioner Mignon Clyburn offering a scathing review of the policy.

"[T]his Order is one of the worst I have seen in my years at the Commission," Clyburn said. "It is abhorrent that the policy goal is deregulation at all costs, and the entire Order — facts, policy and law — are all calibrated to achieve that goal."

She was part of the former Democratic majority at the agency who had supported a BDS notice of proposed rulemaking that concluded the marketplace was not sufficiently competitive.

Related: Clyburn Calls for Release of BDS Competitive Counties List

Of the calls for delaying the vote, FCC chair Pai said 12 years of delay was enough and it was time to act. He said companies that were calling for a delay were the same ones calling for the FCC to act when the reform proposal was that of his predecessor, Democratic chair Tom Wheeler.

Pai cited the FCC's $224 bilion in aggregated consolidation approvals in recent years, and the votes to approve by Clyburn, referring to arguments that the vote should be delayed because of recent consolidation of BDS providers.