FCC Launches Mandatory Special Access Data Collection

NCTA Concerned it Remains too Burdensome a Requirement on Industry

To the salutes of some telcos and the continuing concern of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the FCC Tuesday launched a data-collection initiative to inform a review of its special access regs.

In a 3-2 party line vote in August, the FCC suspended its current benchmarks for deregulating the rates of special access (business) broadband services while it better determines where there is competition for that service.

The "better determining" part is the just-announced data collection framework. The FCC has tried voluntary data collections in the past, but some players were no-shows.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association argued the commission has proposed too extensive and burdensome a data collection effort, pointing to the "extreme burden that a nationwide, building-by-building data request would impose on cable operators and while it was still vetting the 100-page-plus order, the trade group said in a statement that it "remain concerned that it could result in significant and burdensome reporting requirements for competitive providers."

It was not clear just how burdensome the final version was -- Republican Ajit Pai, who shared NCTA's concern, supported the final version and praised the chairman for compromising on some points. But Pai also said that the data collection proposal, though improved from the original, was still overbroad and should have started with sample markets rather than "seeking information about every cell tower, office building, factory, farm, and other enterprise facility in the country" and making industry, rather than the FCC, code each street address.

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 over a dozen years ago removed "dominant pricing" regulations, while continuing to regulate interconnection and reasonable pricing per its Title II common carrier regulation of Independent Local Exchange Carrier (ILECs). Ever since, the commission has been under pressure from public interest groups to re-regulate special access.