FCC Rejects SBC’s IP-Deregulation Bid


SBC Communications Inc. got bad news from the Federal Communications Commission late Thursday as the agency rejected the Baby Bell’s request for deregulation of Internet-protocol-platform services expected to ride over its $4 billion Project LightSpeed facilities.

In a prepared statement, FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the agency denied the request “on procedural grounds.” The commission had to act by Thursday or SBC’s request would have been automatically granted.

In the order, the FCC concluded that SBC had sought regulatory forbearance from rules that “may or may not” apply to the telco’s IP-platform services. The agency said it is required to consider forbearance only with regard to rules that clearly apply and not to rules that have potential application. The FCC also said SBC’s request was “insufficiently specific.”

The intent of SBC’s petition was the elimination of rules that allow competing Internet-service providers to share its data network at regulated rates. SBC said it was not looking to eliminate so-called open-access rules with respect to its legacy digital-subscriber-line platform. Cable companies do not need to provide ISPs with equal access -- a regulatory inequality that SBC wants removed.

In a prepared statement, SBC senior vice president James Smith didn’t use the commission’s decision to scorch Martin for failing to promote the rollout of broadband under minimal government oversight. SBC's merger with AT&T Corp. is pending before the Martin FCC.

“While we had hoped that the FCC today would embrace the opportunity our petition offered to conclusively set a policy framework for the converging world of communications, we also remain optimistic that this [FCC], through the leadership of chairman Martin, is poised to take these issues head-on over the next several months,” Smith said.

President Bush has called for universal and affordable broadband access by 2007.

In his statement, Martin reiterated that one of the FCC’s “core priorities” was “promoting the deployment of new packetized networks throughout the nation.”

He added that the FCC should “move forward” to create a level regulatory “playing field” among “similarly situated service providers” of advanced services.