FCC Sets Dec. 15 Date For Special Access Data Drop

Cable Ops, Others, Have to Provide Raft of Data on Business Services

The FCC is proceeding with its data collection on the special access (businesses broadband services) market, with a Dec. 15 deadline for responses from incumbent providers and competitors like cable operators and wireless companies.

The FCC is collecting data from buyers and sellers of special access service to determine how competitive the marketplace is for the services, which include services carrying voice and data from cell towers to businesses and from ATMs and credit card readers.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has argued that the FCC had majorly lowballed the amount of work and money it will take by thousands of hours and millions of dollars.

Under FCC rules, telcos are required to lease special access lines to competitors, like cable operators. But the FCC deregulated AT&T and others' special access lines in 2009 in cases where competitive triggers are met.

In a 3-2 party line vote in August 2012, the FCC suspended its benchmarks for deregulating the rates of special access services so it could better determine where there is competition for that service. In December 2012, the commission proposed the new data collection effort.

It released a clarified order in September 2013, but in December of that year two petitions for reconsideration were filed.

And, as with all new paperwork collection regulations, the original order had to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. That approval came Aug. 15 of this year and the FCC has resolved the petitions without further delaying implementation.

In response, the FCC has modified the item per OMB instructions and set the deadline date. And the FCC means it. Failure to comply with the data reporting requirements means a fine up to $160,000 for each day of continuing violation, up to a maximum of $1,575,000. False statements could mean prison time, the FCC adds.

“I am pleased that the FCC will finally get the data it needs to analyze competition in the market for a service that is key to broadband and competitive voice services: special access, said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. After years of careful planning and consultation, the FCC has set a Dec. 15 deadline for providers to submit data about their networks, prices, terms and conditions in this vital market. This data will give us unprecedented insight into the state of competition for a service that is so important for consumers, small businesses, government and community institutions -- and for the economy as a whole.”

The commission more than 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.

One of those is the NoChokePoints Coalition, which commended the FCC’s progress toward the data drop. “The NoChokePoints Coalition  applauds the FCC for its release of the highly anticipated special access data collection order, calling for the mandatory collection of data that will highlight this failed market. Our members, as well as the entire broadband-based economy, have long awaited this order, and we commend Chairman Wheeler and the Commission for taking steps to review the level of competition - or lack thereof - in the marketplace…”