OMB OK's Special Access Data Collection

Cable Ops had Argued FCC Low-balled Estimated Additional Time and Money
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The Office of Management and Budget has given the FCC the green light to collect data from ISPs and others on the state of the special access (business broadband services) market.

OMB had to sign off on the additional paperwork per the Paperwork Reduction Act.

With that go-ahead, the FCC said Monday (Aug. 18) it was ready to proceed with the data collection.

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

The FCC wants to collect 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.

"Special access service has become increasingly important in the digital economy, enabling businesses large and small to connect to their customers around the globe," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Consistent with the terms of OMB's approval, we will move forward with data collection and fact-based analysis that will help the Commission better understand competition in this marketplace, and the impact on consumers as we pursue the Commission's statutory mandate to ensure special access services are provided at reasonable rates and on reasonable terms and conditions."

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.

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.

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 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. "This important step, which the NoChokePoints Coalition enthusiastically supported in comments to both the FCC and OMB, paves the way for the FCC to press ahead quickly with its process of rationalizing special access pricing, terms, and conditions," the group said Monday.