Ruling May Spur RBOC Broadband Efforts


The long-awaited triennial review order from the Federal Communications
Commission is out, and it looks like it will clear the way for the dominant
regional Bell operating companies to accelerate their broadband
fiber-optic-network buildouts without sharing them with rivals.

But the complicated, 526-page order will take weeks to analyze, and there may
be legal battles ahead challenging its findings.

While the order still requires RBOCs such as SBC Communications Inc. and
Verizon Communications to continue sharing existing copper-based local phone
lines used to deliver narrowband and broadband services, it allows them to build
out next-generation fiber-optic networks for expanded broadband services without
opening them to competitive telco providers.

This would be a major victory for the RBOCs, which have long argued that they
should not be forced to share next-generation networks with rivals that did not
pay for the improvements, other than through limited access fees.

Eliminating that requirement could again spur the RBOCs to accelerate
buildout of these networks in order to strengthen their competitive stance
against cable broadband rivals.

'Our initial review suggests that the FCC made the right decision in the area
of broadband communications -- taking a pro-investment and pro-competitive
approach to the deployment of new facilities,' Qwest Communications
International Inc. senior vice president of public policy Steve Davis said.

'However, with respect to the traditional telephone
network, we remain disappointed with the majority's decision to allow other
companies, notably AT&T [Corp.] and [WorldCom Inc.’s] MCI, to continue to
use our network at below-cost rates, rather than investing in facilities of
their own,' he added.