USTelecom Petitions FCC To Drop 'Archaic' Regs

Says it Will Promote Wheeler's Goal of More Competition

At about the same time that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was hammering incumbent telcos on interconnection issues related to the IP transition, USTelecom was filing a petition with the FCC asking it not to apply legacy regs to incumbents in the new IP world, regs, like sharing newly built conduit with competitors, that don't apply to cable operators and competitive carriers.

USTelecom's telco members argue that the business services market is increasingly competitive, citing Comcast/Time Warner Cable's merger as an example of how it could get even more competitive--the cable ops have been pitching the deal as a way to strengthen business services broadband vis a vis AT&T and Verizon.

"This Petition is intended to present the Commission with a concrete agenda for allowing ILEC investment to be reoriented away from legacy, narrowband, copper-based telephone networks and toward the deployment of next-generation facilities," said US Telecom, "thereby enhancing competition in the provision of truly high-capacity services and enhancing the nation’s communications infrastructure."

McCormick told reporters he thought the FCC would receive the petition as a positive step, saying it was response to Wheeler's call for "competition, competition, competition." He added that the petition "in no way impacts the ability of cable or wireless or over-the-top providers or competitive local exchange carriers to compete. Instead, he said, it "frees us up to invest in more advanced technologies, the kinds of services our customers want."

In a conference call with reporters virtually contemporaneous with Wheeler's speech to COMPTEL (which represents competitive carriers), in which he led a cheer for "competition, competition, competition,: US Telecom President Walter McCormick and Steve Davis, EVP public policy and government relations for CenturyLink, were arguing that incumbents needed help to be competitive, too.

Among the legacy regs they want axed are ones that require them to continue to maintain traditional networks, which they say takes away from investment in new services their customers want.

They cited a February speech by Wheeler to argue they were being responsive to the chairman in filing the petition: “Due in part to outdated rules, the majority of the capital investments made by U.S. telephone companies from 2006 to 2011 went toward maintaining the declining telephone network, despite the fact that only one-third of U.S. households use it at all," Wheeler said in a speech at the Silicon Flatirons conference in Boulder, Colo.

Wheeler also said that "consumers and competition" would need to be protected. McCormick agree 911 calls needed to go through, and he agreed that competition should be encouraged, but argued the way to do that was to let his members offer new services without being tied to regulations of the past.

"Companies are making these investments even though they face regulatory obstacles that don’t apply to other marketplace competitors – cable, wireless and competitive fiber providers." said US Telecom. "Four years ago, the administration’s National Broadband Plan warned that requiring telephone companies to invest in antiquated services and technology could lead to stranded investment."

According to the executive summary, the petition wants the FCC to forbear (not enforce) the following regs (actually, it suggests there are more that need jettisoning, but these are the baseline asks:

• "Outdated provisions in Sections 271 and 272, and the related equal access rules;

• "Rule 64.1903 structural separation requirements;

• "The requirement that an ILEC provide an unbundled 64 kbps voice channel where it has replaced a copper loop with fiber;

• "Section 214(e)(1) eligible telecommunications carrier (“ETC”) requirements where a price cap carrier does not receive high-cost universal service support;

• "The remaining Computer Inquiry rules;

• "The Section 224 and 251(b)(4) requirement that ILECs share newly deployed entrance conduit; and

• "Rules prohibiting the use of contract tariffs to offer special access and high capacity data services in the absence of pricing flexibility."