Market sufficiently competitive

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-12-13 Print this article Print

?"> The rules governing local competition have been under siege since their inception in the Telecommunications Act nine years ago. Congress directed the RBOCs to unbundle elements of their networks and lease those elements to competitors at nondiscriminatory rates and conditions, but legislators left it to the Federal Communications Commission to determine which elements had to be unbundled. The requisite elements have evolved over the years, under the direction of three FCC chairmen and a variety of court rulings. At present, the RBOCs must give rivals access to switching, dedicated transport and enterprise market loops.

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From the RBOCs perspective, the market is sufficiently competitive to eliminate many of their network-leasing requirements. To bolster the argument, the RBOCs point to telecom services from fixed wireless and cable operators and even the nascent offerings of satellite and power-line companies.

The stakes in this latest battle are so high for competing carriers that they dropped the distinctions that historically separated them—for example, some relying more heavily on leasing local facilities than others—and pooled their resources in a front against the RBOCs. Last week, the two trade groups representing CLECs in Washington, the Association for Local Telecommunications Services and CompTel/Ascent, announced that they will merge next month.

"It takes size and force to compete in that arena," said Julia Strow, vice president for regulatory and legislative affairs at Cbeyond and acting president of ALTS. If the FCC does not protect CLEC access to necessary local facilities, Strow said, it "will be returning the Bell companies their monopoly of this market."

The merger of the trade groups, with a combined membership of approximately 500 carriers, will help the CLEC industry prepare for intensified battle on a second front on Capitol Hill. Speaking with one voice, the CLECs lobbying group can sidestep charges of partisanship, which hampers their power.

Calling the CLECs goal "a cause for the American people," Sherman Henderson, chairman of CompTel/Ascent and CEO of Lightyear Network Solutions LLC, in Louisville, Ky., said the organizations would "spend whatever it takes" to counter the RBOCs lobbying efforts.

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