WorldCom Inc., the Mississippi telecommunications services provider, in a statement Friday scolded the Federal Communications Commission for its "flagging commitment to telecom competition."
WorldCom said that it has called on the FCC to resist pressure from the Bell companies to limit the range of UNEs (unbundled network elements) or parts of the network infrastructure that must be shared with Bell competitors under "open access" requirements in federal law. The call to resist such "pressure" came as part of remarks filed by WorldCom late Thursday with the FCC as part of its triennial review of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the company said.
"The FCC must not reward the Bells for six years of litigation and other stonewalling by relieving them of the obligations that could finally lead to making their markets competitive," said Michael H. Salsbury, WorldComs general counsel in a prepared statement Friday. "The Commission has barely begun the difficult regulatory work required to open local markets, and any move to limit the Bells unbundling obligations would reflect a continuing failure by the FCC to do the job Congress assigned to it -- implementing the 1996 Telecom Act and opening local markets."
Under the leadership of Chairman Michael Powell, the FCC has apparently begun to downplay the importance of "open access" in some areas of communications services, in favor of less regulation as the best means to drive investment and competition.
WorldCom complained that six years after Congress passed a law to create competition in telecommunications services the ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) continue to enjoy monopoly control.
WorldCom also took issue with Powells vision of the current market for telecommunications services, saying that "intermodal" competition – which would include service offerings via wireless and satellite – is not as much a reality as Powell has said it is in his public statements. WorldCom said intermodal competition "does not yet exist in any meaningful way for business or residential customers and cannot constrain Bell market power."
Even if such competition did exist, said Worldcom, it would not justify the FCC denying consumers "the proven benefits of being able to choose among wireline competitors."
Only in the broadband market, said WorldCom, could a competitor provide service on the same level as the ILECs. But that would be a single competitor, a cable television concern, said WorldCom, which creates not "workable competition," but a "duopoly," which "offers neither lower prices nor protection from market power abuse of consumers."
A spokesman for incumbent local exchange carrier Verizon, Inc. said his company would file its own remarks for the FCCs triennial review later in the day on Friday and a statement about the competitive marketplace would be issued at that time.
An FCC spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.