British Telecom Calls on FCC to Regulate Broadband 'Special Access'

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-12-01 Print this article Print
Special Access

Once the FCC has the data, it can then make a decision as to the regulation of this part of the network.

This isn't the first time that the FCC has studied the issue. Public Knowledge addressed the problem in 2009, and noted at the time that special access was the domain of the three remaining parts of the old Bell system.

Things have changed since then as AT&T went from being simply a long distance and cell provider to being one of the carriers after it acquired SBC and Bell South. What's interesting is that when the FCC began to deregulate special access in 2000, AT&T was one of the companies fighting it.

Since then the Government Accountability Office has determined that the special access market is not competitive and has effectively become a monopoly shared between AT&T and Verizon, who between them control 90 percent of the market.

The result of the concentration in the special access market is that costs are much higher than they need to be and there's little accountability because there's no competition.

A company that needs a fast data network, such as a bank that needs access for its ATM network, can't just go to another carrier because there are no other carriers besides the two dominant providers who don't offer competitive pricing and service terms.

Burger said that while special access doesn't have a direct effect on most smaller companies, it does have a direct effect on broadband adoption because it raises the price, especially for smaller users that might not need massive amounts of bandwidth. "If you have lower prices for lower bandwidth, then adoption for broadband services will go up," Burger said.

Burger noted that BT is a member of the No Choke Point Coalition, a group of carriers, mobile phone companies and advocacy groups that are working to get the FCC to regulate special access again. BT looks to its global experience implementing Ethernet and other services for an indication as to how broadband adoption is being delayed in the U.S.

He said that even incumbent carriers are moving to adopt Ethernet in the UK, where the penetration of Ethernet in the special access market exceeds 50 percent. He said that in the U.S. it's still below 25 percent because of the deregulated market.

"They've extended the date until the 29th of January," Burger said. "By then the FCC will have a lot of data to determine whether special access reform is needed." After that, "We hope they will come to some quick conclusions," he said.

Once the FCC has the data, it can then make a decision as to the regulation of this part of the network.


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