FCC Grants AT&T Broadband Relief

The Federal Communications Commission gives a break to the nation's largest carrier on pricing practices.

AT&T won a partial victory Oct. 11 when the Federal Communications Commission granted the nations largest carrier regulatory relief on some charges to business customers and rivals using AT&Ts broadband lines. The FCC gave similar relief to Verizon last year.

The FCCs decision enables AT&T, of San Antonio, Texas, to keep pricing information confidential instead of publicly disclosing the data through FCC reports, which allows competitors to know details of AT&Ts business plans. The FCC said it granted the relief because a competitive enterprise broadband market has emerged.

"This relief will enable AT&T to have the flexibility to further deploy its broadband services and fiber facilities without overly burdensome regulations," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement. "The relief afforded to AT&T is consistent with and similar to the relief provided in Commission decisions regarding broadband services, packet switching and fiber facilities."

The FCC action does not become effective until Dec. 29, 2010, when the conditions attached to the AT&T-BellSouth merger expire.

To address the concerns of smaller carriers who rely on access to AT&Ts high-speed lines and are worried about the carriers ability to dictate pricing, the FCC also approved a pricing complaint procedure. The FCC dictated that any complaint against AT&T must be resolved within five months.

While AT&T had sought wider relief than granted, the company praised the decision. In a statement, AT&T said that the "FCC appears to have continued its successful pro-investment broadband policy, allowing for multiple providers to build out new wired and wireless networks to better compete for business customers."

The relief was granted on a straight party-line vote, with Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell joining Martin as Republicans favoring the proposal and Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein opposing it.


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McDowell said the FCC decision strikes a "thoughtful balance" and sets up a "de-regulatory framework for AT&Ts business broadband services, while also ensuring that longstanding consumer protection and competition measures remain in place."

Copps and Adelstein argued that the available data on broadband competition is incomplete and that the FCC order will impact small and midsize businesses.

"We have repeatedly argued that de-regulating broadband is no national strategy for deploying those services," Copps and Adelstein said in a joint statement. "We believe that todays order is a missed opportunity for the Commission to critically review whether a national framework for the market-specific services before us is appropriate."


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