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

NEWS ANALYSIS: British Telecom President Bas Burger was in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1 for meetings with officials to ask for regulation of special access including Metro Ethernet.

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Bas Burger, the president of British Telecom in the Americas, wants to see the special access market regulated as a way to end the negative effects of the effective monopoly held by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S.

Special access is communication that includes data and voice used by enterprises, carriers and others to connect one point to another. For example, a cell carrier would use special access to connect a cell tower with the central office where calls are routed.

In a Dec. 1 interview with eWEEK, Burger said that his company is facing a number of challenges related to providing broadband communications to his customers. He said that those problems include high prices and difficulty in providing reliable service between BT's customers and its global backbone network.

However, BT is hardly the only company complaining about the way special access is handled. Communications providers ranging from Earthlink to Sprint have filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission claiming that the companies providing special access in the U.S., AT&T, and Verizon, are levying excessive charges, failing to provide the service they need and are using their position in the market to keep modern technologies from taking hold as they would if the monopoly didn't exist.

"Availability is one problem," Burger said. "Competitive pricing is another." Burger contends that AT&T and Verizon are manipulating pricing to discourage the move to Ethernet for most companies.

"The issue is that most of our clients are buying bandwidth at 1 to 1.5M bps. Our customers want to move to Ethernet, but at lower bandwidth it's hard to do it." The reason, he explained, is that AT&T and Verizon are charging five or six times what it should cost for companies to move from legacy TDM (time division multiplexing) networks such as T1, including faster lines using similar technology.

Currently, the operators of those networks are making profits on the order of 100 percent on the cost. According to Burger, this high cost is discouraging a move to newer network technologies, including Ethernet. Burger said that he wants to see regulation of these networks to improve reliability and to reduce prices.

The question of special access regulation is already being examined by the FCC. The agency sent out a data request in 2013 to examine the pricing and delivery of special access networks. The data collection will end at the end of Jan. 2015, a date that was extended from the first deadline of Dec. 15, 2014.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...