Thursday, April 28, 2016

FCC Seeks New Rules for Business Data Services

The FCC has found the special access tariffs filed by four incumbent local exchange carriers (AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier) to be unjust and unreasonable, with the effect of decreasing facilities-based competition and inhibiting the transition to new technologies. The FCC is requiring these companies to withdraw the illegal terms of these tariffs and file new tariffs within 60 days of release of the order.

The FCC is also seeking public comment on reforming and modernizing its rules for business data services based on four principles:

  • Competition is best, but where competition does not exist, market conditions must not be allowed to stifle the ability of business customers to innovate and compete
  • Technological neutrality should be at the core of any new regulatory framework 
  • Policies should remove barriers to the transition to new technologies

The FCC said it is seeking to replace outdated rules with a new technology-neutral framework that classifies markets as either non-competitive or as competitive.   Some key points of this Further Notice:

  • Begins by surveying current marketplace conditions, including the location of current infrastructure and the data suggesting in which places and products and for which customers competition is more likely present and for which it is more likely to be not present.  Based on this analysis, the Commission proposes to identify competitive markets as those in which material competitive effects are present;
  • Identifies and seeks comment on a set of de-regulatory measures in competitive markets, maintaining minimal oversight to ensure that the provision of telecommunications services is just and reasonable;
  • Seeks comment on requiring that companies be free from non-disclosure agreements that would prevent them from providing information to the Commission;
  • Identifies and seeks comment on a tailored set of rules to safeguard customers in non-competitive markets, including the use of price regulation and the prohibition of certain tying arrangements that harm competition;
  • Seeks comment on the appropriate treatment under this framework of the three types of contractual terms identified in the Tariff Investigation Order, as well as other contractual terms and conditions that have been subject to public comment;
  • Seeks comment on a proposal that tariffs should not be used in the future as part of the regulation of broadband data service in either competitive or non-competitive markets;
  • Seeks comment on a proposed future periodic data collection of a kind that will allow the Commission to update periodically its identification of competitive and non-competitive markets; and
  • In order that the new regulatory framework be applied in a technology-neutral manner, seeks comment on a proposal to eliminate the current exemption for certain Verizon services from the basic provisions of the Act governing just and reasonable offerings of telecommunications services.

See also