Competitive service providers won a regulatory round yesterday, at least for five months anyway. Yesterday the FCC weighed in on AT&T’s proposed special access pricing changes, under which certain long term pricing discounts would be eliminated. In a document posted on the agency’s website, they said:
…we conclude that substantial questions of lawfulness of AT&T’s tariff revisions exist that require further investigation, and we suspend the tariff revisions for five months and institute an investigation.
The list of protesting companies included Cbeyond, Integra, Level 3, tw telecom, Consolidated Communications, Sprint, XO, and Windstream, all of whom must buy special access circuits from the incumbent when they need to reach beyond their own networks. AT&T argued that the changes were needed to help facilitate the move to all IP networks. Of course, the fact that necessary changes of this sort always wind up with the incumbent being able to charge more is completely accidental.
So it seems Tom Wheeler’s arrival as FCC chairman just might give the agency some teeth this winter when it comes to wireline competition. But pressure from the incumbents for a clearer regulatory path to an IP world will surely result in further scuffles of this sort. We’ll see how long it takes to wear them down.
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