Sprint has issued one of the most recent salvos critiquing the FCC’s efforts to reform regulation of Business Data Services just ahead of an FCC vote on the measure scheduled for next week.
In an ex parte filing this week, Sprint slammed the assumptions and decisions made in the draft order as arbitrary and unsupported by facts.
“The record demonstrates that there is inadequate competition for BDS, especially at DS1- and DS3-level capacities, and that the draft order’s reliance on the expectation that ubiquitous competition will one day develop, even for lower bandwidth and lower revenue services, is unwarranted,” Sprint Counsel Paul Margie wrote. “We also discussed that the draft order’s decision to deregulate transport services, and its competitive market test, were unsupported by the record, arbitrary, and a surprise to interested parties that relied on the Further Notice in this proceeding when preparing submissions to the record and economic analyses.”
Sprint’s comments came as part of an extended, and oftentimes heated, discussion around the Commission’s efforts to reform BDS regs.
Introduced in April 2016, the FCC’s draft order aims to end the traditional use of tariffs for BDS services and toss the traditional classification of “dominant” and “nondominant” carriers. The old structure would be replaced by a new, technology-neutral framework that relies on a “Competitive Market Test” to determine the level of competition in each market. Markets deemed “competitive” would be subject to “minimal” regulatory oversight, while the Commission would step in to help along “non-competitive” markets with tools like price caps.
Thus far, the measure has been a contentious one, sparking pushback from cable and telecom players like the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association and Centurylink, who have warned the new regulations will result in less – not more – fiber deployments for 5G backhaul and harm broadband innovation. Network trade association INCOMPAS, however, has cheered the proposal as a way to address what it called a lack of competition in the BDS market. Other telcos, like Sprint, have hammered home the idea that the FCC’s conclusions need to be based on accurate and up-to-date data.
More recently, though, AT&T and Verizon seem to have come around to the order, with the former expressing its “general support” for the regime outlined in the draft in its most recent ex parte filing.
The Order has also been a source of internal disputes at the FCC.
When it was first introduced last year, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blasted it, saying “practically nothing in it makes any sense.”
“I cannot support the Notice’s sentence-first, verdict-afterward nonsense,” Pai wrote in his dissent.
But the item is now on the docket for the Commission’s April 20 meeting, and Pai is drawing fire from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who supported the Order despite concerns about its complexity. In a statement earlier this week, Clyburn criticized Pai’s decision to withhold an appendix listing of which counties are deemed competitive until after the item is voted on.
“Chairman Pai has been a champion of transparency. It is puzzling, then, why he will release the text of the item, but omit a key appendix listing which counties are deemed competitive, until the Order is released. We have the information. It will become public when the Order is released. So why is it that the FCC has taken the position that it will vote on an Order before the public gets to see exactly what the Order does? Just what are we trying to hide,” Mignon commented. “The FCC should release this list immediately. This is the only way the public can truly evaluate the practical effects of the FCC’s proposed actions. If for some reason, that is unknown to me at this time, we cannot release this list expeditiously, we should delay our vote on the proposed Order until the public can see it ‘well in advance’ of an FCC vote.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations