AT&T asks FCC to lift ILEC rules discouraging broadband investment

Competitive carriers question AT&T's motives in pushing for FCC proceeding

AT&T (NYSE: T) is calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lift regulations that require incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to maintain legacy facilities and services after they have deployed IP-based networks.

The carrier is asking the FCC to open a proceeding to examine removal of the rules, which it claims discourage ILECs from investing in IP-based broadband networks.

In a filing with the agency, AT&T identified a number of rules that place "unique regulatory burdens" on ILECs as they transition from legacy time-division multiplexing (TDM) architecture to IP-based networks.

First, ILECs are subject to federal and state regulations that require them to maintain "redundant and costly TDM networks even after they have turned on replacement IP networks." Second, the FCC's treatment of ILECs as dominant providers in the broadband market is "irrational and counterproductive. It makes no sense to treat ILECs as dominant providers in an all-IP broadband marketplace that other providers currently lead," AT&T argued.

The U.S. carrier said an FCC proceeding "will enable the commission to facilitate an industry-wide dialog on the appropriate regulatory framework for the transition and to test that framework in geographically limited trial runs."

In a blog post, Bob Quinn, senior vice president for AT&T's federal regulatory group and chief privacy officer, said his firm is "asking for a proceeding and a beta trial to address all of the policy, technology, technical and operational questions that must be addressed to complete the transition away from the legacy TDM infrastructure that has served us so well for the past 50 years."

Not everyone supports AT&T's effort to lift the ILEC rules. The Broadband Coalition, made up of competitive carriers, said AT&T's argument that "it needs regulatory intervention from the FCC in order to invest in IP technology is a re-run of a tired ploy to leverage the company's dominance… if AT&T gets its way, competition will largely disappear, investments will dry up and consumers will suffer."

The disputes between ILECs and competitive carriers have been going on ever since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed. IP-based broadband is simply the newest battleground.

For more:
- see the AT&T filing with the FCC
- read Quinn's blog
- check out the Broadband Coalition's response

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