Members urge the FCC to carefully measure existing competition in the market; warn of dangers to economic development, job creation in rulemaking
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are voicing concerns about the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed regulation of the business data services (BDS) market and its possible impact on consumers and small businesses.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, 16 CBC members urged the FCC commissioners to use “all available data to recognize and support competition where it has developed, especially as additional providers have entered the market in recent years.
“Millions of consumers depend daily on BDS when they use their smartphone, visit a major retailer, withdraw cash from an ATM machine, or start their workday online. It is an essential service for all communities that rely on a broadband connection to support their businesses and stay connected,” the CBC members wrote in the letter, which was signed by U.S. Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Alma S. Adams (D-NC), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Sanford D. Bishop (D-GA), Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MI) and Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL).
The CBC members’ concern about accurate measures of competition in the marketplace is warranted, said John Jones, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Relations for CenturyLink, a member of the Invest in Broadband for America coalition.
“If the Commission fails to appropriately consider all of the data available on existing competition for business data services, we will end up with regulation that has a detrimental effect on future competition and drive investment out of the market,” Jones said.
“And, continued investment in broadband expansion is critical to the survival and growth of business and job opportunities, especially in rural and other underserved areas,” Jones said. “Some proposals that have been filed with the FCC would severely limit providers’ ability to invest in these areas and our nation’s economy will suffer as a result.”
The FCC suggested its proposed rule in hopes of advancing competition in the business broadband market, in which companies provide dedicated connections to competitors who need to reach fiber networks to market competing telecom services, and to enterprises that buy service in bulk. However, some proposals currently being debated would have the opposite effect, severely limiting future investment and discouraging competition, according to a growing number of civil rights and labor organizations.
In addition to the CBC, civil rights groups including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Rainbow PUSH have expressed concerns over how the FCC’s BDS proposal would affect underserved communities. In recent weeks they've been joined by labor leaders at the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The CBC members’ letter concludes by urging the FCC to pursue “a BDS proceeding that will balance competing interest for the benefit of economic development, job growth, technological innovation and expanded consumer broadband adoption in our respective states.”
The "Invest in Broadband for America" coalition (investinbroadband.org) is made up of CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Cincinnati Bell, Inc. (NYSE: CBB), Consolidated Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSL), FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: FRP) and Frontier Communications (NASDAQ: FTR).