Current proposal risks the expansion of high-speed broadband networks
Democratic officials from across the country are cautioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that a failure to recognize markets where new competitors have begun offering business data services (BDS) risks the expansion of high-speed broadband networks, particularly in rural markets.
Similarly, FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler’s recently circulated proposal to regulate BDS has been criticized by business broadband providers for ignoring facts entered into the record that demonstrate significant competition in individual markets, despite the statements Wheeler made in testimony before Congress to take all available data on competition into consideration.
The latest comments come in three new filings with the FCC: one from five U.S. senators, another from the governor of Delaware and the last from two U.S. congressmen.
According to the letter addressed to Chairman Wheeler by the five senators, “the policies adopted in the rulemaking must take great care in how it may affect rural areas to make sure it does not deter investments” in broadband infrastructure, particularly as it relates to rural America.
“As the Commission completes its rulemaking, we believe a successful policy should recognize and encourage competition where it has developed among BDS providers, especially as additional providers have entered the market in the last couple years,” the letter continues. It was signed by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sen. Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
In his separate letter, Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE) said it is important for the FCC “to utilize accurate and comprehensive data regarding pricing and availability of broadband within a given geographic area to inform the rulemaking process and ensure that private investment in broadband infrastructure remains strong.
“The goal of limiting monopolistic practices is an important one, but it must be coupled with a smart strategy to properly identify when such conditions exist, and to encourage significant levels of additional investment in broadband technologies. To fail to do so risks a solution that is counterproductive to our shared mission of increased broadband access for our citizens,” Markell wrote.
Lastly, the letter from U.S. Rep. Bill Flores (D-TX) and U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) said a “failure to recognize the extent of competition will likely result in regulations that will deter incumbent, recent, and future providers from investing in BDS, harming providers and consumers alike.”
John Jones, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Relations for CenturyLink, a member of Invest in Broadband for America, said he and the other members of the coalition share the concerns raised in the new filings.
“It is incumbent upon the Commission to review all of the data that has been entered into the record,” Jones said. “If a rule is promulgated without consideration of the factual competitive landscape, then infrastructure investments, thousands of good jobs and real progress in expanding broadband to underserved communities are all in danger.”
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).