Telecom Carriers Call For Peer Review Of FCC’s Business Broadband Report

By CenturyLink

CenturyLink is one of the founding members of the "Invest in Broadband for America" coalition, which is working to push for the FCC to reconsider its business broadband proposal.

Carriers warn of “shortcuts toward a pre-determined outcome”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must, under federal statutes, submit for peer review a revised assessment of competition in the business data services (BDS) marketplace, according to six U.S. telecom carriers who last month filed a Motion to Strike an earlier version of the same report.

The revised report “raises significant new concerns,” the carriers say in a new filing with the FCC. The agency’s actions “reflect a desire to find shortcuts toward a pre-determined outcome rather than a neutral commitment to evaluate” competition in the BDS market, the filing says.

In June, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL), Cincinnati Bell, Inc. (NYSE: CBB), Consolidated Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSL), FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: FRP) and Frontier Communications (NASDAQ: FTR) filed a Motion to Strike the earlier report from the FCC’s hired economist. That motion was in response to acknowledgements by four of the largest cable providers that they had significantly undercounted the number of locations that are capable of providing business data services. The FCC based its May 2 further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) on the report, which the carriers described as “irretrievably flawed” in their motion.

According to the carriers, the revised report from the FCC’s hired economist states the agency’s analysis of competition in the BDS marketplace is “essentially unaffected by [cable providers’] updated submissions.” This conclusion comes despite the Commission’s longtime position that the installation of Metro Ethernet does in fact constitute cable providers as relevant BDS competition, according to the filing.

“Instead of conducting a thorough review to include an accounting of the cable industry’s participation in the business data services market,” said John Jones, CenturyLink Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Relations, “the FCC apparently is doubling down on their original flawed report.”

Jones said the FCC’s reliance on a non-peer reviewed revised report would violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and “exacerbate the Commission’s violation of the Data Quality Act (DQA).”

“Not only is this revised report inconsistent with proper rule-making procedures,” Jones said, “but by violating both APA and DQA, it would preclude reliance on either the original report or the revised analysis in any final order.

“The FCC should be commended for much of what they got right in the FNPRM,” he continued. “But they shouldn’t allow a rush to regulate prevent them from getting this critical data on competition right.”

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