More mindful of what he can accomplish before leaving the Commission, Chairman Tom Wheeler has circulated to his colleagues a scaled-back plan to reform regulation of Business Data Services (BDS). The agency calls BDS a $45 billion annual market; It includes companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink.
BDS includes carrying voice and data from cell towers (backhaul) to banks’ connections to ATMs and credit card readers, or hospitals and schools’ networks. Wheeler has said competition in BDS is essential to the 5G rollout.
His approach to updating the regulations can apply to rate-regulated incumbents, competitive carriers and new entrants like cable broadband providers, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The tech neutral language is meant to spur competition, which could include price regulation on cable service for example, if the agency determines that segment doesn’t face enough competition.
Sprint praised the proposal, stating high-capacity broadband “has suffered from a lack of competition, costing the American economy billions and slowing investments in next generation broadband technologies.” The proposal takes “an important step” to reform “this broken market.”
Verizon, too, praised the revision, noting it includes elements the carrier proposed, “creating a consistent framework that applies to all competing providers and services.”
Cable ISPs were less than thrilled, as was AT&T, according to the account. The plan “is little more than a wealth transfer to companies that have chosen not to invest in last mile fiber infrastructure,” said the company in a statement. “It will result in less fiber investment and contribute to mounting job losses at a time when our country needs just the opposite.”
Frontier Communications also opposed the new version. CEO Dan McCarthy stated: “Frontier continues to oppose these rigid rate changes mandated for all carriers without regard to the resulting impact on smaller price-cap carriers.” He says the company projects that such reductions (if implemented next July 1) would have a revenue impact of $10 million in 2017, and $20 million in 2018 and 2019.