The carrier hopes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon decide that RBOCs, not just cable operators, are exempt from sharing their broadband facilities with CLECs and competing ISPs.
BellSouth filed a letter to the FCC on Thursday encouraging the regulator to stick with its fiber-friendly rulings made in 2004. In the letter, BellSouth said it had increased fiber investment dramatically as a result of the FCC's 2004 order to allow RBOCs to build their fiber networks without having to share those networks with competitors.
BellSouth says the timing of its June 30 letter had nothing to do with the Supreme Court's Brand X decision, which stated that cable companies didn't have to share their networks, a possible precursor to telco deregulation. “Serendipity,” says BellSouth regulatory affairs spokesman Bill McCloskey. “There was a docket open at the commission, and yesterday was the comment deadline.”
BellSouth’s gesture is most likely aimed at prodding the FCC to give the RBOCs the same facility-sharing exemption the Brand X decision granted the cable broadband operators (see BellSouth Applauds FCC Order).
“We have hopes based on comments by Kevin Martin in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that he now wants to get the commission rolling on equalizing the regulation between cable companies and ILECs,” McCloskey says. “The commission had a lot of things in the pipelines, and we hope that the Brand X decision will break that log jam.”
McCloskey cites BellSouth’s rollout numbers and projections to demonstrate that the RBOC's fiber deployments did increase after the FCC’s “fiber to the curb” ruling in October 2004. In that ruling, the commission says that fiber-to-the-curb is “functionally equivalent” to fiber-to-the-home.
According to BellSouth's internal numbers, the RBOC passed 97,000 new, or “greenfield,” homes in 2003 and 126,000 during 2004 (see BellSouth Picks Alcatel, Redback). The RBOC says it will pass 200,000 new homes by the end of this year, the increase being the result of the FCC’s FTTC ruling.
Skeptics say BellSouth's capital spending on infrastructure buildout is based more on competitive forces than on regulation. But regulation was definitely a player in the carrier's PR efforts on Thursday.
But what does the Brand X case have to do with the FCC's view on telco deregulation? The Brand X decision gives operators assurance that the FCC’s views about broadband won’t soon be overridden by a court. “It made it more clear to us that we could do this without having to go to the additional expense of sharing it with our competitors,” McCloskey says. "It just cleared the path."
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading
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