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FCC Focuses on DSL Classification

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/28/2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a breakfast meeting presented by the Alliance for Public Technology and the High Tech Broadband Coalition today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Kathleen Abernathy told a packed room of service providers and policy makers that the Commission is moving quickly to clarify federal regulation of broadband.

“In order for companies in the broadband industry to grow and flourish, there needs to be regulatory certainty,” she said. “Without it, competition will flounder. But the steps necessary to bring clarity and stability are harder than one might think.”

In her speech, Abernathy outlined the three main regulatory areas. While she did not make specific reference to what she thought the outcome of these efforts would be, she did emphasize what she believes is the most important issue facing the FCC right now: the classification of broadband services. “You need to know which bucket something goes into before you can start applying rules to it. And that’s what we are trying to do.”

Classifying broadband is key to determining whether or not it is to be regulated as are voice services. Earlier this year, the Commission claimed authority over cable-modem service and determined it should be classified as an information service and not a telecom service (see FCC Claims Authority on Cable Modem). In May, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of incumbent carriers, easing unbundling requirements and requiring the FCC to come up with clearer policy (see RBOCs Ring Up Court Victory). These recent events show the regulatory momentum going against competitive broadband carriers that are looking for access to incumbent networks.

While the classification of cable modems is set, the classification of DSL is still under consideration. It is currently classified under the 1996 Telecommunications Act as a Title 2 service or a telecommunications service, which means that it is subject to the stringent regulations the FCC has imposed on other wireline services like telephony. But the incumbent carriers, or RBOCs, have lobbied hard to make sure that DSL, like cable modem, is also classified as an information service. This way, they would not be regulated in the same way as telephony. In a tentative decision by the FCC, the Commission has stated that it also believes it should be classified as an information service. An official decision is expected by the end of this year.

Abernathy told the crowd at the meeting that the Commission will base its decision on the DSL classification on the same criteria it used to determine that cable modems should be considered a Title 1 or an information service.

Several experts who spoke during the panel discussion applauded Abernathy's efforts for trying to bring some certainty to the broadband market.

“Her comments give me hope,” said Allen S. Hammond, professor of Law at the Santa Clara University School of Law. “I’m happy to hear that the Commission is working toward creating more certainty in the regulatory environment. Without regulatory certainty, there are no deployments. And without deployments, you don’t get universal access to the technology. And without that, the digital divide still exists.”

But others in the audience were not so thrilled by what they perceive as Abernathy’s bent toward deregulation. Jason Oxman, vice president and assistant general counsel for Covad Communications Inc. (OTC: COVD), the only nationwide DSL competitor still operating, said the FCC’s reclassification of these technologies is unnecessary. He said the Commission could simply change outdated rules while leaving the classification of DSL technology alone.

“It’s nonsensical and unnecessary to reclassify DSL,” he said. “The Commission could get the same effect by changing rules. I don’t think they have thought through all the implications.”

Oxman accused the FCC of bowing to RBOC rhetoric. He further stated that reclassifying DSL as an information service will not only relieve incumbents from their unbundling obligations, but will also exempt DSL providers from adhering to emergency communication rules important to the Department of Defense. It could also impede the Department of Justice’s ability to monitor illegal activity using broadband services and would exempt DSL providers of following regulations established to protect disabled persons.

The other two areas of regulation being considered by the FCC right now include the definition of dominant and non-dominant players in different market segments. By defining a carrier as a dominant or non-dominant player, the FCC can determine which of the FCC rules apply to which carrier. This concept was established when the AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) monopoly was broken up. Back then, when the competitive long distance market was established, MCI (Nasdaq: MCIT) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) were considered non-dominant players and were therefore not subject to all of the stringent rules to which AT&T was subject. The determining factor in this issue is whether or not the carrier has enough market share to control prices in a given region.

Another major area of consideration is the triennial review of FCC rules. The most hotly contested rule making has to do with line-sharing and unbundling requirements of incumbent carriers. The FCC lost a recent case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in which District Court Justices said the FCC had gone too far in interpreting the 1996 Telecom Act when it outlined which elements of an incumbent carrier’s network should be unbundled. Although the Commission has not officially announced that it will appeal the decision, sources close to the FCC say that the Commission should file an appeal on or before the July 8th deadline.

Abernathy made reference to the decision in her speech today, “It seems clear that the unbundling issue is very complex, but that is not an excuse for a delay in reevaluating these rules. The Commission needs to continue to move forward regardless of Appellate decisions.”

But the truth of the matter is that the outcome of these other issues holds little meaning without first knowing how DSL will be classified.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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BobbyMax
BobbyMax
12/4/2012 | 10:11:24 PM
re: FCC Focuses on DSL Classification
Both DSL and Cable Modem have suffered enormously because of the intervention of FCC. FCC has not contributed any thing to the growth of broadband business.

FCC never tried to regulate ISP service providers.

FCC has been sleeping and has not issued any rules regulations regarding corruption in the US high tech industry
willywilson
willywilson
12/4/2012 | 10:11:22 PM
re: FCC Focuses on DSL Classification
Jason Oxman, vice president and assistant general counsel for Covad Communications Inc. (OTC: COVD - message board), the only nationwide DSL competitor still operating, said the FCCGs reclassification of these technologies is unnecessary. He said the Commission could simply change outdated rules while leaving the classification of DSL technology alone.

GǣItGs nonsensical and unnecessary to reclassify DSL,Gǥ he said. GǣThe Commission could get the same effect by changing rules. I donGt think they have thought through all the implications.Gǥ

Oxman accused the FCC of bowing to RBOC rhetoric. He further stated that reclassifying DSL as an information service will not only relieve incumbents from their unbundling obligations, but will also exempt DSL providers from adhering to emergency communication rules important to the Department of Defense. It could also impede the Department of JusticeGs ability to monitor illegal activity using broadband services and would exempt DSL providers of following regulations established to protect disabled persons.

----------

It might help if the FCC, Light Reading and any other interested parties would actually bother to gain some ground-level understanding of the things they discuss. Let's start with "DSL," i.e., "Digital Subscriber Line."

DSL is not a technology, and it's not service. It's a label attached by promoters, referring to a bunch of transmission line codes. DSL includes T-carrier, 2B1Q (implmented as Basic Rate ISDN, HDSL and SDSL), TC-PAM, CAP, QAM and DMT. The line code is Layer 1, i.e. physical layer. It determines only the transport of the signal.

The service is defined by higher layers. Therefore, ALL copper T-1 services are delivered by "DSL." Covad doesn't offer "DSL" service, it offers a variety of services delivered using one or another line code that has generally been described with the term "DSL."

The "deregulation," i.e., removal of monopoly-restraining rules, from "DSL" will mean the end of competition in T-1 and fractional T-1, whether it's data or voice. Or, to the idiots who think it's beneath them to think accurately, the removal of competition in the use of telephone lines to offer high-speed connections to businesses and homes.

The RBOCs couldn't give a rat's ass about residential. What they want to do is end competition in the business T-1 market. If the FCC and the trade journals can't even understand the difference between transport technology and the service that's delivered, they and the Cisco/Kleiner Perkins cabal will get away with ending the possibility of any telephone competition.

But then again, I guess everyone is paying so much attention to the big picture that they feel no real need to understand how the shit works. This certainly applies to Covad, which deployed the wrong equipment and the wrong line code and as a result went straight down the tubes until they were rescued by none other than SBC.

This is an I.Q. test, children, and America is flunking.
rjmcmahon
rjmcmahon
12/4/2012 | 10:11:18 PM
re: FCC Focuses on DSL Classification
This is an I.Q. test, children, and America is flunking.
___________

Willy; It looks you have the IQ lead on this issue. The following quote raised a red flag to me.

"FCC commissioner Kathleen Abernathy... 'In order for companies in the broadband industry to grow and flourish, there needs to be regulatory certainty,' she said."

A wise person taught me that "regulatory certainity" means a certainity that the public will be taken advantage of.

It looks like the RRs are consolidating and preparing to go after all content producers. Shame on us for letting this happen.

PS. Let me know when you ready to start raising some muni-bonds. The public will have to join in if a true market is ever going to be developed.
willywilson
willywilson
12/4/2012 | 10:11:16 PM
re: FCC Focuses on DSL Classification
Let me know when you ready to start raising some muni-bonds. The public will have to join in if a true market is ever going to be developed

-------

Hell will freeze over before you get me on board to pick the public pockets a second time.
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