Wheeler: FCC Will Protect Competition in All-IP Era

DALLAS -- Comptel Plus Fall 2014 -- The FCC will not allow the transition to an all-IP network to erode competition, Chairman Tom Wheeler promised the Comptel members assembled here today. But he also urged the telecom industry to work out the details of fair interconnection in the IP world on its own, to prevent the need for regulators to step in.

In a keynote speech here today, Wheeler -- who literally began and ended his talk by leading group cheers for "competition, competition, competition" -- promised that incumbents would not be allowed to erode the basis for competition in their transition to an all-IP world. "There has been competition before the transition and there will be competition after the transition," the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman said, to a loud round of applause. (See FCC VoIP Ruling Bound to Disappoint Someone.)

Chairman Leads the Cheers
Everybody join in now: competition, competition, competition
Everybody join in now: competition, competition, competition

Wheeler pointed to technical work underway in a task force put together by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and the SIP Forum to work out the details of network-to-network interconnection in the IP realm, and encouraged competitive and incumbent providers to work out the business arrangements in a similar time frame.

"The task force expects to produce results by early in the coming year, and we welcome and we support that effort," Wheeler said. "But the technical standards will be like trees falling in the forest if providers -- incumbents and competitors -- cannot agree on a business policy matter to interconnect on competitive terms."

Wheeler also garnered applause from the Incompas crowd for restating his firm belief that "Communications policy has always agreed on one important concept -- the exercise of uncontrolled last mile power is not in the public interest." He said proposals would be coming from the FCC on the future of the copper network, given its ubiquity and the way technologies such as G.fast are enabling existing copper to deliver near-gigabit speeds.

"In an evolving FTTx world, we need to consider just what the policy implications are where copper is being taken offline," Wheeler said. "Should competitors have the opportunity to buy the copper, so that valuable resource is not wasted? Where copper is not retired, how do we ensure it is maintained adequately?"

Want to know more about the changing IP world? Check out our dedicated New IP content channel here on Light Reading.

Wheeler also promised action on two other issues near and dear to the Comptel crowd of competitive service providers: The "lock-up" issue, which refers to long-term contracts used by incumbents to prevent customers from choosing competitors; and special access rates, which are the rates incumbents charge in reselling their last-mile connections.

In the latter case, the FCC is still collecting data and will make a decision in early 2015 whether to regulate the pricing of special access.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
KBode 10/8/2014 | 11:09:13 AM
Re: Missing something AT&T's version of the "IP transition" involves going state by state attempting to gut those very regulations. It's nice to see Wheeler say he's at least aware of this, as the concept of cable getting a competitive windfall from this migration hadn't been something I'd seem them talk about much thus far...
brooks7 10/8/2014 | 10:41:13 AM
Re: Missing something Kb.

Your scenario makes at least 1 assumption that is not true today but could be true tomorrow.  AT&T in your case is the Carrier of Last Resort (COLR).  They must provide a phone line to every home in their territory.  At least today, Wireless is NOT considered an equivalent.

KBode 10/8/2014 | 10:22:33 AM
Re: Missing something "I seem to be missing something here. Why should the transition to all-IP networks reduce competition?"


Example: a rural user in an area that has both AT&T DSL and Comcast cable suddenly sees an "IP transition," which in rural areas means AT&T pulls the copper plant entirely, and pushes those users on to LTE. That means a consumer that previously had the choice of two fixed-line options suddenly only has the choice of one.

Said user can either go  to Comcast cable, who now faced with less fixed-line competition than ever before will raise rates and provide even worse customer service, or they can transition to AT&T LTE services (if they can get it) and face low caps and high overages that make Netflix streaming financially unreasonable.
brooks7 10/7/2014 | 7:42:37 PM
Re: Missing something FTTP networks in the US are exempt from unbundling today.  Even if they use TDM Voice.


mhhf1ve 10/7/2014 | 3:36:50 PM
Re: Missing something Mitch, There is some concern about moving to all-IP because the old non-IP stuff is governed by rules that force the incumbents to share their networks with others (at [un]favorable pricing schemes, depending on how you look at it). If the incumbents are allowed to ditch all the old stuff, then they wouldn't necessarily have to share their equipment (if you agree with them that the FCC rules are *not* technology-agnostic). The FCC could make the rules more clear to explicitly make the regulations technology-agnostic like most CLECs would like, but.... that hasn't happened yet. 

So, basically, if the incumbents get it their way, a switch to all-IP would mean they get to control and own their own networks completely without having to share any of it... which would effectively reduce competition because not many other companies are going have or start building out new IP networks of their own.
Mitch Wagner 10/7/2014 | 11:10:25 AM
Missing something I seem to be missing something here. Why should the transition to all-IP networks reduce competition?
brooks7 10/7/2014 | 8:52:33 AM
Re: The Future of Copper mhhf1ve,

The only way to put bandwidth on copper is shortening loops and putting in more fiber.  This drives up the cost of the copper dramatically because the size of DSLAMs has to shrink.  

There is an optimal size of an apartment building of under 20 units that can work.  Otherwise you end up having to have more than 1 DSLAM/building to shorten loops.  Having been through that with VDSL & VDSL2 it ends up being not very useful.  Verizon eventually just ran fiber to every apartment as it was easier and cheaper.

In single family home construction, FTTC has been an overwhelming failure as a deployment method.  The reasons all have to do with power.  The Reltec/Marconi team that did Vegas and BellSouth powered the FTTC ONU from an upstream cabinet.  NLC used to do local poewring and it had few deployments.  In Phoenix, the US West guy in charge of that NLC deployment said he needed to get 1,400 permits and AC drops.  Imagine the battery maintenance for that.

So, there is this small niche where new Copper tech can work.  Other than that, Copper is dead.

mhhf1ve 10/6/2014 | 10:29:12 PM
The Future of Copper It will be interesting to see what happens to the fate of copper. It seems like the mainstream media is focused mostly on fiber, but the utility of copper isn't quite at its end yet. Hopefully, copper thieves haven't made off with valuable infrastructure that could be rejuvenated with some newer tech.... 
Sign In