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Wheeler: FCC Will Protect Competition in All-IP Era

FCC chair promises Comptel crowd that interconnection won't be a victim of the move to all-IP, but urges an industry solution first.

October 6, 2014

3 Min Read
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.)

Figure 1: 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

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