Mar 10, 2015
Moving Competition Forward With Technology Transitions
By Eric N. Einhorn, Windstream Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
Yesterday Windstream submitted reply comments to the FCC on two proceedings with high stakes for competition in the enterprise communications sector: (1) the FCC's Technology Transitions Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and (2) Windstream's Petition for Declaratory Ruling regarding incumbent carriers' obligations to provide access to unbundled high-capacity loops. These proceedings will have a significant impact on viability of competition to serve non-profits, government agencies, and businesses, which drives the affordability and innovativeness of the services they can receive. Technology transitions hold great promise for enhancing services and lowering prices for business service consumers of all types and sizes, but those transitions must not be used as an excuse to knock most of those consumers back to a time of one monopoly provider.
Having obtained deregulation for Ethernet services through regulatory forbearance on the condition that they continue to offer tariffed DS1 and DS3 special access services and unbundled loops, the large incumbent carriers now seek to strip retail business service consumers and wholesale purchasers of these alternate means of regulated last-mile connectivity while retaining Ethernet forbearance. Effectively the large incumbents' plans would unilaterally expand the scope of the prior forbearance orders without a competitive evaluation to justify a substantial departure from the status quo.
While competitive carriers like Windstream are investing heavily in fiber networks, competitors still require access to incumbent facilities in the last mile, where overbuilding usually is uneconomic. This is because -- as the FCC has repeatedly reaffirmed -- the fundamental economics of network construction have not changed. If permitted to evade existing access requirements via a technology transition, incumbent carriers would obtain unfettered power to impose significant price increases for both wholesale and retail last-mile connections.
It thus is not surprising that proposals to require incumbent carriers to provide at least equivalent services and unbundled loops on equivalent rates, terms, and conditions received support from a wide variety of commenters representing business and government customers, state utilities regulators, public interest groups, and competitive carriers. Windstream's reply comments express agreement with these parties' filings, and rebut the large incumbents' arguments in support of their plans to use the technology transitions as an excuse for charging higher prices and restricting competitive choice.
CLEC offerings, which provide the greatest source of competition to the incumbents for serving small and medium-sized customers (especially those with more than one location), drive down prices and drive forward innovation and investment. As Chairman Wheeler put it at the COMPTEL show in October, “[W]hen CLECs offer competitive services, it creates an incentive for incumbents to invest more in their networks and offer better services to win their share of business customers.” Access to the last mile enables CLECs to formulate a viable business case for these fiber investments in other portions of the network and to compete. Chairman Wheeler calls this the “virtuous cycle of network innovation.” That’s good for consumers and good for our economy.
Note: For your convenience here is the Windstream Petition and Windstream's Comments in the NPRM proceeding