The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has confirmed that it has eliminated a number of legacy unbundling and resale rules ‘where they stifle technology transitions and broadband deployment’. The rules date back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which required monopoly local telephone companies to make portions of their networks and services available to competitors at regulated rates. The watchdog notes that the Order (dated 27 October) builds upon previous action to adjust those rules to keep pace with advances in the marketplace since the passage of the 1996 Act, ‘as it has shifted from one dominated by monopoly incumbents to one characterised by vigorous, intermodal competition’.
The Order eliminates rules requiring unbundling of the following network elements, subject to certain conditions and multiyear transition periods:
· DS1 and DS3 Loops. These legacy last-mile lines are used primarily by business customers and are being replaced by higher speed, packet-based services sold by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), cable providers and other intermodal competitors. The Order ends these unbundling requirements in areas with sufficient evidence of competition but keeps them in place in areas that lack sufficient competition.
· DS0 Loops. These network elements are typically used to provide both voice and broadband service using various DSL technologies. The Order eliminates unbundling requirements for these loops in densely populated areas, which tend to have more competitive options, but preserves unbundling requirements for DS0 loops in less densely populated areas.
· Legacy Narrowband Voice-Grade Loops. These network elements are used to provide legacy voice service and have no broadband service capability. Given the shift away from legacy voice services to IP-and wireless-based voice services offered by multiple providers, the Order removes unbundling obligations for narrowband voice-grade loops nationwide.
· Dark Fibre Transport. These services provide a connection between phone companies’ local wire centres. The Order eliminates unbundling requirements for dark fibre transport originating or terminating from a wire centre within a half-mile of competitive fibre networks.
The Order also discontinues, subject to a three-year transition period, a requirement that ILECs make available for resale their retail legacy telecoms services at cost-based rates. These services are predominantly used by CLECs to provide legacy voice services to business and government customers.