FCC Could Finalize Action Soon On Special Access Order, Sources Say

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By Paul Barbagallo  


The Federal Communications Commission could act on a proposed order setting forth new rules for so-called “special access” telecommunications services the week of Aug. 13, several sources with knowledge of the FCC chairman's office told BNA.

In many areas throughout the United States, only one telecom carrier maintains the high-capacity fiber-optic lines--what is known as special access lines--that provide huge volumes of phone and internet connections to businesses. For years, wireless carriers led by Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA Inc., and other smaller market players such as XO Communications and Level 3 Communications, have alleged that AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Qwest Corp. charge too much to lease capacity on their lines.

These smaller companies rely on special access connections to provide broadband services to business customers. The lines in question, also known as DS1s or DS3s, allow Sprint and other companies to backhaul their customers' voice and data traffic from a cell site to the communications network.

But AT&T and Verizon argue that their rates have actually decreased, and in some markets cable operators also offer such services.

The issue of whether the FCC should direct a lowering of special access rates has lingered for the past several years, with both supporters and opponents of agency action clamoring for more accurate data about the market.