Jonathan Spalter

USTelecom to FCC: Keep the Pedal on Network Modernization

The path to world-class broadband connectivity runs through network modernization, infrastructure investment and innovation. Which is why it is a good thing that eliminating outdated regulations to promote investment in next generation networks is at the top of the FCC’s agenda.

And, the results are significant – increases in infrastructure investment with capex spending up by approximately $3 billion in 2018 and continued pro-consumer innovation as the race to 5G takes off.

To fuel this momentum, USTelecom filed a Petition last May asking the Commission to do away with outdated network unbundling and resale requirements that only apply to incumbent telcos.

The proposition is simple – maintaining a regime that imposes special (and exclusive) burdens on providers that hold a small and shrinking share of the market distorts competition and harms consumers by slowing the transition to modern networks.

Luckily for consumers, businesses and the economy, the Commission recognizes the benefits of deregulation in a competitive market and is not taking its foot off the gas. The agency is on the cusp of significant additional network modernization reforms at its July 10 Open Meeting where it is poised to adopt an order deregulating the business data services (BDS) transport market nationwide for incumbent carriers and grant USTelecom’s request for forbearance from network unbundling requirements for the same facilities.

This decision comes on the heels of the Commission’s April order eliminating a series of outdated regulations and reporting requirements as requested by USTelecom. The Commission is expected to take additional deregulatory measures later this month in response to the remaining issues raised in USTelecom’s Forbearance Petition concerning voice unbundling and resale requirements.

In 2019, competition is the rule, not the exception. Enforcing rules based on an outdated, and factually disproven, notion that incumbent providers have an inherent marketplace advantage, is no longer justified. USTelecom has been pleased to support the Chairman’s 5G Fast Plan designed to “moderniz[e] outdated regulations” and “make it easier for companies to invest in next-generation networks and services instead of the fading networks of the past.” Taken together, the Commission’s actions granting significant portions of USTelecom’s Petition support the agency’s agenda to advance 5G and the transition to modern networks.

The Commission’s forbearance actions to date are exactly what Congress had in mind when it articulated in the 1996 Telecom Act that the FCC “shall forebear” from the enforcement of rules and regulations rendered unnecessary by the emergence of competition. That competition has arrived, and, as Chairman Pai has correctly noted, “the government can’t manufacture competition through unbundling.”

USTelecom looks forward to working with the Commission to advance elements of our Petition that the agency has not yet acted on, including through a rulemaking process or other procedural mechanisms in the coming months. The progress to date has been substantial and meaningful for our nation’s consumers and innovators alike, but there is more work ahead to fully level the regulatory playing field and achieve a truly modern, thriving and fair communications marketplace. We stand ready to do our part.