FCC chair touts competition in last mile, copper, and VoIP interconnection

Promoting competition is a key goal of the Federal Communications Commission, according to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in an address to members of COMPTEL, an industry association representing competitive broadband, voice, video, and data communications service providers and their suppliers.

Speaking October 6 at the COMPTEL Fall Convention & Expo in Dallas, he said that “…where competition exists, the Commission will protect it. Likewise, where it can be made more vibrant, it should be incented.”

COMPTEL members, he said, now provide competitive alternatives to business and enterprise customers who in turn can provide better and more affordable goods and services to the general public.

He then turned to the future of competition and what he called the Network Compact, which includes expectations that consumers and businesses bring to their relationships with network providers. “They include access, interconnection, public safety, consumer protection, and national security,” he said. “They must be protected.”

He cited three areas of concern: access to last-mile facilities, the future of copper networks, and VoIP interconnection.

“Communication polity has always agreed on one important concept,” he said. “The exercise of uncontrolled last-mile power is in not in the public interest. This has not changed as a result of new technology.”

The FCC, he said, has launched a data-collection process to facilitate market analysis of last-mile services.

He then noted that even in a high-speed fiber-driven world, copper pair often remains the last leg of delivery. “Technological advances,” he said, “are making DSL a powerful means of supplying broadband in some places for some purposes, at a fraction of the cost, and the ubiquity of copper creates competitive opportunity.” A European provider using the G.fast standard, he said, has delivered nearly 800 Mb/s over 19-meter distances. “I look forward to seeing what U.S. providers are able to do,” he said.

He asked, “When copper is taken offline, should competitors have the opportunity to buy the copper so that a valuable resource is not wasted? And where copper is not being retired, how do we ensure that it is being maintained adequately?”

Finally, he addressed VoIP rights and obligations. “Interconnection is one of the immutable values of the Network Compact,” he said. If incumbent and competitive providers cannot agree to interconnect on competitive terms, the FCC will step in.

“Losing the benefits of IP technology through needless TDM conversion is an annoyance today,” he said. “But when we move to an all-IP environment, an incumbent’s refusal to interconnect in IP will be a crisis for consumers and workers who find they simply can’t place calls to some of their friends, loved ones, business associates, and so on. That sort of inability to reack callers on other networks will take us back to the 19th century at a time when we should all be enjoying the benefits of the 21st.”

You can read his complete remarks here.

More in Home