AT&T decries Wheeler's special access proposal, says it will inhibit broadband investment

AT&T (NYSE: T) has wasted no time responding to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's call to revamp the way special access data services are regulated, arguing that new rules will stifle investment.

Jim Cicconi, senior EVP for external and legislative affairs at AT&T, said in a blog post that developing a new special access pricing regime will have negative consequences for all service providers that want to expand services to new markets. 

"We agree that incremental investment in broadband facilities for 5G and in rural areas is essential," Cicconi said. "But imposing regulation on special access prices and contract terms is not going to produce it. In fact, the entire notion that more layers of FCC regulation will yield more broadband investment is absurd on its face, and proves that this FCC remains 'an economics-free zone.'"

Cicconi added that "The Commission's proposals will instead lead to far less investment in broadband infrastructure -- especially in rural areas -- the very opposite of where we should be going as a nation."

Wheeler laid out his draft Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) proposal in a blog post, and he reemphasized it during a speech he gave during this week's Incompas trade show in Washington, D.C.

Wheeler proposed four key tenets: identifying competitive markets, a technology-neutral approach, encouraging transitions from TDM to IP, and addressing current, future transitions.

Additionally, the FRNPM also seeks comment from all interested parties about how best to determine where competition does and does not exist. That includes competition among products, the supply and ability to supply BDS in specific geographies, and the needs of different classes of customers.

Wheeler has set a goal to have the FCC adopt a final order this year. However, getting to that point will likely be fraught with debate between other commissioners and face legal challenges from not only AT&T, but also other ILECs like CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Frontier.

Interestingly, Wheeler's proposal came out just as AT&T's fellow ILEC Verizon and industry advocacy group Incompas developed a similar proposal to regulate special access services.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Incompas called for a technology-neutral regulatory regime for special access while advocating compliance with Title II of the Communications Act.

The FCC will review the special access FRNPM and other issues during its April monthly meeting.

Related articles:
Sprint says ILEC control over special access cost U.S. economy $150B over five years
Verizon, Incompas call truce in special access regulation war
Sprint disses ILECs' inflated special access costs as FCC completes comment period
USTelecom touts study saying special access regulations will stifle broadband growth
CFA says incumbents hold on special access market cost consumers, U.S. economy $150B since 2010