America’s broadband future relies on a vital, competitive wholesale market for business broadband services. The FCC should complete the Business Broadband proceeding to ensure innovative and competitive broadband services are available to U.S. businesses.
Businesses operating in the U.S. are critically dependent on high-quality, cost-effective broadband service. Such service will not be available where the legacy monopoly providers (also known as incumbent local exchange carriers) have monopoly control over access to business locations. Only competition among multiple business broadband providers will yield the high-quality, competitively priced and innovative broadband services that businesses demand. The bipartisan Telecommunications Act of 1996 amended the Communications Act to require legacy monopoly providers to open their local exchange market to competition and make parts of the landline network available to competitors on a wholesale basis because it is not economical for competitors to duplicate each of those connections. One critical part of the network that must be made available on a wholesale basis is the part that connects into the actual location of a business, commonly referred to as “last mile” access.
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan (“NBP”), released in March 2010, addressed issues and highlighted proposals associated with wholesale options available for delivery of “last mile” access and the deployment of broadband to businesses, in particular small businesses (see Chapter 4, Section 4.7). The proposals addressed three wholesale arrangements that impact last mile customer connections: 1) preservation of copper infrastructure ; 2) access to Section 271 Network Elements ; and 3) access to packetized last mile connections. The NBP called for the FCC to release a Public Notice in Q2 2010 and a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) in Q4 2010 to address the business broadband market and wholesale competition. The FCC’s Public Notice was issued on September 15, 2010 – later than called for by the NBP. The resulting proceeding is what is commonly referred to as the Business Broadband Proceeding (WC Docket No. 10-188). Industry comments were filed during the fourth quarter of 2010; however, the FCC has delayed the timeline of its review of the business broadband market, as the next phase of this proceeding has not been initiated.
Completion of the Business Broadband Proceeding is critical to achieving the goal of promoting broadband delivery to U.S. businesses. In this era of aggressive global competition, the FCC should put the highest priority on initiatives and proposals to bolster American productivity and job creation -- especially our growth engine: small businesses -- through policies that increase investment and innovation in this sector.