A vibrant, innovative, and competitive business broadband market depends on a functioning wholesale market for the connections to businesses. The legacy monopoly phone providers control the only connection to the vast majority of buildings in America. Business customers will only have a choice of broadband providers in locations where competitive access to those connections is preserved. Ensuring technology neutral access to these connections will accelerate American global competitiveness.
Broadband is an indispensable component of the U.S. economy. Unlike residential broadband, where there are generally two physical connections to the end user (cable and phone), the vast majority of business locations in the U.S. are linked by only one physical connection controlled by the legacy monopoly phone provider (also known as the incumbent local exchange carrier). For a business customer to have a choice of broadband providers, it must be able to access this physical connection to link to another network. Absent that access, broadband competition and innovation for U.S. businesses will evaporate.
In an effort to introduce competition in the local phone market, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, an amendment to the Communications Act (“the Act”). This law removed the legacy monopoly chokehold on the local network, spurring the growth of competition and deployment of innovative services -- largely by creating a model for wholesale access. Today, the wholesale model includes two buying arrangements for access to the connection into business locations: special access and unbundled network elements.
Since the passage of the ‘96 Act, competitive providers have sought to ensure that wholesale framework is preserved for all buying arrangements regardless of the underlying technology, while legacy monopoly providers have sought to eliminate the very rules that gave rise to competitive alternatives in the first place. Competitive providers have in turn pressed the FCC to update where necessary, the existing rules to accommodate an evolving technological environment driven by competition, not in spite of it.
With broadband being critical to the global competitiveness of American businesses, and in order to produce the affordable and innovative services these businesses demand, preservation of competition is paramount. For many business locations it is not economically feasible for multiple carriers to construct duplicate connections to the premises, which makes wholesale network access crucial to the availability of competitive broadband products for businesses across the country.
The FCC must enforce the requirements of the Act to ensure that wholesale last mile connections to businesses are available on a technology-neutral basis.