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US Telecom Lobbying Group Targets FCC on Investment Plans

May 27, 2016





It's hard to feel bad for United States telecom operations. Many of them enjoy a kind of monopoly status by fiat in certain areas, and make massive amounts of money annually despite being some of the most hated organizations around. Despite this, a report from The Register (News - Alert) noted how lobbying group US Telecom recently took the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to task over plans to make a change that US Telecom believes will hamper future investment in infrastructure.

A recent blog post from US Telecom's vice president of law and policy, Diane Holland, suggests that the FCC as exemplified by current chair Tom Wheeler (News - Alert) just isn't making investment worthwhile, thanks to an unlikely culprit. Specifically, proposed rule changes to “business data services,” otherwise known as “backhaul,” or the connections that run from mobile phones to the wider overall network.

The FCC (News - Alert) has recently noted suspicions that backhaul is being used as a profit vector for mobile service providers, because without proper backhaul, the voice and data traffic on a mobile device would slow to catastrophically slow speeds. So the FCC is considering some review and rule changes, a process that isn't well-received at the mobile service provider levels. Here, as noted in Holland's blog post, competition is good, but what the FCC thinks is competition isn't really what competition is. Rule changes, Holland suggests, would fundamentally hamper the ability of communications service providers to invest in broadband infrastructure, noting that “only facilities-based competition is real, sustainable competition.”

The FCC, meanwhile, counters that its proposal would allow other companies to build out infrastructure, a measure that Holland suggests would actually be “unsustainable long term.” The FCC wants to require current infrastructure holders to lease out current facilities, a move which US Telecom (News - Alert) believes would ultimately remove incentive to invest in new facilities.

It is at this point that I would ask US Telecom to clarify: if this new measure would remove incentive to invest, then there must be incentive to invest already in place. That's the definition of the word “remove”; it has to be already there for it to be removed. Since the incentive is already in place, then why is the United States so far behind the curve when it comes to broadband deployment already? So how much more “incentive” is needed to get us to a point where we can watch Netflix without squinting carefully at every single byte of data that comes across our lines?

Holland's complaints will likely fall on deaf ears in the public, which is tired of Internet service provider (ISP) complaints in a field where service is often poor and customer service even worse. Just ask Ryan Block on that one. The FCC has a tough job on this front, and may need some wholly different solutions to get us all to where we want to be


Edited by Maurice Nagle
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