The FCC got it right this week by continuing a Clinton administration policy that removes price regulation for so-called “special access” business services in markets where strong competition exists.
Specifically, by allowing several pending petitions to take effect yesterday, the Commission green lighted pricing flexibility for special access lines operated separately by AT&T and Windstream in several markets throughout the country.
“Special access” is the inside baseball phrase for the lines that link cell towers and business centers to main telecommunications lines. While only indirectly related to consumer services, enabling pricing flexibility for these services represents the kind of forward thinking required to reach President Obama’s goal of delivering high-speed broadband to almost every American home and business. In essence, the Commission ratified the Clinton Administration’s determination that competition, not government, is the best way to set prices. Opting for competition over government rules is a way to stimulate telecom companies to battle for customers by investing in better, more advanced technologies. In today’s marketplace, such investment almost automatically means high-speed lines for broadband services.
That’s exactly what President Obama had in mind in last year’s State of the Union address when he said:
“Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.”
The President’s aspirations for a truly digital nation should be the guiding light for the FCC as it moves forward, not just in special access, but in everything it does. In every decision, each Commissioner should ask: “will this action encourage investment in a digital America, or is it an old way of doing business that just gets in the way?”