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FCC Again Imposes Fines Against SBC

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission fined one of the largest telephone companies in the U.S. for, among other things, its continued violation of federal merger guidelines.

In the past several months, regulators have fined SBC Communications $354,000 for failing to meet the guidelines imposed by its merger with former Baby Bell Ameritech; namely, responding and publicizing the availability of its colocation facilities and line-sharing requirements.

Monday's $84,000 fine stems from the carrier's inability to post availability information pertaining to its collocation facilities. The carrier has 10 days to post on its Web site the "no vacancy" of its collocation space. Collocation facilities are used by competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) to install networking equipment of its own to service customers.

When SBC and Ameritech joined forces in 1999, the FCC mandated a certain level of responsiveness to meeting competitor demands for facilities and services. Since that time, regulators have had problems getting SBC to comply with measures.

Throughout 2001 and into 2002, the FCC has proposed and imposed fines on the carrier to the tune of millions of dollars. Regulators say despite SBC's claims of "near-perfect" compliance to conditions, nearly 20 percent of its reported data (which FCC staffers review monthly) is flawed.

The report found SBC had "willfully, substantially and repeatedly failed to comply with merger conditions."

Since October of 2001, the FCC has proposed more than $8.5 million in fines against SBC, though the telephone company has time to respond with a defense. The latest was a $6 million fine for failing to institute universal rates for unbundled network elements (UNE).

As part of the merger condition, SBC agreed UNE prices for CLECs in Ameritech's coverage area would be "at least" as favorable as the UNE fees imposed in SBC home state of Texas.