Trade Group Urges Last Mile Deregulation

The High Tech Broadband Coalition (HTBC), an ad hoc alliance of trade associations of the computer, telecommunications equipment, semiconductor, consumer electronics, software and manufacturing sectors, has delivered a letter to all 22 members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation urging the senators’ support for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove “regulatory disincentives” to investment in new, last-mile broadband communications facilities.

The committee is meeting Tuesday morning to hold a hearing on the “State of the Competition in the Telecom Industry.” FCC Chairman Michael Powell is expected to testify at the hearing. In a letter to Powell, committee chairman John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and ranking minority member Ernest Hollings (D.-S.C.) asked Powell to focus his testimony on FCC proceedings that will impact wireline telephone and broadband competition.

The HTBC believes that the FCC should determine that Section 251 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 does not require that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) unbundle and make available to their competitors new, last-mile broadband facilities, including all fiber, remote terminals, and digital subscriber line (and successor) electronics deployed on the customer side of the central office used to provide broadband services.

The FCC plans to complete a triennial review of the rules by late January or February. The HTBC has focused extensively on the FCC review of its telecommunications network unbundling rules, believing that the current regulations significantly “deter broadband investment and deployment.”

The FCC’s current rules require the regional Bell operating companies rent at wholesale prices elements of their networks to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs). A media report earlier this week said the FCC staff was preparing a draft proposal to alter those rules to require the CLECs either pay higher rates to the Bells or build their networks.

The HTBC says that adoption of its policy recommendations would help “unlock sustainable competition and deployment in the broadband market — a key to igniting an economic recovery in the beleaguered communications sector.”

Formed in early 2002, the represents more than 15,000 companies that participate in the non-carrier broadband “value chain.” IT trade association members include the Business Software Alliance, Consumer Electronics Association, Information Technology Industry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, Semiconductor Industry Association and Telecommunications Industry Association.

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