Public Interest Groups, Wireless and Computer Companies Pushing FCC to Reform Special Access Market

New coalition argues dominance of ILECs has led to lack of competitive market

Public interest groups have joined with wireless companies, computers companies and others to push the FCC to reform the special access market.

They have formed NoChokePoints Coalition, which they unveiled Monday.

They argue that the dominance of incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) like AT&T and Verizon, has led to a lack of a "robust and competitive market" for high-capacity broadband service given the ILEC's dominance in the business market.

"Enabling end-users and broadband providers to obtain special access at a reasonable price is not only critical to broadband deployment, but also to spurring the investment and innovation that the U.S. economy needs," the coalition argues, saying that, "competition has been decimated as regulators systematically eliminated protections for consumers and competitors, allowing a few giant phone companies like AT&T and Verizon to choke-off and control these critical broadband lines to their benefit and everyone else's harm."

The group points out that the FCC opened an inquiry into the high-capacity broadband market almost five years ago, but has taken no action.

They have made the argument before, but with the Obama administration's emphasis on broadband deployment, and its interrelationship to businesses like energy companies and hospitals, there is a new opportunity to spotlight the issue of capping the prices businesses can be charged in the special access market.

Among the coalition members are Sprint Nextel, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, Clearwire, US Cellular, and T-Mobile.

US Telecom, which represents special access providers, counters that the new group is recycling arguments that have already been dismissed as inaccurate and that the priorities of rolling out broadband should be reaching un-served areas and "stabilizing" the universal service fund and inter-carrier compensation.