XO, Cbeyond, tw telecom, Others Fight Verizon’s Special Access Increase

Verizon Communications is facing opposition to its plans to raise its special access rates.

Several members of the NoChokePoints Coalition have filed petitions with the Federal Communications Commission to oppose Verizon’s increase of the special access prices by 6 percent, according to a press release. The coalition includes such telecom providers as Cbeyond, Integra Telecom, tw telecom, Sprint and XO Communications.

The petitions were not immediately available for public review through the FCC’s electronic filing system.

Maura Corbett, executive director of NoChokePoints, contends Verizon’s last tariff revision is its second increase in less than a year, representing a 12 percent total increase in price during that time.

“As we already know, Verizon’s ability to unilaterally raise prices so substantially is because the special-access market is a failure, and consumers cannot be protected from Verizon’s control,” Corbett said in a statement.

Verizon doesn’t agree. In a letter filed with the FCC, the telecom company said it met with FCC representatives last month and on May 1 to discuss special access.

“In all of these meetings, Verizon discussed its special access offerings and explained that the market for high capacity services is very competitive, with a variety of players offering competitive alternatives to Verizons special access services,” Donna Epps, Verizon’s vice president of federal regulatory affairs, wrote in the letter.

Responding to criticism from competitive local exchange carriers, CenturyLink  the third-largest fixed telecommunications provider  also asserted last month in a presentation before the FCC that it offers multiple discount opportunities to meet the needs of its special-access customers.

In a filing earlier this year, Level 3 Communications claimed AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon control about 90 percent of the special access market.

The companies have maintained their dominance in the market via “provisions requiring buyers of special access services to lock-in a high  percentage (85-100) of their prior year’s purchases in exchange for either significant price discounts to their ‘rack’ rates or critical commercial terms,” according to a Level 3 PowerPoint presentation that accompanied a letter filed with the FCC.

CenturyLink responded that customers aren’t locked into such contracts, noting that “DS1/DS3 customers are steadily migrating to Ethernet services.”

The debate over special access rates has endured for at least seven years since the FCC opened a comprehensive proceeding on the matter. Telecom providers and enterprises buy special access circuits for a variety of reasons, such as to connect cell towers, carry data to the Internet and serve high-volume business customers.

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