FCC Asked to Relieve Phone Companies from Legacy Regulations

The Federal Communications Commission should relieve incumbent local phone companies of outdated regulations that date back to an era of monopoly phone service and are an impediment to investments in high-speed broadband networks, according to a petition filed Monday with the agency.

USTelecom, the trade organization in Washington, D.C., requested that the FCC invoke its forbearance authority under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in order to encourage the deployment of advanced services.

The FCC should relieve incumbents such as AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon from a variety of regulations, including requirements to separate local and long-distance business and continue offering legacy technology, according to the petition. Cable, wireless and competitive fiber providers aren’t burdened with these regulations, USTelecom said.

“These requirements drain resources and no longer do anything to promote competition or protect consumers,” USTelecom stated in the petition. “They force ILECs to dedicate resources to the configuration of their legacy telephone networks rather than investing those resources in” high-speed networks.

USTelecom cited a February speech from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “Due in part to outdated rules,” Wheeler said, “the majority of the capital investments made by U.S. telephone companies from 2006 to 2011 went toward maintaining the declining telephone network, despite the fact that only one-third of U.S. households use it at all.”

The petition is not the only attempt by local phone companies to eliminate legacy regulations. AT&T has sought permission to conduct network trials of IP infrastructure as part of a long-term strategy to phase out its legacy phone network. The company hopes to shut down its entire legacy network by 2020.

AT&T has said it is seeking relief from burdensome and outdated regulations that effectively bar the company from retiring its time-division multiplexing (TDM)-based network in many states.

“Indeed, one of the great ironies of 21st century telecommunications policy is that the Commission persists in treating ILECs as though they were still monopolists even though, in today’s convergent broadband environment, they have been steadily losing ground to cable and wireless operators,” AT&T declared in a 2012 filing with the FCC.

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