Windstream and USTelecom are asking the Federal Communications Commission to approve an agreement on wholesale network access with no price increases on unbundled network elements (UNEs) until at least February 2021.
USTelecom asked the FCC to eliminate a requirement for larger ILECs to offer UNEs at regulated prices. UNEs allow competitive carriers to offer service without having to lay network infrastructure, such as copper wire, optical fiber and coaxial cable.
Telecom unbundling regulations were established in 1996.
The proposal included an immediate 15 percent price increase followed by an 18-month transition period. In his blog, Tony Thomas, Windstream’s president and CEO, said the proposal “would have been devastating for competitive providers (CLECs) and their customers.”
“Windstream is both an ILEC and a CLEC, and we have invested in new switching technology and deployed our own transport network,” he said. “That means our business customers have access to the newest technologies and services, including UCaaS, SD-WAN and VoIP. But there are still areas where our CLEC operation depends on UNEs supplied by the biggest telcos.”
Based on discussions among USTelecom member companies that are both major buyers and sellers of UNEs, including AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Verizon and Windstream, the proposed transition period has been extended until Feb. 4, 2021, and no price increase will occur before then.
“Windstream will work diligently with our customers to minimize the impact of any price increase following the transition period and help them migrate from legacy communications products to next-generation services on their terms and at the cadence that makes sense for their businesses,” Thomas said.
Curt Allen, Windstream Enterprise’s senior vice president of channel, said this is an “event we all knew was coming at some point.”
“This extended timeframe should give us and our partners enough time to migrate their UNE customers to more efficient access solutions,” he said. “Ultimately this could help accelerate the move to newer technologies and to start conversations around SD-WAN and UCaaS that will fit nicely in our portfolio.”
Incompas, which represents a number of competitive broadband providers, opposes the agreement.
“The incumbent providers cutting a deal with each other still leaves the customers of competition out in the cold, and the deployment of new fiber networks at risk particularly in rural areas,” said Chip Pickering, Incompas’ CEO. “No American consumer or business wants to see a significant price hike at their home, school or work.”
USTelecom said the agreement “reflects the experience and planning of the purchasers and sellers of the great majority of unbundled network elements.”
“It would provide certainty important to service providers and for network planning,” it said.