Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski on Tuesday offered the broad outlines of a timetable for resolving the long-standing issue of special-access reform, after getting an earful from both sides of the aisle at a House hearing.
Members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee touched on a number of hot-button FCC issues, including pending spectrum auctions, Universal Service Fund reform, online privacy, and the reach of FCC authority. But it was special access, which refers to the market for high-speed telecommunications network connections between main lines and commercial buildings, that generated the most heat.
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., tried to pin down Genachowski on the issue, saying, "Going back to 2007, this committee has been promised multiple times that the FCC would complete the special-access proceeding expeditiously."
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also pressed the FCC chief on special-access rules.
In late June, Genachowski tried without success to get a measure passed that would have frozen the FCC's system of granting price flexibility in special-access markets when certain competitive triggers are met. That vote was tied up with petitions from AT&T and Windstream to deregulate special-access prices in the San Francisco-Oakland market and in San Antonio.
A new vote is expected, Genachowski said, "as quickly as it can be finalized." This could mean that the FCC will vote to stop hearing new petitions for price flexibility at its Aug. 3 open meeting. Doing so would start the cycle of receiving comments from interested parties before issuing new rules on the kinds of data that large and small telecommunications providers must supply the FCC to assess whether a market is competitive and subject to deregulated special-access prices, or is dominated by a large incumbent provider.