FCC Seeks Comment on Plans to Reduce Barriers to Broadband Investment

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted last week to solicit industry input on a series of proposed wireline infrastructure rules designed to promote broadband investment.

At issue in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment are “regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment” not only at the federal level but also at the state and local levels.  The proposals include:

Reducing barriers to entry posed by state and local jurisdictions
In a Notice of Inquiry, the FCC seeks industry input on the role the FCC might take in removing state and local regulatory barriers to broadband deployment.  For example, the FCC is interested in industry input on reducing barriers to market entry, including state or local jurisdiction deployment moratoria; elimination of excessive delays in rights of way negotiation and approval processes; capping of excessing fees; and limiting unreasonable conditions.  In particular, the FCC seeks comment on adoption of rules to prospectively prohibit enforcement of laws that prevent or hinder the provision of telecommunications service.

Reducing regulatory requirements relating to copper retirement
The FCC, now Republican led, proposes to eliminate copper retirement processes adopted in 2015.  Those rules include a waiting period associated with retiring copper networks, and notice requirements to retail customers, state, tribal entities, and the secretary of defense prior to retirement of copper networks.  In its Notice, the FCC proposes a variety of options for reducing regulatory requirements, including rolling back the prior rule.  The FCC also solicits comment on additional options for increasing “flexibility” in the copper retirement process.

Pole attachment reform
The FCC asks for comment on proposals to speed up pole attachment applications; reduce costs and charges associated with pole access; and develop a 180 day shot clock for resolution of pole access complaints.

Streamlining discontinuance notices
The FCC proposes to streamline discontinuance requests made 180 days after a carrier stops accepting new customers for the service while maintaining service to existing customers.  The FCC also seeks comment on reversing a 2015 rule applying the discontinuance requirement to third party end-user customers of a carrier’s wholesale-carrier customers.

In particular, the new proposals reduce barriers for incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs).  For example, the FCC proposes to change a rule that can prevent ILECs from gaining access to competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) controlled infrastructure; and proposes copper retirement rule changes that would benefit ILECs.  ILECs and CLECs should review the proposals to confirm that their interests are properly represented in the FCC’s proposed rules.

If your business may be impacted by any of these proposed rules, you may consider filing comments with the FCC.  Comments will be due within 30 days of the publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment in the Federal Register.  If you have any questions, please contact Jonathan Marashlian at jsm@commlawgroup.com or Alexander Schneider at ais@commlawgroup.com.

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