A new broadband battle is brewing in Missouri as the state’s largest telecommunication companies and cable operators are backing a new bill to limit municipal broadband. The new bill, SB 186, which was introduced by MO State Sen Ed Emery (R-Lamar) seeks to limit the power of municipalities to provide competition to entrenched incumbent service providers. SB 186, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, imposes restrictions on local governments to provide retail and wholesale bandwidth services. “This legislation is trying to cut off communities at every turn by limiting any sort of ‘competitive service,’ whether it comes from public broadband infrastructure investment or a public-private partnership” said Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Missouri should be encouraging investment and local Internet choice, not working with monopoly lobbyists to prevent it.”
Windstream has received all of the state and federal regulatory approvals required for its acquisition of EarthLink, paving the way for the service provider to complete the deal in the first quarter. On Feb. 24, Windstream and EarthLink will each hold special meetings of their respective stockholders in connection with the merger. Windstream also announced that it will hold a conference call on March 1 to review the company's fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 earnings results. The companies first announced the all-stock deal last November. In January, the Federal Communications Commission announced it approved Windstream’s proposed acquisition of Windstream. At that time, the FCC said it did not receive any comments opposing the deal during the public comment period required by law.
[Commentary] Municipal broadband continues to be a hotbed of debate, one that's coming to a head again in Tennessee and Virginia. Each of these states has proposed changes in the laws that govern municipal-run networks. But the question is whether their proposals are a step forward or just another way to protect incumbent telco and cable companies' hold on the broadband market.
In both of these states, incumbent telecom and cable companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and Comcast would like to retain their upper hand. Incumbents continually make two main arguments about municipal broadband: Government-run companies get an unfair advantage and other municipal provider efforts have failed. While there’s no shortage of failed municipal broadband providers like Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU), there are a number of success stories like Danville (VA), Longmont (CO), and the emerging Roanoke Valley Authority. The new debates that have emerged in Tennessee and Virginia aren’t just about giving consumers the highest speed, but providing connectivity for day-to-day activities like doing school work.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has removed business data services (BDS) price reform from its list of active proceedings on proposed rules, marking another sign of the new Republican-dominated leadership’s light-touch regulatory mentality. “The items could be put back on circulation following modifications,” said an FCC official, adding that action is “typical” when a new presidential administration takes office. While the commissioners could revise the BDS rules, if they do they would likely be radically different than what former-FCC Chairman Wheeler proposed. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also opposed the BDS proposal.
AT&T is progressing with its TDM-to-IP voice service transition in two cities in FL and AL, telling the Federal Communications Commission that on a combined basis 50 percent of total customer accounts have voluntarily migrated to one of the company's next-generation wireline and wireless voice services.
In its latest filing with the FCC, AT&T revealed that voluntary consumer transitions to IP in Carbon Hill (AL) and Delray Beach (FL) increased by 72 percent and 59 percent, respectively. As expected, consumer TDM-based services declined by 36 percent and 38 percent. AT&T reported similar trends with business customers in these two cities. Simple IP business accounts were up 35 percent in Carbon Hill and 48 percent in Delray Beach, while simple TDM business accounts declined 28 percent and 25 percent. Customers who have transitioned to the next-gen IP-based services during the trial reported they have received similar service performance, service quality and customer care to that of TDM-based services.
Verizon is defending a protest to a Federal Communications Commission request that the company should be allowed to notify wholesale and retail customers of copper retirement plans by providing them an electronic hyperlink instead of a paper copy. In December, Verizon petitioned the FCC to clarify its copper retirement notification requirements by confirming that telcos can provide interconnection partners and local public utility commissions a paper copy of the notice and a hyperlink to a searchable online list of addresses or locations where copper is to be retired in lieu of a paper copy of the address list.
Cohen, Dippell and Everist (CDE), a Washington (DC) telecom and engineering firm, raised concerns that the rise in cyberattacks could put electronic notifications of copper retirement in danger. “This firm and I as an individual have a long and continuous association with Verizon and if and when Verizon makes a decision for copper retirement it should do it at the minimum by mail to that individual,” said Donald Everist, President and Secretary of CDE, in an FCC filing. “If Verizon wishes to complement the notice of copper by other modern communication venues also with the notice by mail, then Verizon is free to do so.”
Carolyn Tatum Roddy, an Atlanta-based telecom attorney, has been named as the latest member of President-elect Donald Trump’s Federal Communications Commission transition team. Her name appeared on Trump’s landing team page which is updated periodically with names of potential candidates for various cabinet positions.
Roddy comes to the transition team with plenty of telecom regulatory experience, working at the FCC, service providers and for various private practice law firms that specialize in communications issues. Previously, she served as an attorney at the FCC for 12 years. During her tenure with the regulator, Roddy represented the FCC in rulemaking, licensing, tariff and enforcement proceedings related to wireline, wireless and public safety communications. Roddy also has service provider regulatory experience, having served in a stint as regional regulatory counsel for Sprint in the Southeast. Additionally, Roddy served as counsel at Troutman Sanders, LLP in Atlanta and director of regulatory affairs for the Satellite Industry Association in Washington, D.C. She is a registered mediator and an adjunct professor of administrative law at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School.
Verizon’s ongoing copper retirement efforts may be controversial, but the telecommunication company says the process would be more efficient if it could provide the notifications electronically. In a recent Federal Communications Commission filing, Verizon asked the regulator to clarify its copper retirement notification requirements by confirming that telcos can provide interconnection partners and local public utility commissions a paper copy of the notice and a hyperlink to a searchable online list of addresses or locations where copper is to be retired in lieu of a paper copy of the address list. Verizon has also petitioned the FCC to waive any requirement that any affected party be served with a paper address list when providers instead provide a copy of the notice and a hyperlink to a searchable online list.
However, Verizon said that will “continue to send paper copies of its copper retirement notifications, excluding the address lists, to state public utility commissions, state governors, tribal entities, the Secretary of Defense, and all interconnecting entities operating in the state in which the copper retirement will occur.”
Verizon should expand Lifeline broadband beyond FiOS territory, says National Hispanic Media Coalition
Verizon plans to offer Lifeline-supported broadband services where it offers FiOS service today, but the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) says the telecommunication company's efforts don’t go far enough. The NHMC says Verizon should offer Lifeline-enabled broadband throughout its entire footprint. “While this is a good first step, NHMC believes Verizon must better serve its low-income customers by expanding its Lifeline broadband service to its entire broadband footprint and not only where it offers FiOS,” said the NHMC.
In a filing Verizon issued earlier in Dec, the company said it plans to offer Lifeline-based broadband in FiOS areas starting in the middle of 2017 to address the broadband “affordability challenge.” “We hope that providing qualifying low-income Americans with the choice to use their Lifeline benefit for our eligible broadband Internet access services will help address this affordability challenge and will be another useful step towards closing the remaining digital divide,” Verizon said. However, the issue is that Verizon, along with other large telecommunication and cable companies AT&T and Charter, sought forbearance of Lifeline broadband Internet access service (BIAS) requirements.
CenturyLink says a request from a consortium of parties, including Microsoft, to extend E-Rate services to rural students' homes is not in line with the way the statute was written. The telecommunication company said in an Federal Communications Commission filing that if the FCC granted the petitions, the regulator would actually cause more harm than good to the E-Rate program. “Despite good intentions, however, the petitions to use E-rate funded bandwidth without cost allocation would be inconsistent with the statute, raise too many problems, create too many distortions, and create too many risks for the E-rate program,” CenturyLink said. “The petitions also cannot be granted by the Bureau on delegated authority, but need review and rulemaking by the full commission.”