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3rd Quarter 2017 Update from the Public Policy Committee

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Fiber Broadband Association

3rd Quarter 2017 Update from the Public Policy Committee

Gary Bolton (ADTRAN) Chair of Committee

As many of us in the Southeast had to buckle down for Hurricane Irma which resulted in the cancellation of the ISE Expo and our Fiber Broadband Association board meeting in Orlando this week, I hope that everyone's families and homes were spared from this devastating storm.  Our thoughts and prayers also go out to the families and communities in Houston and all that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  The devastation from these two storms will be felt for years to come.

On a more positive note, we are extremely pleased with the member engagement and the significant progress that the Fiber Broadband Association Public Policy Committee has achieved in 3Q, building on the strong momentum and our record filings from the first half of this year.  Below, you'll find a quick update on our policy activity and key positions. We hold monthly policy calls and we welcome members to participate and contribute on our committee.

 

Public Policy Committee Mission

The Fiber Broadband Association Public Policy Committee seeks to advance the Association's interest in accelerating the deployment of fiber to all Americans by selectively participating in government proceedings where the outcome will "move the needle" on all-fiber deployments and where we can get most efficiently use our resources.

 

The Fiber Broadband Association 3Q17 Public Policy Update

The Fiber Broadband Association's public policy efforts over the past several months have focused on the numerous proceedings at the Federal Communications Commission that either seek to remove barriers to deploying all-fiber networks, reduce overall regulatory burdens on all-fiber providers, or help bridge the "digital divide" and bring all-fiber networks to unserved or underserved communities.

FCC Wireline Infrastructure Proceeding

This past April, the FCC initiated a proceeding to remove regulatory barriers to network deployments by wireline broadband service providers.  Encouraging investment in wireline infrastructure to support high-speed broadband to rural and other underserved areas is critical to Chairman Pai's goal of closing the "digital divide."  The proceeding covers an array of issues, including facilitating access to poles, ducts, and conduits, expediting retirement of copper facilities, and eliminating state and local laws that may inhibit broadband deployment.  We expect the FCC to issue a decision in this proceeding later this year. 

Issues Affecting All-Fiber Deployments - The Fiber Broadband Association comments in this proceeding focused on several issues affecting all-fiber deployments.

Pole Attachments

First, we urged the Commission to address practices of many pole owners and existing attachers that delay and increase the cost of attaching to poles.  In particular, we proposed the Commission adopt a "one-touch, make-ready" regime for pole attachments and require pole owners to use a standard pole attachment application form and a process to review applications. 

Repeal 2015 Network Change Notification

Second, we explained that the Commission should repeal the 2015 network change notification rule since it imposes an unnecessary and costly process on the transition from copper to fiber networks. 

Management of Public Rights-of-Way

Third, we proposed the Commission provide guidance as to what practices by state and local authorities "prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting" the provision of telecommunications services in violation of Section 253(a), clarify the scope of state and local authority to manage public rights-of-way under Section 253(c), and make clear that entities that seek to access public rights-of-way may bring an action pursuant to Section 253(c) when state and local regulators' management activities or compensation requirements exceed the scope of Section 253(c).  Such clarifications would address a number of the specific barriers to entry that service providers continue to face, including deployment moratoria, rights-of-way negotiation and approval process delays, excessive fees and costs, imposition of unreasonable conditions on public right-of-way access, bad faith negotiations, and lack of transparency in the state and local application process.

FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

Along with the Wireline Infrastructure Proceeding, Chairman Pai initiated the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.  The Association's President and CEO, Heather Gold, chairs the Committee's State Model Code Working Group, which is focusing on the development of policies by states that would enhance broadband deployment. The Working Group is scheduled to provide its proposals later in November.

FCC Access to Multi-Tenant Environment Proceeding

The FCC has long sought to address concerns of residential and business consumers in multi-tenant environments (MTEs) about having a choice of network providers and services.  As a result, the FCC has banned exclusive access arrangements and adopted various policies concerning wiring inside MTEs.  It also has decided to refrain from limiting bulk billing or exclusive marketing arrangements.  In June, the FCC, in seeking to update the record on competition and deployments in MTEs, launched an inquiry to "explore ways to accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks and services" in multi-tenant environments, both residential and commercial. 

Multi-Tenant Environment Issues - The Fiber Broadband Association filed comments in the inquiry that urging the Commission to

(1) not interfere with State and local mandatory access laws that promote competition in broadband deployment in MTEs;

(2) continue to allow broadband providers to enter into marketing and bulk-billing arrangements with MTE owners;

(3) act expeditiously to prohibit exclusive leaseback arrangements within MTEs except where providers can show they are not anti-competitive; and

(4) permit cost-based, non-discriminatory revenue-sharing arrangements between MTE owners and providers.

 

FCC Open Internet (Restoring Internet Freedom) Proceeding

In May, the FCC initiated a proceeding, Restoring Internet Freedom, to undo the 2015 Open Internet Order, which classified broadband Internet access as a Title II, common carrier, service and subjected providers to not only the "Bright Line" rules of no blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, but also a General Conduct Standard, prohibiting unreasonable practices, and other Title II requirements.  The new rulemaking proposes to again classify broadband Internet access as an information service (regulated under Title I of the Communications Act), repeal the General Conduct Standard regulation, and consider whether to continue to the "Bright Line" rules. 

Focus on ISP Market Power Positioning -  Because so many stakeholders were submitting extensive comments covering all the major issues, the Fiber Broadband Association decided to submit a targeted set of comments focusing on the fact that wireline Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not generally have market power which they can employ to harm consumers or edge providers.  The Association explained first that the Commission erred in its conclusion that ISPs were "gatekeepers" that controlled access to the Internet.  We then demonstrated, based on an Association-commissioned study, that broadband prices were decreasing and supply was increasing  both of which indicate that ISPs do not have market power.  The Association therefore submitted, that in such an environment, the Commission should do no harm by intervening and regulating on the premise it can improve the market.  Rather, it should seek to further expand supply by removing barriers to investment and otherwise encouraging entry. 

Finally, the Association notes two other proceedings where it has been engaged:

FCC Connect America Fund Phase II Auction - Finally, the Association notes that the FCC is pressing ahead with development of the CAF Phase II auction, which will distribute approximately $200 million per year over ten years to support the provision of broadband service in unserved "price cap" carrier territories.  Over the next six months, the FCC will shape the rules for the auction.  If they stick to this timeframe, we then expect applications to be due around the middle of next year, and the auction to be held later in the year.

FCC Annual Section 706 Inquiry - The FCC just initiated its annual Section 706 inquiry to determine whether advanced telecommunications capabilities are being made available in a timely and reasonable fashion.  The Association has filed comments in previous proceedings, seeking to get the FCC to acknowledge that all-fiber networks should be the benchmark to determine whether advanced telecommunications capabilities are present.  It intends to file comment along similar lines again this year.

Again, we welcome members to join us on the Public Policy Committee and we will continue to work strategic advocacy in an effort to accelerate the deployment of fiber networks. Please feel free to reach out to myself, Heather, Tom or any member of the Public Policy Committee if you have any questions, concerns or wish to have further information.

Thanks,

Gary Bolton (ADTRAN)

Public Policy Committee Chair

Fiber Broadband Association Board of Directors

 

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