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The FCC Noses Under the Broadband Tent Again

June 13, 2016
By Larry Downes

This essay explains why the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulatory interest in dedicated telecommunications circuits may be part of a larger effort to re-regulate the national market for broadband internet access.

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This essay, written by Georgetown University senior industry and innovation fellow Larry Downes, explains why the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulatory interest in dedicated telecommunications circuits may be part of a larger effort to re-regulate the national market for broadband internet access.

Downes writes that special access arrangements are important to the internet’s functions.

“Special access refers to wholesale business arrangements between network operators and other enterprises to transmit voice and data traffic,” Downes wrote. “Historically, competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) relied on special access leased from incumbents to supply or supplement capacity for resale to their own business customers. Businesses also use special access to manage internal communications. And special access has become an essential component of mobile networks, where it provides ‘backhaul’—connection to the core network—for mobile traffic. These dedicated connections increasingly make up the ‘middle mile’ of the broadband internet.”

FCC’s interest in special access markets is part of a backdoor effort to regulate the internet, Downes writes.

“The FCC’s suspiciously enthusiastic rediscovery of special access is the latest in a series of recent efforts by the agency to put its nose under the broadband tent, hoping to sneak the rest of its body inside,” Downes wrote. “It joins similar bait-and-switch proceedings, including the collection of so-called ‘net neutrality’ orders, the municipal broadband order, the mobile data roaming order, and a rumored upcoming proceeding regulating the privacy practices of broadband providers. But beyond the self-interested goal of giving the FCC newfound relevance in the digital age, it’s hard to see any benefit in these expanding efforts to re-regulate the communications industry.”