To preserve and foster competition in telecommunications, the FCC must affirm that interconnection obligations are technology neutral and required under Section 251 of the Communications Act.
The Communications Act (“the Act”) requires the legacy monopoly providers (also known as incumbent local exchange carriers) to interconnect their networks with the networks of other carriers at any technically feasible point. This statutory obligation is crucial to ensuring competition because legacy monopoly providers have no economic incentive to interconnect with much smaller competitors. However, as carriers migrate to IP(Internet protocol)-based managed voice services, which are superior to TDM-based voice calls, the legacy monopoly telephone companies are refusing to enter into interconnection agreements. To address this market failure, the FCC needs to affirm the legacy monopoly providers’ obligation to interconnect on a technology neutral basis. This action is critical to increasing the pace of deployment of advanced networks, which will benefit all broadband customers.
As the underlying technology used in the provision of voice service evolves, the obligation to interconnect remains. This view is consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the Act. FCC precedent on this issue is also clear and confirms that interconnection obligations are technology neutral. The FCC must act to ensure compliance.
Presently, legacy monopoly providers require other carriers to convert all managed IP voice traffic to TDM in order to interconnect. Such conversions can cause service degradation and increase the cost of providing these services. In its October 2011 order addressing Intercarrier Compensation reform, the FCC recognized the importance of the principle that interconnection obligations are technology neutral and continue to apply even as networks transition to new technologies. In November 2012, AT&T filed a petition with the FCC seeking to eliminate its obligation to interconnection under Section 251 of the Act when any technology other than TDM is used in the network and to mandate that networks phase out TDM technology.
The FCC must reject AT&T’s position and affirm that Section 251 of the Communications Act requires legacy providers to interconnect on a technology neutral basis with any requesting telecommunications carrier for the transmission and routing of voice traffic.