The FCC has until September 6th (although they can give themselves a 90 day extension)to rule on a Verizon petition requesting an exemption from the 1996 Telecom Act for select markets, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Virginia Beach, Va, and Providence, R.I. Verizon says the telecom industry has robust competition and therefore they should no longer be compelled to lease network elements to competitors at less than “market rates.” Like most things, telecom competition is about perspective. If you ask COMPTEL, Verizon’s request is anti-competitive and will lead to less competition and higher consumer and business rates.
This debate has been ongoing for over a decade now. Has the ’96 Act really led to a more competitive environment? Or, is the competition we see in telecom today due more to wireless and cable, than to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs). The truth of the matter is probably a little of both. Incumbent carriers like Verizon like to point to the current competitive landscape as evidence that the ’96 Act has worked and is no longer needed. CLECs like to suggest that the ’96 Act has been somewhat successful, but its legacy is not nearly complete. This current iteration of the aforementioned debate proves that the answer still eludes us. It does suggest that the ’96 Act needs to be revisited, with the hope of bringing some clarity to the competitive landscape.