Windstream isn’t satisfied with how AT&T has proposed to handle wholesale customers in its proposal for TDM-to-IP transition trials and is asking the FCC to establish rules to govern this aspect of the IP transition. Windstream, an AT&T wholesale customer, wants the FCC to require AT&T to continue to offer high-capacity circuits including IP equivalents to DS-1 and DS-3 special access circuits – a requirement that isn’t likely to sit well with AT&T.
AT&T earlier this year proposed conducting trials in two communities where traditional TDM voice service would be replaced with IP-based broadband or cellular alternatives. In its proposal for the TDM-to-IP trials, AT&T said it would discontinue certain TDM-based offerings but would continue to make copper loops available to other network operators. The company noted, however, that it would not provide electronics, instead expecting the other carriers to provide those electronics – and what Windstream is asking would require AT&T to provide electronics.
“In the post-IP world, competitors still will need equivalent access to last-mile facilities and services to continue offering business services to millions of customers,” argues Windstream in a letter sent to the FCC on Monday. ”Changing loop electronics from TDM to IP does not alter the fundamental economies of digging trenches and installing conduit and fiber. Unless CLECs can maintain wholesale access through and after the IP transition, many businesses and government entities that have chosen competitive providers because of their superior service and value will be forced to transition back to the incumbent, with no recourse when incumbent service or pricing is unsatisfactory.”
Whose side the FCC will take on this issue is unclear. In 2012 the commission suspended the special access pricing flexibility it had previously extended to large incumbent carriers such as AT&T. Flexibility had previously been granted based on the belief that wholesale carriers had competitive connectivity choices. But when that belief was challenge, the FCC suspended pricing flexibility while gathering data about market conditions and that process has not been completed.
In the rulemaking that Windstream is proposing, the company also wants the FCC to “ban minimum revenue commitments (MRCs) and early termination fees that penalize wholesale purchasers seeking to replace TDM services with IP services” and “clarify and limit acceptable special construction charges, which have become a key economic variable for last-mile access.”
Windstream isn’t the first AT&T service provider customer to express concerns about AT&T’s plans for its wholesale customers. Granite Telecommunications, a company that resells AT&T services in both communities where AT&T wants to conduct trials, also has expressed concerns that AT&T hasn’t provided sufficient detail about its plans for wholesalers in the trials.
When AT&T in late February proposed its IP transition trials the company said it expected FCC approval of those plans in May. But that date could be in jeopardy, depending what the FCC decides to do about Windstream’s letter.