AT&T and others have been arguing for some time now that the marketplace for special access services, Special Access Street as I refer to it, is highly competitive and that data collected from all participants in the industry, not just the incumbent LECs, will demonstrate this fact.  To its credit the FCC initiated just such a data request in October 2010.

What has the data request revealed? Well, we learned just last week that this effort at collecting comprehensive data to date has fallen far short of the Commission’s expectations.  Indeed, the Commission indicated in an October 6, 2011 filing with DC Circuit Court that the lack of data from the very parties that are asking for regulatory intervention has “impeded” its investigation.  In fact, the Commission noted that “fewer than 10 percent” of COMPTEL’s service provider members submitted data requested by the FCC.

Despite this apparent hiccup on the regulatory side of Special Access Street the business side of Special Access Street remains bustling with activity. This activity is an indication that things have become even more competitive than even I have been suggesting.  Last November I wrote about the Miracle on Special Access Street; how a national wireless carrier employed 14 different backhaul providers, including local exchange carriers, Ethernet providers and cable companies, and how that fact stood in stark contrast to the “there’s no competition” picture of the marketplace for these services painted by the NoChokePoints coalition and its member companies.

Well, special access street has become even busier these days.  One need only take note of this week’s Light Reading coverage of yet another national wireless carrier, Sprint, boasting that in response to the first phase of its 4G wireless backhaul RFP it now employs 25-30 significant providers of fiber-based backhaul and that it includes a mix of incumbent LECs, cable MSOs and alternative carriers.  The Light Reading story noted that a Sprint executive went on to say that he was pleased with the way the industry has stepped up to meet its needs and that in less populated areas Sprint may even build its own backhaul facilities.

Let me repeat what Sprint is saying: There are, at a minimum, 25-30 significant providers of fiber-based backhaul and the capability to build its own backhaul facilities.  It kind of makes you wonder why the special access agitators, the NoChokePoints coalition and Sprint in particular, have been complaining so loudly to the FCC about competition for these backhaul services.

It also makes you wonder if as the FCC reviews the data in response to its October 2010 request for information from the industry it will see the 25-30 “significant” fiber-based backhaul providers that were fighting tooth-and-nail to win Sprint’s wireless backhaul business. They may not, if, as I noted above, less than 10 percent of the member companies represented by Comptel actually submitted data in response to the FCC’s request.  Less than 10 percent = 7 providers.

So the business sides of the companies that are complaining the loudest about the need for regulatory intervention are wrestling with how to manage a growing roster of competitors hustling to win their special access business and the regulatory sides of these same companies are “impeding” a regulatory investigation of special access competition they initiated.  Hmmm.

The business side of Special Access Street is busy indeed.

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