If you’ve spent any amount of time in Washington, D.C. telecom circles you no doubt have heard AT&T shout from the roof tops that the marketplace for special access services is very competitive.  But the NoChokePoints coalition has sought to discredit these claims by characterizing them like Kris Kringle’s in the holiday movie favorite Miracle on 34th Street, as the ramblings of an insane old man who should be institutionalized.

So, it was with great interest that I read the other day that one of the leading member companies of this coalition was boasting that they receive these services from fourteen different providers.

“T-Mobile now uses 14 different backhaul providers, including local exchange carriers, Ethernet wireless providers and cable companies. Economics is the main reason T-Mobile is using so many providers…[and] T-Mobile had to work with smaller providers to get the right mix of technology and price.”

Yes, fourteen.  Twelve drummers drumming plus two.  Ten lords a-leaping plus four.

At that moment, I understood Judge Henry X. Harper’s excitement when proof that Kris Kringle is Santa Claus was presented to the Court.  

According to the Chief Technology Officer of this national wireless company, as they began to upgrade their backhaul facilities to support their HSPA+ network they found that a combination of providers of special access services, I’ll say it again — fourteen, gave them the right mix of pricing, technology and provisioning time to keep their network upgrade on schedule.

Now, if the market for these services was truly as non-competitive as the NoChokePoints coalition says it is, then the coalition, like the prosecutor attempting to prove Kris Kringle is not Santa Claus, might find it impossible to believe that the carrier here would have as many options as it has and likely will continue to have in the future.

But there it is, just like the thousands of letters addressed to Santa Claus and delivered to Kris Kringle as he sat in Court awaiting the Judge’s decision, evidence – delivered by the very entities attempting to prove otherwise – that AT&T’s claims ring right and true.

This is but the latest evidence that the Commission’s prior special access reforms, enacted under the Clinton Administration, have been a notable success.  As described by this national wireless carrier, they now purchase services from not only ILECs but wireless Ethernet providers and cable companies.  Add to this the many other options available from the competitive local exchange carriers in this marketplace, like Level 3 and XO Communications to name a few, and it confirms that the promise of competition has now indisputably been realized.

As AT&T indicated in its comments in the special access proceeding, intermodal broadband wireless and cable providers are specifically targeting the largely copper-based special access demand at cell towers and the many other areas where this demand is concentrated.   And rapidly increasing backhaul needs of mobile wireless providers that increasingly provide data, video and other broadband applications give cable, fixed wireless and traditional wireline providers the incentive to compete aggressively to serve these areas.

AT&T has repeatedly stressed that when it sits down to negotiate service agreements with wireless carriers they make it clear that they will move their business elsewhere if AT&T does not agree to terms that they find satisfactory.  The example here is vivid confirmation that an intensely competitive marketplace is now operating as the Commission projected it would when it began to implement its special access reforms two decades ago.

All of which indicates that the broadband shopping season is in full swing and tis’ the season for miracles on Special Access Street in Washington, D.C.

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