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November 22, 2017 by Tom Cohen

FCC Update: Lowering Barriers to Drive Investment

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At Calix ConneXions 2017 last month, Geoff Burke and I, along with Larry Thompson of VantagePoint and Jonathan Banks of US Telecom, participated in two sessions where the main theme was: “What a difference a year makes.” A year ago, the FCC had imposed onerous open internet and broadband privacy rules on the industry and was contemplating further regulation of business data services. Today, the privacy rules have been repealed, and business data services are effectively deregulated. Next month, I expect the FCC will adopt its Restoring Internet Freedom proposal and undo Title II regulation of broadband Internet access service.

Not only is the FCC removing regulations, but it is seeking to lower barriers to network builds, especially in fiber and 5G, to drive investment. Last week, the FCC implemented key parts of Chairman Pai’s “infrastructure” agenda and adopted measures to facilitate pole attachments and wireless siting and streamline the ability of incumbents to retire copper lines. What’s more, Chairman Pai indicated the FCC would adopt additional measures next year. So, if you have thoughts about what the FCC needs to do to further enable deployments, now’s the time to meet with them.

As for the CAF auction, this too is moving along. I expect the FCC will adopt an order establishing the auction design and qualification requirements shortly, which will then set in motion deadlines for filing short-form applications and for the start of the auction later in 2018.  At Calix ConneXions, I spoke to many providers that were examining the eligible “unserved” areas to see if they could build a viable business case and then participate in the auction. For those providers, you should continue your due diligence; for others, if you might have an interest, you shouldn’t wait much longer to begin your efforts.

The FCC’s turnaround is good news for the industry, and you should take advantage of the opportunities that are being created.