By Jeremy Pelofsky
The U.S. telecoms regulator was poised to reveal on Monday whether it
would ease numerous regulations on some of Verizon Communications'
high-speed, broadband data services for lucrative business customers.
The No. 2 U.S. telephone carrier asked the Federal Communications
Commission in December 2004 to lift restrictions for business services
such as carrying data over Ethernet and Internet-based virtual private
networks, arguing there was sufficient competition.
Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has supported granting the
request as part of his agenda to push broadband deployment. The FCC
eased similar rules for Verizon and other big local phone carriers
serving residential broadband customers last year.
"I'm hopeful that we will be able to provide some regulatory relief
for the incumbents deployment of fiber to not just consumers but to
commercial entities as well," he told reporters on Friday.
The FCC has until midnight on Sunday to block or modify Verizon's
request. Because of the type of petition, no action by the commission
would allow it to take effect.
Martin, who controls the agency's agenda, had not circulated for a
vote by the other FCC commissioners an order that would modify or
block Verizon's petition as of Sunday evening, two sources following
the matter said.
The agency is expected to announce its action on Monday. FCC
spokeswoman Tamara Lipper declined to comment because the deadline had
not yet passed.
The two Democrats on the commission have objected to granting the
request, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. But
because Martin controls the agenda, he could just let the petition
take effect despite objections.
Verizon's request includes lifting regulations on its business
broadband data services that require the company to connect with
competing networks, to negotiate just and reasonable terms for its
services, and to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, which
subsidizes communications for rural and low-income households.
In an FCC filing last month, Verizon did offer to continue paying into
the fund for a period of time. A company spokesman declined to comment
ahead of the decision.
The request also covers rules that require Verizon to make its
business broadband service accessible to those with disabilities and
require it keep customer records confidential.
Comptel, a group that represents Verizon's rivals such as XO
Communications, has said lifting the regulations would hobble
competition and unfairly benefit one company.
Earl Comstock, Comptel's chief executive, told Reuters that if Martin
allows the petition to take effect, it would "carry out whatever is
beneficial to Verizon" and harm others.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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