The Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy recently filed a letter with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) urging the preservation of small business choice and affordability when it comes to communications services. The FCC is currently charged with overseeing the practices of both ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) and CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers), both of which provide the majority of broadband and voice services for small businesses. Impending changes in the industry include retiring copper landlines and replacing them with fiber optics.
Specifically, the FCC’s most recent letter expressed concerns over plans of large carriers like AT&T and Verizon to retire copper landlines and update network technologies without adequate regulatory safeguards and oversights in place. According to Advocacy, these safeguards are critical to ensuring that communications prices for small businesses do not increase and that the number of different businesses and offerings small businesses have to choose from do not decrease. Advocacy strongly supports FCC proposals and initiatives aimed at ensuring that these companies be required to seek FCC permission to retire last mile facilities and offer replacement products at equivalent rates, terms, and conditions.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has publicly vowed that as technology changes, small businesses will not lose the benefits of market competition. It is the FCC’s responsibility to not only prevent consumer harm with the evolution of network technology but also preserve the type of market competition that spurs innovation and benefits customers. The FCC has established a task force charged with overseeing policy issues that concern these technology transitions and to compile and analyze public commentary on related issues.
This recent action is based in part on a 2010 study released by Advocacy that concluded that broadband communications are as vital as basic utilities like electricity when it comes to running a business. This study also revealed that small business owners on the whole are dissatisfied by the options they have and the affordability offered to them in the broadband market.
Small Business Administration. “Advocacy Urges the FCC to Preserve Small Business Choice in Communications Services.” The Small Business Watchdog. 7/1/15.