Five ideas to allow AT&T a workable wireline exit

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium offered five suggestions for turning assembly bill 2395 into legitimate public policy, in a letter sent to the bill’s author, assemblyman Evan Low (D – Silicon Valley) yesterday. AB 2395 was actually written by AT&T and would allow it to pull out copper wireline networks in rural areas of California and replace them with wireless service.

Full disclosure: I drafted the letter, but it was reviewed by consortia members, who represent local governments, private companies and other interested organisations in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. Several made suggestions, which were incorporated into the final version.

The five things that would make AB 2395 more of a benefit than a danger to rural and inner city wireline networks are…

  1. If an incumbent local exchange carriers (ILEC) replaces current systems with either IP-based technology or wireless infrastructure, then regulatory obligations should not change so long as the market conditions that triggered those obligations exist. These obligations include maintenance of infrastructure, access to facilities by competitive carriers or provision of basic voice and broadband service.
  2. Similarly, ILECs must not be allowed to engage in monopoly-driven profit maximization behavior, regardless of the technology employed or services provided. Appropriate regulation must continue where ever monopoly conditions exist in the market for voice, broadband, video or other telecommunications services.
  3. ILECs must continue to maintain their wireline systems – copper or fiber – in an operational condition that meets service and infrastructure standards set by the California Public Utilities Commission, for as long as they own them.
  4. If an ILEC wishes to transition to wireless technology, it may do so only after divesting itself of its wireline assets and the customers that choose to keep such service.
  5. Wireline divestiture may be accomplished by selling the assets and customer accounts to a qualified successor company, or by an orderly transfer to a public trust. If the latter, the transfer of ownership must be at no capital cost to the trustee and the ILEC will be responsible for operations and maintenance costs for a reasonable transition period. No restrictions are to be placed on the trustee’s operation, management or ultimate disposition of the assets by the transferring ILEC.

The bill is in the hands of the assembly appropriations committee. The deadline for it to act is the end of the month.