California Public Utilities Commission Grants CALTEL Petition and Opens Rulemaking to Review Need for Guidelines for Retirement of Copper Loops by Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers

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On January 10, 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved an Order Instituting Rulemaking (OIR) granting CALTEL's (the California Association of Competitive Telecommunications Companies') July 11, 2007 Petition. The OIR will "consider whether the Commission should adopt, amend or repeal regulations governing the retirement or other removal" of copper "loops" and related facilities (including copper "drops") by incumbent telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T.

Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved an Order Instituting Rulemaking (OIR) granting CALTEL's (the California Association of Competitive Telecommunications Companies') July 11, 2007 Petition. The OIR will "consider whether the Commission should adopt, amend or repeal regulations governing the retirement or other removal" of copper "loops" and related facilities (including copper "drops") by incumbent telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T.

"CALTEL appreciates the California Commission's willingness to open this rulemaking and looks forward to working with the Commission and other interested parties to consider these important issues" said Sarah DeYoung, CALTEL's President and Executive Director.

CALTEL's petition summarized the urgent need for such a process:
"The unexamined elimination of copper network facilities will not only inhibit competitors' deployment of innovative broadband services to Californians contrary to the clear, independent statutory mandates of the Public Utilities Code, but will also unnecessarily disable facilities that could provide valuable redundancy in the event of a natural or man-made emergency."

The PUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and the Department of Defense/Federal Executive Agencies (DOD/FEA) all supported CALTEL's Petition, citing the importance of not depriving consumers of competitive alternatives and the need for a reliable telecommunications option for consumers in the event of power disruptions.

Background:
Most California homes and businesses are linked to the networks of telecommunications providers (which includes incumbents like AT&T and Verizon, as well as competitive providers that lease the incumbent's embedded copper wiring to deliver traditional and advanced services to customers) by "last mile" copper wiring. Even those customers who receive service from a cable company such as Comcast or Cox Communications (who use their own coaxial cable for access to the customer's premise) are currently able to "switch back" to an incumbent or competitive carrier via these existing copper wires.

But, as a result of regulations adopted by the FCC in recent years, when an incumbent like Verizon deploys high-bandwidth fiber lines it is also permitted to remove existing copper loops, even though removal is not necessary to deploy fiber. Once the copper is removed, the customer (and future owners and tenants) are no longer able to obtain service from a competitive carrier, and may even be unable to "switch back" to less expensive phone and DSL service from Verizon. In essence, existing rules permit incumbents to needlessly destroy existing broadband infrastructure to maximize their own competitive position, at the expense of competition and consumer choice. In a time when all agree that more and better broadband is a key public need, it does not make sense to allow the incumbent LEC to degrade or to eliminate existing copper facilities that have been built and paid for over the last several decades.

Advancing the Competitive Telecommunications Industry

CALTEL -- the California Association of Competitive Telecommunications Companies -- is a non-profit trade association working to advance the interests of fair and open competition and customer-focused service in California telecommunications.

CALTEL members are entrepreneurial companies building and deploying next-generation networks to provide competitive voice, data, and video services. The majority of CALTEL members are small businesses who help to fuel the California economy through technological innovation, new services, affordable prices and customer choice. A list of CALTEL members is available at http://www.caltel.org.

Since its inception in 1983, CALTEL has represented the interests of competitive telecommunications companies at the California State legislature, Public Utilities Commission and Governor's Office.

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Sarah DeYoung
CALTEL
925-465-4396
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