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FCC sets interim network-sharing rules

The US Federal Communications Commission will require incumbent telephone carriers to continue offering parts of their networks to competitors while it rewrites those network-sharing rules.

The FCC said it will require incumbent carriers to offer competing carriers their switching, enterprise market loops and dedicated transport under the rates in their interconnection agreements as of 15 June 2004. The FCC plans to create new unbundling rules by the end of 2004.

In the six-month transition period the carriers will be allowed to increase their unbundled network element charges by up to 15% in the absence of new unbundling rules.

"We recognise that while certainty in the short term is critical, industry participants also require a clear understanding of how the regulatory landscape might change after our issuance of final rules," the FCC said. "We believe the public interest would be served by a transition in the event that our final rules decline to require unbundled access to any element or elements that were available to requesting carriers as of 15 June."

The FCC requests comments on what direction it should take with new rules governing the competition between the carriers and competitors such as AT&T and Sprint.

A new set of rules became necessary after a US appeals court overturned much of the so-called triennial review order in March.

The appeals court decision was a setback for the competitive local exchange carriers and for state public utilities commissions, which had power under the FCC plan to set some of the network-sharing rules.

The regional carriers, which had joined the US Telecom Association in the lawsuit, expected to benefit from the court's decision to send the rules back to the FCC. Incumbent carriers had criticised the FCC's decision to leave some rule-making up to the states, arguing that forcing them to comply with 50 separate sets of rules would cause uncertainty in the industry.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service


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