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After an extended deliberative process and pursuant to issuance of a Request for Proposals (“RFP”), the First Responder Network Authority, commonly known as FirstNet, selected AT&T as its partner to build, operate and maintain the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (“NPSBN”). The actual terms of the agreement between FirstNet and AT&T remain unavailable to the

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FirstNet recently selected AT&T as its partner to build, operate and maintain the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (“NPSBN”).  With AT&T leading the charge, network development appears to be on a fast track. In early June, the initial AT&T/FirstNet Radio Access Network (“RAN”) or coverage plans were made available electronically to all 50 states, the

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Several matters before the FCC could have substantial dollar and technology impacts for enterprise customers.  The FCC’s special access services and USF contribution reform proceedings could significantly affect pricing for enterprise services, beginning sometime in 2014.  A more open-ended proceeding focuses on whether the FCC will move aggressively in granting AT&T’s wish list included in its proposal to convert its local telephone networks to all-IP platforms.

One matter that should be addressed this year is the appeal of the FCC’s Open Internet Order currently pending before the D.C. Circuit.  Because this is such a prominent matter, we believe the non-prevailing parties likely will petition the Supreme Court for review.

FCC Taking a Fresh Look at Special Access Services.  In an earlier entry, we highlighted the FCC’s reassessment of the interstate special access services market.  Subsequently, the FCC released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, setting out a comprehensive data request to  price cap ILECs and other services providers to determine the extent of competition among providers of special access services, principally, DS-1, DS-3 and Ethernet special access services.  Ethernet service broadly is undergoing rapid growth.  The FCC is taking a direct approach to determine whether special access rates are competitively priced.

We propose to perform a one-time, multi-faceted market analysis of the special access market designed to determine where and when special access prices are just and reasonable, and whether our current special access regulations help or hinder this desired outcome. We do not propose to conduct a simple market share or market concentration analysis.  Rather, we will use the data we are collecting in this Report and Order to identify measures of actual and potential competition that are good predictors of competitive behavior, for example, by demonstrating that prices tend to decline with increases in the intensity of various competition measures, holding other things constant.  In undertaking that analysis we will consider evidence as to what leads firms, including competitive providers, to undertake infrastructure investments.

Clearly, a fresh look at the special access services market (data for years 2010 and 2012 are being requested) is warranted.

Two points merit further note.  First, the FCC is seeking comment on whether Internet access service is a competitive alternative to special access services.  Hopefully, the FCC will conclude the services are not substitutes.  Internet access service is not an “access service,” rather it is part and parcel of an end-to-end best efforts shared transport and information access and retrieval service.  Special access is basic transport between defined physical locations.  Second, the FCC is requesting comment on the “Petition to Reverse Forbearance Determinations,” filed late last year by an enterprise customer group, Sprint and several interexchange carriers that requests the FCC to reverse decisions issued prior to 2010 in which the FCC elected to forbear from (i) imposing certain Computer Inquiry requirements on the price cap ILECs, and (ii) regulating non-TDM based special access services offered by price cap ILECs, particularly Ethernet services.


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Rather than emulate the public cloud computing business models of Amazon or Google, IBM and AT&T have elected to bring their respective strengths together in an enterprise-focused cloud computer offering targeting Fortune 1000 customers, allocating responsibility for cloud infrastructure and computing to IBM and networking/transport to AT&T.

The companies’ are highlighting the enhanced security functions

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In late August, the FCC adopted a Report and Order suspending new grants of interstate special access pricing flexibility for the “Price Caps ILECs”—principally Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink (formerly Qwest)—adopted in the agency’s 1999 Pricing Flexibility Order.  The Report and Order is a breath of fresh air in terms of acknowledging that a predictive

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In theory, the basic direction of domestic telecommunications policy is set by Congress and implemented through rulemaking proceedings, principally before the FCC.  The reality is that Congress moves at a glacial pace in enacting telecommunications legislation and the FCC often struggles with vexing issues such as whether the special access market is competitive and how

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Picture 16.pngThis is the first of three entries analyzing telecommunications services agreements.  This entry—Overview—highlights the structure and basic components of telecommunications services agreements.  The second entry—Revenue Assurance—will focus on the carriers’ interest of locking-in projected revenues. The third entry—Risk Mitigation—will take a closer look at the carriers’views on damages, termination rights and customer indemnities.

Overview

Wireline and Wireless services agreements include general terms and conditions, typically set out in a “Master Agreement.” Negotiated service-specific rates or, for Wireless services, plans and pooling arrangements are set out in attachments or schedules.  Wireless and Wireline services are generally procured separately, having  separate agreements, although one carrier opts for a single master agreement covering both service categories.  The benefits of consolidation are limited, in our view, if the customer’s total spend does not result in improved overall pricing or other tangible benefits. 

Wireline Agreements.  Customers and carriers typically negotiate an overall minimum revenue commitment that may be an annual or term commitment.  Customer expenditures for most services typically “contribute” to satisfying the minimum commitment with the possible exception of local exchange services which, in many cases, are still subject to tariffs.  Tariffs take precedence over contracts.  Whether local services “contribute” to the overall commitment is a point of negotiation.  A more recent twist is the offer of a major credit based on an actual expenditures over a given period, typically a year.

In addition to domestic services, Wireline agreements may include international and “rest of world” services.  The latter denotes services that do not originate or terminate in the United States.  International services originate or terminate in the United States.  The services in these agreements include dedicated internet access services, voice and data services, such as MPLS, high capacity access services and managed services—carrier monitoring of customer premises equipment—typically routers and sometimes PBXs—enabling more rapid identification of service/equipment troubles and resolution Firewall and other security services are offered, as well. 

Wireless Agreements.  Wireless agreements tend to be domestic-focused with options for business customers whose employees travel internationally.  Various volume-based incentives and disincentives are common in these agreements.  The carriers continue to push for “preferred provider” status. 

Minimum line commitments exist to recover the cost of discounted handsets.  As a practical matter, each carrier offers its own portfolio of handsets, tablets and wireless cards, in part, to ensure these devices have “backward compatibility” over its respective spectrum bands.  Thus, carrier assertions that customers must look exclusively to handset manufacturers in connection with equipment issues strain credibility.  The devices generally are not portable to other carriers’ networks.  Adverse customer impacts of IP litigation among handset technology owners is an emerging issue.

Another feature of Wireless deals is the availability of corporate liable and individual liable service arrangements.  Under the latter, individual employees enter into individual agreements with the carriers, assuming responsibility for paying for their own services and handsets, but at the discounted rates negotiated in the enterprise’s agreement with the carrier.  Individually liable arrangements are part of the growing IT management challenges triggered by employees using their own remote devices to access corporate networks and data resources, often referred to as the Bring Your Own Device (“BYOD”) trend. 


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AT&T and Verizon capture the lion’s share of enterprise Wireline services business in the United States.  This year, Level 3 acquired Global Crossing and CenturyTel acquired Qwest (now “CenturyLink”).  These two companies could drive the return of the competitive environment of the mid-to-late 1990s that, unfortunately, collapsed in the wake of the WorldCom accounting fraud.

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For over a decade, enterprise customers, 2nd tier interexchange carriers (“IXCs”), and many Wireless carriers have argued that special access rates are inflated, priced far above “just and reasonable” levels as required by Title II of the Communications Act. Unlike various broadband and spectrum initiatives, special access reform has garnered modest media attention and