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Posted at 04:50 PM ET, 08/23/2012

FCC votes to suspend special access trigger #thecircuit

FCC votes to suspend special access rules: The Federal Communications Commission announced late Wednesday that it will suspend so-called special access rules that govern price flexibility. In a vote split along party lines, the agency said it will suspend the rules while it looks into whether or not the special access market is competitive.

Special access refers to the lines that smaller carriers, businesses, universities and others lease from companies that own the infrastructure of the Internet, such as AT&T, Verizon and Quest. The rules being suspended said that these companies could raise the rates for special access based on certain triggers that indicated when a market had become competitive.

Public interest groups and carriers such as Sprint quickly hailed the decision as one that would improve “outdated” rules aimed at deregulating the market in preparation for competition they say never materialized.

“This FCC order is a welcome step towards reevaluating the system and preventing the worst abuses by dominant incumbent providers,” said Free Press policy director Matt Wood. “The FCC now needs to finish the job and fix the policies that allowed the market for these services to become so uncompetitive and overpriced in the first place.”

In a statement, AT&T said that the FCC was acting too rashly by suspending the triggers before its competition analysis was complete.

“If, as the FCC itself stated earlier this year, it does not have the data to support ‘claims that special access rates are unreasonable,’ then suspending the existing triggers seems premature,” wrote Bob Quinn, senior vice president for federal regulatory issues. Quinn also said that suspending the order for older, copper-based services was counterproductive as the industry as a whole moves on to fiber-based services.

FCC approves Verizon-cable deal: The FCC also announced that it would approve a deal between Verizon and cable companies, following the Justice Department’s nod on Aug. 16.

In a statement, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the deal worked out with the Justice Dept., which includes spectrum divestitures and agreements to provide roaming services to its consumers and competitors, balances out concerns that the transaction would hurt telecommunications competition. He also said that allowing Verizon to purchase spectrum that had been unused in the past would help with the spectrum crunch.

“The transaction will preserve incentives for deployment and spur innovation while guarding against anti-competitive conduct,” he said. “And vitally, it will put more than 20 megahertz of prime spectrum – spectrum that has gone unused for too long – quickly to work across the country, benefiting consumers and the marketplace.”

As they did following the Justice announcement, critics said the deal would hurt consumer choice and competition.

““The FCC’s decision allowing Big Cable to virtually monopolize wireline and video connections to millions of homes will lead to job loss and hit consumers with higher prices,” said the Communications Workers of America in a statement. “It will slam the door on our country’s high speed future because it has destroyed any incentive for Verizon to continue the build out of its high speed FiOS network.”

Obama campaign announces text-to-donate option: The Obama campaign said Thursday that it will begin accepting campaign donations via text message, becoming the first U.S. political campaign to do so. Supporters will be able to send contributions of less than $50 to the campaign by texting “GIVE” to 62262, or “Obama,” as The Washington Post reported.

The move follows a series of decisions by the Federal Election Commission to allow the practice. Lawyers from both the Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns had urged the agency to approve the method, the Post reported.

FTC approves Facebook’s Instagram buy:The Federal Trade Commission has given its approval to Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, voting unanimously to let the deal proceed as proposed.

In a press release announcing the decision, the FTC said it saw no antitrust issues with the deal and will allow it to move ahead.

In a statement, Facebook said that it was “pleased that the Federal Trade Commission has cleared the transaction after its careful and thorough review.”

Facebook announced that it would acquire the photo-sharing service in April, in a deal estimated at the time to be worth $1 billion in cash and company shares. Since then, Facebook’s share price has fallen dramatically, putting the final value of the deal somewhere around $747 million.

By  |  04:50 PM ET, 08/23/2012

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