SBC joins appeal of FCC order

FRAMINGHAM (09/15/2003) - SBC Communications Inc. this week became the fourth RBOC to appeal the recent FCC ruling that the companies claim enables competitors to use their local access facilities at less than wholesale rates.

SBC asked a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to stop the enactment of the Triennial Review orders issued late last month by the FCC, claiming they cause "irreparable harm" to its business. SBC joins the U.S. Telecom Association, Verizon Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc. in filing the motion for a stay with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"The new rules... continue to unfairly give competitors blanket access to SBC's network at below-cost rates," the carrier stated in a press release. "Similar rules have twice been struck down, once by the U.S. Supreme Court and once by a federal appeals court."

In reimposing the rules -- and extending them to new network components and new competitors, SBC claims -- the FCC has "blatantly disregarded the central holdings" of those decisions, the carrier charges.

New rules imposed by the Triennial Review order could cost SBC an additional $500 million in lost revenue by the end of 2005, the carrier claims. These rules allow competitors to access SBC's high-capacity lines to avoid paying access charges, and enable wireless phone companies to purchase network components at below-cost prices, SBC charges.

The FCC issued its order on Aug. 21. In it, the organization largely kept intact its rulings on unbundled network elements (UNE), a policy borne of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that opens the long-distance market to RBOCs if they open their local loops to competitors.

In response, the RBOCs filed petitions demanding the FCC rewrite the order. The FCC subsequently said it would review UNE rates.

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