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Copper Loop Retirement: Calif. CLECs Bend PUCs Ears

ILECs are retiring few copper loops but that could change at any time. So, at least one state association, along with its CLEC members, is making sure the Bells cant do away with copper easily or, with any luck, soon.

Kelly Teal

April 13, 2009

2 Min Read
Copper Loop Retirement: Calif. CLECs Bend PUCs Ears

Fortunately for CLECs, copper loop retirement remains more of a theoretical threat than a real one. Nonetheless, one prominent state association continues to push for procedural safeguards in case an ILEC – namely, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) – tries to shut down any loop on which competitive service providers depend. The group, California Association of Competitive Telecommunications Companies, or CALTEL, already has the ear of the state’s public utilities commission. And CALTEL planned to introduce a resolution to legislators by month’s end; the hope is to build alliances now so when the time comes for a fight, member companies have the backing of influential policy makers.

CLECs in the Golden State are on to something, experts say. And even though the PUC recently rejected a retirement rulemaking, CLECs did secure an important advantage: the right to investigate the facts beneath incumbents’ claims.

“The PUC decision is not at all negative,” said Nancy Lubamersky, vice president of public policy and strategic initiatives for TelePacific Communications. The CLEC is among the most active on the copper retirement matter. “It may have been too early to request additional regulation.”

Indeed, the PUC did note that if CLECs can show there’s a real and impending threat, commissioners would reconsider their position. Lubamersky said she welcomes that approach.

“I believe the CLEC community can be assured of continued access to copper,” she said, adding that’s especially true now that the federal government is disbursing grants to companies that will deploy broadband over copper. So, having the attention of California lawmakers just boosts the chances of success if – when – the time comes to fight mass retirements.

“The increased awareness is key. And without exception, we are getting the right support and interest,” Lubamersky said.

Still, some CLECs aren’t convinced that Verizon, more than AT&T (whose U-verse services rely on hybrid networks), doesn’t intend to cut them off the copper loops that reach their customers, most of whom are SMBs and enterprises. To be sure, CALTEL – along with other states and providers within those regions – has been concerned for some time about that very possibility. About three years ago, AT&T, Qwest Communications International Inc. (Q) and Verizon started notifying the FCC en masse that they wanted to retire many of their copper loops. The matter has since percolated on the FCC’s back burner – a proposed rulemaking still awaits agency action; its last filing dates back to April 4, 2008.

CALTEL, then, has brought its concerns to state lawmakers, hoping for action on that front. Maryland, too, has shown some interest in keeping copper retirement at bay. But opponents of copper retirement are looking for more support – from other CLECs and from those providers’ channel partners.

“Resellers haven’t been as focused on this as we’d like them to be,” said Sarah DeYoung, CALTEL’s executive director.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC. Follow her on LinkedIn at /kellyteal/.

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