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PSC suspends telecom rule review in face of FCC action

By: Jeff Richgels, The Capital Times

The state Public Service Commission is suspending its review of its remaining telecommunications regulations.

The PSC announced about a year ago that it was going to "comprehensively explore" its remaining telecommunications regulations.

The suspension will be until the Federal Communications Commission has completed its work on "intercarrier compensation," which refers to the money that telecom providers must pay another provider to access their networks to complete phone calls, or for trafficking calls to other providers, according to the latest issue of the Wisconsin CALLS newsletter.

While much of the telecom industry has been deregulated, the PSC does cover "Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers" (ILECs). Many ILECs face competition from "Competitive Local Exchange Carriers" (CLECs), with an example being ILEC AT&T facing competition locally from CLEC TDS Metrocom.

But CLEC competition has not been authorized by the PSC against many small ILECs.

Yet those small ILEC companies do face competition that includes wireless companies, cable companies and Internet providers, which face little or no regulation, Commissioner Mark Meyer told The Capital Times last February.

Meyer said the impetus for the move was the wholesale changes in the telecom landscape since the last major telecom laws were written nationally in 1996 and in Wisconsin in 1993 (the state law was enacted in 1994).

"I don't think anyone back in '93 or '96 could have envisioned what the telco world looks like now," Meyer said a year ago.

All that increased competition has resulted in ILECs losing customers, Meyer noted.

Meyer said the goal was to try to understand the level of competition in ILEC regions.

The end result was to be a report with recommendations for state statutes and/or PSC rules that could include easing or even eliminating regulations, although Meyer emphasized that he did not want to "prejudge anything."

"It is important to keep pace with this incredibly fast changing marketplace," PSC Chairman Dan Ebert said in a statement a year ago. "It is time that the state embraces the possibility of further deregulation, but it must be thoughtful deregulation."

Although the review has been suspended, the PSC has cut the paperwork reporting required of state telecom providers, effective this spring.


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