A look at two key FCC rulings

Commission adopts new network-sharing rules, considers in-flight cell phone use

Commission adopts new network-sharing rules, considers in-flight cell phone use.

Federal regulators made two significant rulings last week that could realign telecom -- and make the skies a little less friendly.

IDG News Service's Grant Gross reports that the FCC adopted new rules about what parts of incumbent carrier networks must be shared with competitors. The order revises the FCC's February 2003 triennial review decision on where competitors of the regional Bells are significantly impaired.

Under the new order, CLECs have access to fewer pieces of the Bells' networks.

The decision allows the 1996 Telecom Act's unbundled network element rules to continue where competitors have "no other viable way to compete," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said. The ruling will drive CLECs to invest in their own facilities, Powell said.

Incumbents BellSouthVerizon and SBC praised the FCC's switching decision, but objected to its ruling on DS-1 and DS-3 loops for the business market. That judgment requires limited sharing of those facilities with CLECs.

The FCC also kicked off efforts that could establish wireless access -- including cell phone use -- on commercial airlines. IDG News Service's Steve Lawson reports that the commission will auction radio frequencies in the 800-MHz band in the hopes of spurring new onboard services that could include voice, data and broadband Internet access.

Service providers that participate in the auction could choose an arrangement in which two carriers each have 3 MHz of spectrum, overlapping in the middle part of the band, or one of two configurations that set aside a 3-MHz band exclusively for one carrier and a 1-MHz band exclusively for another.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said he was worried about the possible fallout for airline passengers.

"Many airline passengers don't relish the idea of sitting next to someone yelling into their cell phones for an entire six-hour flight. I know I don't!" Copps wrote. "We here at the Commission need to determine precisely what jurisdiction the FCC has over the annoying-seatmate issue."

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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