The European Union’s ambassador to the U.S. sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Tuesday arguing that the agency’s latest outlook on deregulations will unfairly advantage America.
Specifically, on behalf of the E.U., the foreign official says that regulations for business data services (BDS) will soon be “imbalanced” between Europe and the U.S.
BDS, sometimes referred to as “special access lines,” are enterprise network connections that “support essential services likes ATMs, credit-card readers, and mobile-phone service,” according to a proposal from former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Small businesses, hospitals, and schools often depend on the special lines for data access. The BDS industry is estimated to be worth $45 billion.
The current FCC under the Trump Administration changed its trajectory after Wheeler’s FCC originally agreed with the E.U. and said the competition in the BDS marketplace is “uneven.” (RELATED: Trump Nomination Could Spell Disaster For Government’s Internet Takeover)
In a draft report cited by the E.U. official, the FCC now says “the competition envisioned in the Telecommunications ACT of 1996 has been realized.”
Wheeler, a lame duck government official who appeared inclined to implement rule changes before the new administration took over, advocated for lowering the price caps on such lines. He ultimately dropped the proposal after then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won the election. Republicans reportedly pressured him to remove the motion as new leadership was imminent.
The telecommunications industry adamantly opposed Wheeler’s pending policies arguing that it encourages redistribution of BDS among companies, rather than organically fostering competition.
“Backward-looking regulations that encourage resale by making it cheaper will only serve to transfer wealth from small incumbents to often large (and growing) ‘competitors,’ which hardly seems like an appropriate regulatory goal,” USTelecom, a powerful trade association, said in an FCC filing at the time of Wheeler’s original proposal.
AT&T said in October that Wheeler’s plan would “contribute to mounting job losses,” according to Reuters.
Now, the current FCC under Republican Chairman Ajit Pai is indicating that it too sees those regulations as burdensome by changing its policy perspective in a draft report.
The E.U. feels such a reversal of policy will give the U.S. a “competitive advantage” over other countries.
“The European Union is concerned that this sudden change of course, followed by the rapid action that is foreseen … may be harmful for consumers and competition, and that it will further aggravate the imbalance in BDS regulatory practice that already exists between the US and the EU and other nations,” David O’Sullivan, the ambassador of the E.U. to the U.S., wrote in the letter to the FCC. “Furthermore, the European Union is concerned that the current situation and the course of action envisaged in the draft Report and Order may threaten the US’ compliance with WTO [World Trade Organization] regulatory norms on Telecommunications Services.”
The “change of course” isn’t very surprising considering the fact that Pai has already been quite active in undoing some of the Obama administration’s regulations. After only a few months, for example, Pai ended what he saw as burdensome oversight of the telecomm industry, which he to some degree credits for empowering companies to offer new “unlimited” data plans. (RELATED: Pelosi Does Exactly What Money Expected Her To Do: Pressure Cable Companies To Support Obama Regs)
A representative for the FCC told The Daily Caller News Foundation that they do not have a comment on the topic at the moment.
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