Special Access Reform: Ten Years in the Making

March 22, 2016 ,

The “special access” market has been a significant focus for Tom Wheeler since he became Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission nearly three years ago. But it is by no means a new issue for the FCC agenda.

Special access refers to the dedicated circuits businesses purchase for many of their connections. For example, ATMs and cell phone towers use these dedicated circuits to relay the information needed to complete a transaction or call in a way that does not affect the business’ other circuit connections.

Some people have criticized the current Commission's focus on the special access market, but these critics overlook the fact that the Commission has been examining the competitiveness of the special access market for over 10 years.

During this time, small businesses, large enterprises, local governments, schools and universities, hospitals, and consumers have waited for the Commission to act to ensure that there are fair prices and conditions for special access. Unjust and unreasonable rates in the special access market not only hurt competition, but also cost American consumers and businesses billions of dollars. Almost everyone relies on a special access connections in some way, from consumers using mobile phones, to businesses and governments maintaining a website, to hospitals keeping medical records electronically, to schools and universities offering online learning.

Public Knowledge's Dallas Harris has developed an interactive presentation summarizing the decade-long history of the FCC’s actions in the expansive special access proceeding, which you can check out below. We have also included a 2010 episode of “Five Minutes with Feld,” which breaks down the issue of special access, and is as timely as ever. Finally, you can learn more in our two sets of comments submitted to the FCC during this special access proceeding, one from 2005 and one from 2015.