Verizon Wireless is suing US telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in a bid to have it overturn a decision forcing larger operators to share their data networks with smaller players. Verizon claims that the decision – passed by a 3-2 vote in April – exceeds the Commission’s authority and represents an “arbitrary, capricious abuse of discretion”. The telco is calling on the court to reverse the new regulations.
Under new rules approved by the FCC in April, AT&T and Verizon are required to share their data networks with smaller operators. Network sharing arrangements for voice calls are already mandatory; prior to the passing of the disputed regulation, network sharing for mobile data was arranged on a voluntary basis. The new ruling also means that network sharing prices will be set by the FCC.
At the time the regulation was passed, Verizon VP for public affairs, Tom Tauke, said the action represented “a new level of unwarranted government intervention in the wireless marketplace.” Verizon said it already had 40 data-roaming agreements in place and that it had also formed “an industry-leading spectrum-sharing partnership with rural carriers to expand the reach of 4G services in rural areas.” According to the FCC, AT&T and Verizon were the only telcos that voiced opposition to the roaming agreement.
Rural wireless carrier representative body, the Rural Cellular Association (RCA), has said that it is not surprised by Verizon’s response. President and CEO Steven K. Berry said that Verizon had fought competitive policies for a long time, adding that “they have opposed data roaming, they have opposed interoperability and they have opposed putting an end to exclusive handset deals.” According to Berry, the FCC’s authority “is clear, as the data roaming Order was adopted in light of the long standing recognition that the FCC has authority over the public airwaves and a duty to oversee their use in the public interest.”
Calling Verizon’s action the “equivalent of a tag-team match”, Berry claimed that “If AT&T is not there to fight a logical competitive policy decision, then Verizon will step in to complete the tag-team operation for the duopoly.”