If the rumors are true, the FCC may be about to take a big step towards embracing its goal of being data driven, and could open the door to a more competitive Internet Service Provider (ISP) market.
According to reports, the FCC is considering requiring big telecommunications companies to lease their infrastructure to smaller competitors. This, of course, is not a new idea. Back in the day, forcing phone companies to allow competitors to access their wires resulted in thousands of dial-up ISPs competing for business. However, as Internet services transitioned from dial-up to broadband this access requirement more or less disappeared (this is largely what the famous “Brand X” case is about). As a result, most Americans now only have one, potentially two, ISPs to choose from.
At least partially in recognition of the fact that it was nice to have a number of ISPs for consumers to choose from, last year the FCC commissioned a study (PDF) on the impact that line sharing would have on competition. As we reported last November, the study found that competition helps consumers. Furthermore, it found that requiring telecommunications companies to lease infrastructure to competitors (often called “unbundling”) was a great way to encourage competition among ISPs.
Now, nothing is official yet, but this rumor is encouraging. Commissioning the original study was a great first step, but actually adopting some of its recommendations would be even better. Hopefully there will be an official announcement from the FCC soon. Maybe at its meeting tomorrow?