(T(Recasts first paragraph, adds details on Wheeler's plan,
Sprint, AT&T, union reaction)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON Oct 7 Many small businesses would
pay lower prices for high-capacity data and voice connections
known as special access lines under a scaled-back proposal to
reform the $45 billion-a-year market unveiled on Friday by U.S.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.
Wheeler proposed a sweeping reform plan for business data
services in April, and now may seek a final vote as early as
later this month on the updated proposal he circulated to
commissioners on Thursday, a person briefed on the plan said on
Many businesses rely on special-access lines to transmit
large amounts of data quickly, for instance connecting banks to
ATM machines or gasoline pump credit card readers.
Special-access lines are used by offices, retailers, banks,
manufacturers, schools and hospitals to move large amounts of
data, and wireless carriers rely on them for the backhaul of
This data services market is an important business for
companies like AT&T Inc, CenturyLink and Verizon
The FCC said Wheeler is proposing to require lower price
caps for millions of small businesses, schools and libraries
using legacy systems with a one-time 11 percent reduction in
prices phased in over three years in addition to annual small
reductions starting next year.
The goal is to ensure that prices are competitive for legacy
business data networks and newer ethernet-based systems.
Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton
said in a statement the rate cuts "will create pressure on
companies to cut existing jobs and reduce capital outlays in
fiber networks, subverting the very goals the FCC aims to
achieve in this proceeding."
AT&T also criticized the proposal, saying it would
"contribute to mounting job losses."
The FCC said Wheeler also is proposing to rein in excessive
penalties for early termination of contracts for legacy
services. Wheeler is opting not to seek price caps on new
entrants to the business data services market but will take
steps aimed at improving the complaint process, the FCC said.
He is proposing that the FCC take action on Ethernet pricing
in the future "if that proves necessary," the FCC added.
Sprint Corp praised Wheeler for moving ahead with the
"For well over a decade, the high-capacity broadband
marketplace has suffered from a lack of competition, costing the
American economy billions and slowing investments in next
generation broadband technologies," Sprint said in a statement.
Wheeler is trying to complete an ambitious agenda before
President Barack Obama's term in office ends in January,
including broadband privacy rules and an overhaul of the $20
billion annual pay-TV set-top box market.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and