I am pleased to announce that Windstream and the USTelecom Association, which represents the nation’s largest telecoms, have reached an agreement on wholesale network access that balances the needs of customers, incumbent providers and competitors.
I have been blogging about this issue since May, when USTelecom asked the FCC to let incumbent providers (ILECs) out of their obligation to provide wholesale access to unbundled network elements, or UNEs, at reasonable rates. UNEs are essentially the cabling that competitors may access under current rules to enter a market in a cost-effective way. The proposal, which included an immediate 15 percent price increase followed by an 18-month transition period, would have been devastating for competitive providers (CLECs) and their customers.
Windstream is both an ILEC and a CLEC, and we have invested in new switching technology and deployed our own transport network. That means our business customers have access to the newest technologies and services, including UCaaS, SD-WAN, and VoIP. But there are still areas where our CLEC operation depends on UNEs supplied by the biggest telcos.
We engaged in negotiations with USTelecom and the big telcos since they filed their proposal with the FCC on May 4. These talks were occasionally tense, but I’m happy that cooler heads prevailed. This is not a perfect deal, but we were able to reach an agreement that benefits all sides.
Under the agreement, which still must be approved by the FCC, the transition period has been extended until Feb. 4, 2021, and no price increase will occur before then. Windstream will work diligently with our customers to minimize the impact of any price increase following the transition period and help them migrate from legacy communications products to next-generation services on their terms and at the cadence that makes sense for their businesses.
I want to thank the leaders of USTelecom and the big ILECs for agreeing to come to the table. Together, we reached an agreement that promotes adoption of modern technologies, provides adequate time for customers to migrate to new platforms, and minimizes the customer expense.