June 11, 2001, 10:24 AM — Competitive local exchange carriers in Illinois may be able to offer business customers a wider array of cut-rate telecom services thanks to a bill passed by the state earlier this month.
In addition to increasing potential fines on Illinois' incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), Ameritech Corp./SBC Communications Inc., for substandard service, the bill widens the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's definition of an unbundled network element (UNE). UNEs are the parts of their networks the ILECs must make available to CLEC providers on a wholesale basis.
The FCC regulation defining UNEs requires a CLEC to prove its business will be impaired if it can't provide a particular service. Only if impairment is proven is an ILEC forced to provide a network element or function at a wholesale price to the CLEC.
The Illinois legislation removes the impairment requirement and forces the ILECs to cobble together various UNE elements into a UNE platform if a CLEC requests it. A UNE platform is roughly defined as a group of services that replicate the functionality of an ILEC telecom network.
Now, for example, an Illinois CLEC can get UNE access to packet-switching equipment, allowing the CLEC to provide DSL, frame relay or ATM service in a particular central office, even if the CLEC has no equipment in that central office.
"Competitive carriers can now take advantage of this legislation to provide service out of a [central office] where it doesn't make economic sense for them to install their own equipment," says Jonathan Lee, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Competitive Telecommunications Association, an association representing CLECs.
This would let CLECs offer larger business customers a complete telecom package, including service to remote offices. The legislation also lets CLECs use any available interconnection provider in a central office where the CLEC has equipment installed. In the past, CLECs were forced to use the ILEC for transport between a central office and a point of presence.
"This allows CLECs to use the most efficient provider in a given [central office]," Lee says.
Ameritech/SBC, which has been much maligned by Illinois legislators for providing shoddy service, isn't happy with the changes. The company says it could go bankrupt if it is forced to bundle UNE services for CLECs.
"Giving CLECs access to more UNEs allows them to undercut us on business services," says Ameritech spokesman Michael King. "It also forces us to do a lot of work to put the UNE platforms together for them. If these competitors can undercut Ameritech's prices, while having Ameritech do all the work for them, eventually our business services revenue will peter out."