The US RBOCs are concerned about applying for aid under the broadband stimulus package because it may force them to open their networks to competitors. The provision in the rural broadband aid portion of the stimulus requires the grantees to adhere to FCC principles of open interconnection, but it is not clear just what those principles are. The fear is that the interpretation given to this requirement would force the RBOCs who apply to open the networks, and just how far that “open-ness” might extend (to the grant-funded lines or to all lines) is also open to debate.
This issue has received a bit of negative publicity, but from what we hear the issue is simply one of clarification. One RBOC executive told us that if the use of grant money on a single hypothetical line were to create a broadband unbundling obligation through their whole region, they’d surely not be interested. We doubt, and most RBOCs doubt, that is the interpretation intended, but they want to be sure before moving forward. This demonstrates how vulnerable broadband investment is to the issues of wholesaling, and clearly that should be considered in any rules and legislation involving broadband deployment.