U.S. to Review Rates for Telecom Special Access Lines

U.S. telecommunications regulators will review rates at which telecommunications providers sell high-capacity data and voice connections, known as special access lines, to businesses, the Federal Communications Commission said on Monday.

Many businesses rely on special-access lines to transmit large amounts of data quickly, for instance connecting banks to ATM machines.

The services are highly lucrative for large carriers, such as Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Inc (NYSE:T). Smaller carriers, such as Sprint Corp (NYSE:S), have argued the special-access market is uncompetitive.

The FCC has now received approval from the Office of Management and Budget to begin collecting information from providers and some purchasers of special access connections on the rates, terms and conditions of the services.

The FCC will then determine whether the industry is competitive or needs regulation. The FCC will begin collecting special access information for 2013 from companies by the end of this year, an agency spokesman said.

"We will move forward with data collection and fact-based analysis that will help the Commission better understand competition in this marketplace, and the impact on consumers as we pursue the Commission’s statutory mandate to ensure special access services are provided at reasonable rates and on reasonable terms and conditions," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.

The FCC sought permission last year to collect information about the market from the OMB, which analyzes the potential economic consequences of proposed actions by regulatory agencies, and studied whether benefits of data collection outweighed its burdens.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh and Marina Lopes. Editing by Andre Grenon)