Within the telecom realm, wireless and otherwise, the concept of "special access" lines refers to special high-speed lines used for things like network backend, node to node transmission for wireless networks and end-user connection points for crucial business customers that need extremely high-speed data. Banks, ATMs, universities, government offices and other such elements make extensive use of these networks for mission critical day to day operations. These special access lines are already key to the world of business-serving telecoms and will likely play a crucial role in the development of 5G networks.
Recently, it was brought to the FCC's attention that some of the bigger players in the special access space may have been engaging in anti-competitive activities, such as charging smaller elements like T-Mobile and Sprint early termination fees or drawing up contracts for customers that discouraged or made it almost impossible for them to seek alternative services, should anything about their service not be satisfactory. These two offenses in particular are set to be banned by the new movement, should it pass a final vote. Current FCC rules are said to have, in essence, failed at exactly what they were intended for; finding anti-competitive behavior and low-competition markets and helping to reshape them. The FCC is hoping that this ruling will help encourage the development of a "technology-neutral" framework for special access that any carrier or provider can use, which would also give customers more choice when it comes to equipment and setup. The FCC also specifically called out Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier Communications, four of the biggest players in the space, saying that they will have to redraw their unfair contracts and submit new ones to the FCC within 60 days, if the ruling passes.
The movement was voted in by three commissioners, all Democrats, while two commissioners, who happened to be Republicans, opposed the move, citing that this is a space that should be able to sort itself out for consumer benefit without the FCC's help. No timeline has been set for a final vote on the issue at this time, but the FCC has stated that it will be accepting comments from industry insiders and the public leading up to that final vote.