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FCC indicates special-access measures could move 'soon'

He said the agency "will soon be taking steps to address many of the issues raised in the report.”

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) said Thursday the FCC should take on special access.

"It is time for the FCC to complete its evaluation of special-access pricing," he said. "Pro-competitive policies in the special-access market are essential to maximize choice, affordability and technological innovation in the wireless market. ”

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Sprint welcomed that position Thursday.

"Further delay only maintains inflated rates that harm both the wireless industry and virtually every sector of the economy which depends on high-speed broadband connections. Ultimately, this harms consumers and limits the growth of our nation’s broadband-based economy," said Vonya McCann, senior vice president for government affairs at Sprint Nextel.

NoChokePoints, the lobby for companies impacted by special-access rates, also praised the GAO findings. The special-access lobby includes Sprint, Clearwire and companies including banks and manufacturers who purchase special-access circuits directly from the landline companies.

Maura Corbett, spokeswoman for NoChokePoints, said the GAO was right in its "acknowledgement that special access is an 'essential element' to the provision of wireless services, including wireless broadband service," the group said.

Gigi Sohn, president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, said the report painted a dismal picture about the consolidation of the wireless industry, arguing that special-access rates "hamper competition."

"These trends do not bode well for consumers," she said.

Wireless group CTIA highlighted positive signs in the report, including the past decade's price drops.

“It is significant that the GAO reports that the cost of wireless service in 2009, adjusted for inflation, is about 50 percent less than in 1999," said Steve Largent, president of CTIA.