From Commissioner Kevin Martin to CompTel/Alliance CEO H. Russell Frisby Jr. and outgoing co-chairmen Ron Harden and Richard Burk, the message was clear that competitors need to move to the front lines in the battle for competition.
In accepting the "Champions of Competition" award from the CompTel/ASCENT Alliance on Sunday, Commissioner Martin admonished the industry to take up the fight. "It's time to speak now or forever hold your peace," he said to an invitation-only audience gathered at the Anaheim Hilton on the first day of the association's spring conference and exhibition. A videotape of his remarks at the ceremony was replayed in lieu of a planned keynote address.
Martin, who was acknowledged for his commitment to competition first and deregulation second, said the battle to preserve local competition is not over and in fact is "more tenuous today that it was one year ago," citing incumbents' success at moving the debate from policies that can advance competition to how the rules should be made more fair to the incumbents.
"The fight is up to you," he said.
The commissioner's comments inspired Harden to urge CompTel/ASCENT members to support the association's efforts. "If they [Alliance staff] are not blocking and tackling on all fronts ... no one will be there on your behalf," he said in his remarks Monday, kicking off the educational portion of the conference. Harden zeroed in on the commissioners recommendation to turn the discussion toward the benefits of local service competition, including $5 billion in consumer savings.
Burk also used his remarks to remind competitors to tell their stories. "They [regulators] don't get it. They think this is an argument between us and the RBOCs. It's not; it's about the economy of America and consumers."
He cited examples of his own company's small and medium business customers being able to buy health insurance or invest in new equipment with the savings and productivity enhancements it offers them. "It's about those people that politicians care," he said.
Frisby offered members an opportunity to act by joining the Break the Bottleneck campaign, which assists members with tools for communicating with their legislators and regulators. Instead of the commission getting 300,000 e-mails and phone calls about Janet Jackson's unveiling at the Super Bowl, they should be getting them about preserving the benefits of competition, he said.
In addition to touting their sevices, Frisby says members need to stress the point that if it weren't for competition, the Bells would never have offered some of the advanced services and pricing plans that they are touting today. "The Bells did not attempt to roll it [VoIP] out until pressed by the competition," he says, citing one example.