CEOs Put Open Access on Policy Wish List

Access to incumbent networks topped the wish list of line items to be included in a rewrite of the Telecom Act for executives gathered for yesterdays CEO Forum: Open Markets, Open Networks, Open for Business.

Without access to open networks, we are going to be out of business, says James A. Courter, CEO and vice chairman of IDT Corp. Despite gains by competitors, nine out of 10 buildings will still have networks controlled by one of the four Bell companies. We have to have access. Thats what I would vote for.

Courter adds it will be interesting to see what will happen with open access when AT&T Corp. and MCI merge with SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., respectively.

The mergers bring up issues with consolidation of access lines and backbones and raises question about peering and network traversal, says Rich Grange, president and CEO of New Global Telecom. Interconnection and peering must be mandated [in the new law].

Carl Grivner, CEO of XO Communications, agrees AT&T and MCI created an effective wholesale market. Taking them out changes the market quite a bit, he says, noting that new telecom policy should address pricing stability for wholesale carrier customers.

As companies vertically integrate, youve got to watch pricing, warns Peter Aquino, CEO of RCN Corp., who says in the cable market pricing for content has become the battleground of the incumbents and upstarts.

Grange also called for access to UNE loops for some time, maybe long term. He says while he is not advocating overregulation, a framework is needed to protect ongoing industry development.

The group disagreed on the feasibility of commercial agreements to achieve a competitive marketplace. XOs Grivner says, I think they can work. His caveat was the need for leverage in such negotiations. But, Aquino adds, They are tougher, the smaller you are. IDTs Courter adds, Sometimes it will work and sometimes it wont, noting his companys successful negotiation with Verizon and lack thereof with the three other Bell companies.

CompTel CEO Earl Comstock, who moderated the roundtable discussion, challenged the CEOs on how to gain support for the competitive providers position from content providers like Google and Yahoo! Grivner says simply: They will lose choice with a narrower field. IDTs Courter adds, They want to transport content. They can do that only on Bell networks. If they [the Bells] have the unfettered right to prohibit content on their networks, their [Googles] interests are similar to ours.

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