Regulatory Workshop to Explore Weighty Issues

Hazy VoIP oversight. Megamergers. No more UNE-P mandates. Reclassification of the Bells DSL services. So much is happening in the regulatory landscape it can be hard to keep up. Thursdays regulatory workshop, New Landscape, New Challenges, sponsored by Dickstein Shapiro LLP, will help COMPTEL members learn more about the issues affecting them, as well as what looks to be on the horizon. All registered attendees automatically are enrolled in the classes.

Dickstein Shapiro bills the workshop as a series of panels that will explore how shifts in the regulatory landscape will shape competitors business plans, creating both risks and opportunities. Questions to be addressed include: What options remain? What impact will new technologies, such as wireless, play in the future landscape? How is the FCC going to regulate VoIP and other IP services?

Jacob S. Farber, counsel in Dickstein Shapiros communications practice, said he hopes attendees understand that whats happening in regulatory helps shape business plans, because FCC and Congressional decisions affect more than just a companys legal decisions.

The first event in the half-day seminar will feature FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martins chief of staff, Daniel Gonzalez. He will take part in the panel, Reaching the Customer and Hauling Traffic: The Future of UNEs, Special Access and Alternative Access Methods Including VoIP, Wireless Broadband and BPL. Other slated participants include Dave Baker, vice president of law and public policy for EarthLink Inc.; Edward Cadieux, vice president, senior regulatory counsel for NuVox Communications Inc.; Chris McKee, vice president and assistant general counsel for Covad Communications Inc.; and Joe Sandri, senior vice president of FiberTower Corp.

The second panel is titled The Regulatory Triple Play: VoIP, Universal Service and Intercarrier Compensation. Scheduled participants are: Heather Gold, senior vice president of government relations for XO Communications; Christopher Libertelli, director of regulatory and government affairs for Skype; and Dave Scott, CEO of Ironhorse Telecom. Gold, a familiar face in the CLEC industry, said audience members need to realize the lines between so-called traditional POTS service and the Internet-based services are totally disappearing and creating instability in the support mechanisms as they exist today. Solutions can only be found if [CLECs] cease to permit arbitrage opportunities … We cannot have one segment of the industry funding the use of the network by another.

Gold added the likelihood the FCC and Congress will reform the USF and intercarrier compensation rules any time soon increases as the amount of instability increases. In other words, she explained, large decreases in access charge revenues and USF contributions as entities seek to avoid them through network reconfigurations will push reform more quickly. I think we will see some USF reform in terms of contribution methodology within the next 12 months. Intercarrier compensation will take longer because of the complexity and vast array of viewpoints as to what should be done.

The FCCs Martin has made no secret of his desire to reform both mechanisms, but progress on those fronts has been slow. Finally, Earl Comstock, president and CEO of COMPTEL, will sum up the mornings events with a discussion on net neutrality from the competitive perspective. Julia Strow, vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs for Cbeyond Communications, also is set to weigh in on net neutrality. Comstock has been vocal on the Hill and at industry conferences over the past year-and-a-half about his support for net neutrality, which he outlines as nondiscrimination among carriers, carriage upon reasonable request, interconnection rights and the right to resale.

Net neutrality means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so I will articulate for the competitive industry why is net neutrality important to you and how is it helpful to your cause? Comstock said.

Dickstein Shapiros Farber said the law firm selected these topics precisely because they are so prescient and will determine how the competitive industry moves forward. For example, if a competitor canít get access to the network, it canít provide services, Farber pointed out. There are alternatives to special access in the works; those infrastructure alternatives including BPL and wireless local loop finally are becoming feasible after 10 years of discussion, said Farber.


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