Even though the telecom reform bill the Bells lobbied so hard for last year never came to fruition, there still is a lot of regulatory activity to look forward to in 2007. The prospect of another rewrite attempt, however, is small. On the other hand, the FCC, Congress and the states are eyeing various issues, some of which will be the topics of discussion during the regulatory track and workshop at COMPTEL PLUS in Las Vegas this week.
First up today is The Pending Wireless Bandwidth Explosion: Regulatory Issues and Opportunities. Michael Pryor, a partner at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C., will lead the discussion. The premise is that wireless devices will support more and more bandwidth-intensive services, and that competitive carriers will have a chance to provide backhaul support. Even devices such as the Apple iPhone could drive wholesale demand. Greater amounts of available spectrum could do the same thing, Pryor said.
Pryor will discuss how COMPTEL members should provide backhaul services in response to demand; some carriers already are doing this, such as FiberLight LLC and FiberTower Corp., Pryor said. Some regulatory changes will need to happen to make backhaul services potential a reality for more competitive wireless and wireline providers, though, and the panel will analyze those. Pryor said the FCC already is increasing carriers ability to provide wireless broadband services, and the addition of more spectrum both fixed and mobile will play a part in supporting this.
Second, COMPTEL will present The Tunney Act: What Is the True Impact on Competition? Since May 2006, a federal judge has been reviewing whether the Justice
Department imposed sufficient antitrust statutes on the mergers of AT&T Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI Inc. COMPTEL has been granted friend of the court status, which means the association is able to act as a consultant if the judge has questions best answered by a party other than the Justice Department or the Bells. Opponents of the recently approved AT&T Inc. BellSouth Corp. merger had hoped the Tunney Act considerations might play a part in the FCCs authorization of that deal, but it didnt. Still, experts will discuss the acts impact on antitrust legislation, competition and the communications industrys growth. The key question will be how megamergers affect other industry players and what those players need to know to compete. Presenters will include Jay Himes, chief of the Antitrust Bureau, Office of the New York Attorney General; COMPTEL General Counsel Jonathan Lee; and session leader Joe Gillan, a longtime telecom economist who owns consultancy Gillan Associates.
The Tunney Act hearings are still very important because they are fundamentally a sanity check on whether DoJ is actually doing its job with respect to scrutinizing telecom activity, Gillan said. Were going to explore what sort of political dynamic may come from a decision by the court in rejecting the consent decrees or finding that theyre not in the public interest, he added.
He said panelists also will try to talk about the kinds of changes, if any, the telecom industry can expect, especially in the BellSouth region, as a consequence of bringing AT&T into the Southeast. The conventional view of AT&T is that its far more rigid in its thinking and far more hierarchical than BellSouth has been, Gillan said.
Next up is the Net Neutrality session. Paul Kouroupas, vice president and senior counsel at Global Crossing Ltd.; John Sumpter, vice president of regulatory affairs for Pac-West Telecomm Inc.; and Greg Welch, CEO of hosted VoIP service provider GlobalTouch Telecom, all are slated to speak.
Im going to lay out some of the motivations and issues behind net neutrality, how the RBOCs are trying to monetize their investment and content providers are trying to save some money, Kouroupas said. With any luck, Kouroupas said, competitive carriers will consider some alternative strategies for addressing the net neutrality issue. For example, he said, carriers should use their existing peering relationships more than they do. If a competitive carrier has limited resources but good businesspeople, arrange deals that will secure the companys future in the Internet space.
Welch, meanwhile, said he thinks the Bells, especially AT&T, will lay low on net neutrality for a while, and will spend time talking about what that means for CLECs. The last thing AT&T wants to do is get into it with the FCC, he said. He said the condition AT&T agreed to on net neutrality will be good for the industry it will give competitive carriers time to get into VoIP and other services and applications that ride over the Internet.
The focus on regulatory issues will conclude with an all-morning workshop on Friday, March 2. Law firm Fleischman and Walsh LLP will present three panels covering a variety of topics: Critical Regulatory Issues Confronting CLECs and MSOs, CLEC and MSO Policy Exchange of Views, and Non-Traditional Opportunities for Both CLECs and MSOs. COMPTEL said it formulated the panels based on the notion that 2007 will be a year of challenge and change for both CLECs and MSOs. MSOs quickly are expanding their broadband and wireless offerings while CLECs continue providing even more sophisticated VoIP and video services.
The workshop will update attendees on the critical regulatory issues facing both CLECs and MSOs. Leaders from both industries further will discuss their points of common interests and of disagreement. Finally, the workshop will examine various non-traditional opportunities these companies are pursuing in the content, wired communities and wireless arenas. Slated speakers include Fleischman and Walshs Eric E. Breisach, H. Russell Frisby Jr., James N. Moskowitz and Enrico C. Soriano; Miller Isar Inc. President Andrew O. Isar; COMPTEL CEO Earl Comstock; and WorldNet Telecommunications Inc. CEO Lawrence H. Freedman.
AT&T Inc. www.att.com
Global Crossing Ltd. www.globalcrossing.com
GlobalTouch Telecom www.globaltouchtelecom.com
Kelley Drye & Warren LLP www.kelleydrye.com
FiberLight LLC www.fiberlight.com
FiberTower Corp. www.fibertower.com
Fleischman and Walsh LLC www.fw-law.com
Miller Isar Inc. www.millerisar.com
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C. www.mintz.com
Pac-West Telecomm Inc. www.pacwest.com
Verizon Communications Inc. www.verizon.com
WorldNet Telecommunications Inc. www.worldnetpr.com