James M. Smith

THEN: Jim Smith was a partner at the law firm, Pierson, Ball & Dowd, and outside general counsel to COMPTEL, the competitive telecommunications association. It was the year of the original  Triennial Review, recalls Smith, noting Judge Harold Greenes review of the RBOC line-of-business restrictions in the Modified Final Judgment, which had gone into effect in 1984. The life-or-death issue for the competitive industry then (third-tier IXCs and resellers) was Bell entry into LD — as it continued to be through the battles leading to the passage of the 1996 Telecom Act, although that seems quaint today, Smith says. He recalls the competitive industry prevailed in  that Triennial Review when the DOJ reversed its initial recommendation to allow partial Bell entry, and Greene maintained the long-distance restriction, although not the ones of information services or manufacturing.

The competitive industry was tiny and entrepreneurial — hundreds of resellers, but even MCI only had about 8 percent share of LD and AT&T had over 70 percent, he says. CLECs (CAPs) were just a gleam in the eye.

NOW: After having served as president of COMPTEL and vice president of law and public policy for Excel Telecommuncations, Smith has returned to practicing law as a partner in the firm of Davis, Wright & Tremaine.

After tremendous tumult, consolidation and convergence (and, frankly, many crippling defeats and abandonments for the competitive industry,) my sense is that competitors — the old entrepreneurs returning and a second generation on the move – are rising like the phoenix to outquick and outsmart the old and new industry Goliaths, with new technologies and new applications, he says.

In terms of government policy changes, he adds, It will get better because there’s nowhere to go but up.


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