What do you get when you put four long-time telecom CEOs together on one stage? Answer: An hour of serious and funny commentary on the state of the competitive telecom industry.
Jerry James, interim CEO of COMPTEL, led the View from the Top panel on Monday, lobbing questions to Carl Grivner of XO Communications Inc., Royce Holland of McLeodUSA Inc. and Ron Beaumont of HyperCube LLC.
COMPTEL’s Jerry James with Ron Beaumont, Royce Holland and Carl Grivner
The three executives responded to insight-seeking questions such as how they mentor younger managers to how they find balance (if any) between business and personal pursuits. (Grivner joked, Well, lets see, Im working on my second marriage could you ask the next two?)
But they also tackled the elephant in the room: the FCCs continued favoritism of LECs and big business over competition.
McLeodUSA is a poster child for victims of forbearance, said Holland, who recently helped negotiate PAETEC Holding Corp.s acquisition of McLeodUSA.
Over the past two years, the Bells have used a loophole in the 1996 Telecom Act to achieve deregulation on UNEs, special access and broadband services. McLeodUSA said it has taken the biggest hit so far, after Qwest Communications International Inc. in 2005 got approval to slip out from under government-mandated loop pricing in Nebraskas capitol city. McLeodUSAs access costs now are so high that if it doesnt get the governments help, were going to pull out of Omaha, where it serves a large number of residential and business users, Holland said.
Grivner agreed, noting XOs high-profile presence in regulatory matters. The carrier actively files comments on pressing topics at the FCC and meets with the agencys staff and commissioners. Pending forbearance petitions filed by Qwest and Verizon Communications Inc. stand to affect 47 million people, he noted.
As a follow-up, James asked each panelist what he would do if he were chairman of the FCC.
I would stop undermining the Telecom Act with forbearance petitions, Holland immediately quipped.
I would figure out a way to embrace all the commissioners even on the Republican side because its obvious that doesnt occur, said Grivner.
To say Im thoroughly disgusted with the FCC would be being as nice as I can be, Beaumont said. He added, I think we need to start over and have a non-partisan FCC that would be fair and open.