What the Midterm Elections Mean to Telecommunications

David ByrdI haven’t listened to every debate around the country, but I am willing to bet there have been no questions asked of candidates about issues regarding telecommunications. I find this interesting because telecom is a very important to our economy, our lives and how we, as a country, maintain our position as the sole remaining superpower. Clearly, as the CMO of ANPI, I spend most of my day developing product and marketing strategies to grow our hosted unified communications business. But I am also a member of the IP communications community and a citizen with broader concerns.

Our industry generates $1.3 trillion of gross domestic product for the U.S., representing nearly 8 percent of the economy. And our industry’s contribution is growing. Only state and local governments and real estate are greater contributors to the U.S. GDP. When the Internet of Things is included as part of the future growth of telecom, the growth rate increases, since its success will require continued network infrastructure investment and innovation.

Our industry employs nearly 900,000 people and creates product (landline, mobile, Internet and satellite) that is used by 95 percent of the population. After a slow start, mobile penetration in the U.S. leads the developed nations, and the number of connections/subscribers is in the worldwide top five.

Telecommunications and the supporting infrastructure are undergoing substantial review at the FCC, and new regulations defining access rates, services and competition are pending. A change in Congress will influence the direction of the regulations and any accompanying laws.

Take the case of Aereo, a startup ruled to have violated copyright laws by rebroadcasting TV signals to its subscriber base. The catch in the decision was the court’s opinion that Aereo should be considered a cable company. Aereo responded by applying to the U.S. Copyright Office office for the same license available to cable companies, but they were denied because of the technology used. According to the Copyright Office, “Internet retransmissions of broadcast television fall outside the scope of the Section 111 license.” Obviously, that leaves Aereo between a rock and a hard place, but a shining knight is coming to the rescue in the guise of Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Wheeler correctly believes that the current definition of the license does not reflect changes in technology and newer, more innovative ways to deliver copyrighted services. He wants the FCC to recognize Aereo the same as traditional cable and satellite television companies.

This is an important turning point for the FCC as it addresses net neutrality, and the House Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Technology begins the rewrite of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The update will attempt to remove or clarify the distinctions between “telecommunications” and “information” services. However, it will also reflect political positions which will be lobbied hard by key players such AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Google and Netflix. This midterm election will give significant momentum to entrenching those political positions into the act.

So, regardless of your political persuasion, vote with the understanding that our industry will be affected — however the night ends.

David Byrd is chief marketing officer at ANPI and leads marketing programs for SMBs, enterprises and carriers. Prior to joining the company, Byrd was chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales at Broadvox where he built a nationally recognized channel partner program and award-winning SIP product offering.

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