At a time of significant change in the political makeup of our country and the advent of a rewrite of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is endorsing the concept of technology-neutral regulation. Rather than paraphrase the chairman, here are the comments from his blog of October 31st.
““Earlier this week, I circulated a proposal to update the Commission’s rules to give video providers who operate over the Internet – or any other method of transmission – the same access to programming that cable and satellite operators have. This change should ultimately give consumers more options to buy the programming they want.
“Those same principles apply in the context of an item I circulated last week on an issue commonly referred to as “VoIP symmetry.” The notion is simple — interconnected VoIP is functionally equivalent to traditional voice service, and the Commission’s rules that govern the way communications companies pay each other to complete voice calls must reflect that. Technology-neutral rules are best.
“Technology transitions will be speeded by technology-neutral rules that promote, preserve and protect the enduring values that consumers have rightly come to expect. Chief among them is the ability to reach emergency responders, and the ability to choose products and services in a competitive market. Technology must improve; these values must be protected.“
The emphasis on the consumer, support for continued competition amongst carriers and the desire to accelerate rather than impede innovation is most welcome. Too often the FCC and Congress have developed regulations that favor business interests over the consumers, and large ILECs over the CLECs and other competing service providers. If the FCC is to go into this cycle of regulatory change with a balanced position, there’s a greater likelihood of regulation that provides a strong foundation for growth, investment, competition and innovation.
In December of last year, House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., outlined plans to update the aging telecom law with the expressed intent of addressing the convergence of telecom and information technology. The 1996 rewrite took eight years during a less partisan period. This rewrite will not be a simple task, as it should also address wireline vs. wireless, net neutrality and a host of other issues central to telecom and IT. While there is concern that the direction a Republican-led Congress will be in favor of large carriers over smaller ones and business interests over consumers, the boundaries between the interests of these parties has changed as technology enables new access methods and services. There has been a blurring of boundaries between competitors based on industry, target markets and services. And the strength of consumers has improved, given weaker barriers of entry for competitors or greater access to services, as the Internet and IP technology are a great equalizer.
Current belief is that a rewrite will only succeed if the resulting law is bipartisan. That may ultimately be the case, since neither body has enough votes to override a veto on a single party vote.
We’ll see soon enough!
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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