The next regulatory framework for the communications industry should have four objectives--protect consumers, encourage innovation, promote investment, and treat technologies agnostically, said Craig Silliman, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs for Verizon Communications Inc., in a speech at a Media Institute luncheon May 16.
Silliman, echoing remarks made over the last several years by Verizon executives, said communications laws are badly out of date and need updating to account for changes in the marketplace, particularly the rise of mobile devices.
“When Congress wrote the Communications Act of 1934 that created the Federal Communications Commission, Title II, which regulates wireline communications, was essentially imported from the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887,” Silliman said. “The 1996 Telecom Act updated the 1934 Act to reflect the new developments of the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, such as the growth of cable television and the breakup of the old AT&T, but many of the fundamental concepts carried forward, and the law has not been updated since. So this is the DNA of our regulatory framework for communications in the 21st century: railroad regulation in the 1880s.”
Indeed, both the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 were premised on protecting consumers from a government-sanctioned natural monopoly in local phone service.
The ’96 Act, which itself took nearly ten years to complete, required that the five remaining local Bell telephone companies--Ameritech, Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), BellSouth, SBC, and US West--first convince the Federal Communications Commission that their local phone networks are open to potential competitors before being allowed to offer long-distance service to customers in their regions.
But today, the FCC regulates telecommunications providers like Verizon under Title II of the Communications Act, wireless carriers under Title III of the act, and cable operators under Title VI, even though the distinctions between these companies have blurred.Ttelecom providers now offer video service, cable operators now offer voice service, and wireless carriers offer both voice and data service.
“The 1996 Telecom Act succeeded in what it was designed to achieve, but almost two decades later it is leaving the FCC struggling to shoehorn Internet-era technologies into phone-era regulations,” he said.
The 333-page Communications Act, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, mentions the word “broadband” three times, and the word “internet” only 10 times. The 128-page Telecom Act mentions “broadband” in only one reference.
“I am not suggesting that the answer is to abolish all regulation,” he said. “But I am suggesting that we need a 21st century policy framework that is designed for 21st century technologies and marketplaces, not 19th century ones.”
Silliman's speech was not new messaging for Verizon, but rather served to reinforce the company's position that many of the laws and regulations should either be scrapped altogether or be revised with a “light touch.”
Though the company has been engaged on numerous fronts to deregulate the sector, Silliman said he does not expect Congress to take up a Communications Act rewrite over the next two years.
At the earliest, lawmakers may revisit the 1996 Telecommunications Act in four to seven years, as “tension” between the “regulatory infrastructure” and markets intensifies.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)