Late last week, the FCC’s Technology Transitions Policy Task Force announced it was issuing Public Notice seeking comment on proposed “beta” trials to transition America’s networks to all-IP. Below are reactions to the announcement from IIA leadership.
From Honorary Chairman and former Congressman Rick Boucher:
”The FCC’s recognition of the importance of the move from TDM to all-IP networks is a welcome building block, but it’s disappointing that comprehensive IP transition trials have not been authorized. Only through a comprehensive examination can potential issues be identified and addressed and consumers be protected.”
From Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman:
“The Commission is steering in the right direction, but traveling at the wrong speed. Fully committing to all-IP networks would bring the greatest benefits to consumers and best-equip America to compete on a global scale. Baby steps won’t keep pace with technology.”
From Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons:
“The three areas on which the FCC seeks comment are all important pieces of the puzzle, but instead of a piecemeal approach to figuring out challenges with the IP Transition, the Commission should quickly adopt a holistic strategy, including well-defined trials in designated wire centers, to bring broadband-enabled benefits in health care, education and entrepreneurship to all Americans.”
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, American Consumer Institute for Citizen Research President Steve Pociask worries the FCC may end up hurting consumers with its upcoming spectrum incentive auctions:
A basic principle of any well-designed auction process is that it is open and competitive. However, there are some unsettling news reports that this basic principle may be in jeopardy. For one, there has been some recent coaxing by the Department of Justice that the FCC may want to consider favoring its auction to benefit some small wireless providers over larger ones. Along the same lines, there have been suggestions that the FCC may consider rules to prevent the largest two wireless providers, AT&T and Verizon, from participating in the upcoming auctions. If recent headlines and comments from the FCC Chairman are any indication, Sprint and T-Mobile are “getting stronger” and the reality remains: “Every mobile operator out there, including the largest ones, needs more spectrum.”
Here is the problem—protecting competitors does not help competition, and that hurts consumers. Any action by the FCC that would intentionally benefit some competitors at the expense of others runs counter to the intent of Congress to constrain the FCC’s ability to limit participation in the upcoming spectrum auctions. When it comes to picking favorites in the market, that choice should stay with consumers, not regulators.
Back in February, our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher had similar thoughts on the FCC’s auctions:
History has shown that when the FCC has tried to pick winners and losers in the wireless market, American consumers have lost. Past attempts by the Commission to favor certain bidders and/or impose rigid regulations on auction winners have drastically diminished auction proceeds, left major blocks of spectrum unused, and led to what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski himself has labeled “America’s looming spectrum crisis.”
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has an op-ed in The Hill on the need to modernize regs to keep up with today’s technology. Here’s a taste:
the development of the Internet has brought us to another critical juncture in communications policy as we consider how to complete the transition from the bygone era of plain old telephone service to the digital bonanza of the 21st century. It’s a critical transition, given the Internet’s increasingly dominant role in every part of our economy, as well as its ability to improve lives and help achieve important national goals. It’s also something that just about every stakeholder, including the Federal Communications Commission, regards as inevitable. As we move forward, the guiding principle must be to put consumers first.
As with the adoption of any new technology, the move to IP networks offers challenges and opportunities. A majority of Americans have already changed from voice-only telephone networks. Roughly 93 percent of U.S. households subscribed to switched-access phone service a decade ago, according to USTelecom, today it’s less than one-third and is projected to decline to one-quarter of households by the end of 2013.
Moving the dwindling number of consumers still on copper technology will likely require a public-private partnership that can ensure no one is left behind while also providing access to affordable 21st century technologies.
This morning in Washington, D.C., IIA hosted an Internet Academy featuring our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and former Congressman Mike Oxley. The discussion covered a range of topics, including policy issues around the transition to all-IP networks, and the importance of thoughtful planning by policymakers for continued investment in next-generation networks.
A key point brought up by Boucher was the 1996 Communications Act, which was written to address the technology of yesterday. As networks migrate away from outdated copper phone-lines, Boucher argued, the regulatory framework needs to be upgraded. Oxley focused on the tight relationship between policy and innovation, and the need to preserve a competitive environment as updates are made to communications policy.
All in all, it was a great discussion. Our thanks to Mike Oxley for participating. And for those unable to attend, we’ll have video soon.
With the news that Chairman Julius Genachowski will reportedly join Commissioner Robert McDowell and leave the FCC, our leaders reflect on the departures.
“Chairman Genachowski has provided a valuable service as FCC chairman. He oversaw the adoption of a comprehensive reform of the federal universal service fund. He has set the stage for the FCC’s consideration of the transition to all Internet Protocol networks. I commend him on his success and wish him well in his future endeavors.” — Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher
“Chairman Genachowski has shown remarkable composure and resilience as FCC chairman while facing cross-pressures to ensure competition while encouraging the innovation necessary to achieve the President’s goal of 98% broadband coverage for Americans. Under his leadership the commission has moved toward freeing up more spectrum and giving fair consideration to the IP transition.
“On a personal note I wish Julius and his wife Rachel well in their future endeavors.”— IIA Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons
“Rob exemplified the very best traditions in his years on the Commission, serving with honor, intelligence, humor and grace. He had a hand in shaping a great number of policies that improved American competitiveness and helped lay the groundwork for future innovation and tech-led growth. He will be missed.” — Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman
The last major revision of the Teleommunications Act occurred way back in 1996 (our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, who was chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet at the time, recently wrote about the Act for Roll Call). Given how radically things have changed since then, it’s a good thing the law included provisions, such as in Section 10, that allow the FCC to forebear. But as Paul Barbagallo of Bloomberg reports, at least one former FCC Chairman believes any changes to the Act will be minor:
Congress is likely to make small tweaks to the Communications Act, despite calls for a major rewrite of the statute, Richard Wiley, chairman of Wiley Rein LLP, said Feb. 19.
The last revision to the Communications Act, in 1996, took Congress nearly ten years to complete, and was itself the first major update to the law since 1934, Wiley noted during an event hosted by the Hudson Institute, a conservative policy and research group in Washington.
“I would like to see a big new statute,” Wiley said. “I think that would make sense for the country. But I’m not sure how soon that would happen.”
To mark the 17th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher — who was chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet at the time — has penned an op-ed for Roll Call. In it, he reflects on the importance of the Act, and makes the case that regulations are in dire need of modernization in order to keep up with today’s technology. Here’s a taste:
Seventeen years after the 1996 Telecommunications Act was signed into law, we find ourselves at another major inflection point. The IP transition is already under way, driven by technological advances and consumer preferences. FCC Chairman Genachowski has taken farsighted steps to create a process for addressing the policy questions that transition brings, and one of the giants of the industry has made helpful suggestions for a national dialogue through a single, focused proceeding for clarity and meaningful participation by all interested parties.
It is my hope that regulators can, once again, come to a consensus on how best to regulate fairly. Only with a level playing field will competition thrive and more investment in America’s broadband infrastructure increase. Let the conversation begin.
You can check out Boucher’s full op-ed at Roll Call.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. We at IIA have a strong connection to the Act, as our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, then chair of the subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, was a player in drafting the Act and getting it passed.
Interestingly — though the Act is often tied to the growth of the Internet here in America — the word “Internet” was only mentioned in one section (and ironically, that section was later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court). Instead, the main focus of the Act was to encourage new competition in local and long-distance telephone markets, as well as television. And since its signing into law, it’s not an understatement to say there has been a major disruption in the both the telephone and television markets. The rise of the Internet — spurred by the life-changing benefits of broadband that have led to widespread availability and adoption of the technology — has changed the way we work, entertain ourselves, and communicate with each another (although our nation still has a way to go until everyone is connected).
Seventeen years is a long time, and when it comes to the speed of the evolution of technology, 1996 might as well be the Dark Ages. As the telecommunications industry makes the seismic shift to all IP-networks — a transition that will usher in the full power of the Internet Age — it’s worth appreciating how important the 1996 Telecommunication Act was at the time of its adoption. It’s also important to recognize just how much the market has changed around market players subject to certain regulations in the Act.
If we’re going to fully embrace the power of current and future technology, the 1996 Telecommunications Act may not be still be relevant in many cases. Fortunately, provisions that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to forbear from applying certain regulations were included in Section 10 of the legislation (real-life forbearance example: the decision to not regulate investment and deployment of fiber-based facilities in the network). IIA hopes that the Commission will take note—we’ve come a long way but still need to catch up to today.
Last Friday, IIA submitted comments to the FCC on AT&T’s recent petition regarding the transition from copper wire networks to networks that are all Internet Protocol (IP) based. From those comments:
While the era of the telecom monopoly is long over, monopoly-era regulations persist. In some ways this is predictable, since markets move faster than government, and entrepreneurs innovate more rapidly than policy makers. By way of example, one of the most counter-productive, monopoly-era regulations still on-the-books is the requirement for legacy carriers to continue maintaining redundant legacy copper (nonIP) networks even when they are no longer needed for the carrier to serve its customers. While these rules made sense at the dawn of the Internet era when little, if any, competition existed, voice remained the essential product and telephone networks had been built via government-guaranteed-rate-of-return exclusivity, they have longbeen overtaken by events. For example, in many regions incumbent telephone companies have retained less than 30 percent of the customers, yet they are still required to cover 100 percent with their pre-IP, voice-grade networks. Voice is today just another application delivered over multiple IP platforms.
You can read our full comments, penned by our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and Co-Chairs Bruce Mehlman and Jamal Simmons, here.
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman have penned an op-ed for Politico on the need to free telecommunications companies from outdated regulations. Here’s a taste:
One of the most egregious monopoly-era regulations still on the books is the requirement that legacy carriers continue maintaining legacy copper networks and leasing them to their competitors at below-market rates. While these rules made sense at the dawn of the Internet era when little, if any, competition existed and telephone networks had been built via government-guaranteed rate-of-return exclusivity, they have long been overtaken by events. Today these regulations from the past century result in a misallocation of resources. And they perpetuate free-rider business models that diminish investment in networks and hinder innovation in telecom services.
Earlier this week, our own Rick Boucher appeared on Capital Insider to talk about the FCC, incentive auctions, and ensuring enough spectrum is available to keep investment and innovation in mobile broadband going. Here’s the video:
Capitol Hill used to be a forest killer, a place where business was conducted via towers of paperwork, where the clack-clacking of typewriters echoed throughout the halls. Much of the work— especially for Congressional staffers — was inefficient, repetitive, boring.
Even at the dawn of the Internet era, many offices still relied on typewriters and all offices created reams of paper to function. The offices that embraced PCs early on often found that their primitive machines did little to increase efficiency or lessen the paper load.
Then — sometime around the mid-nineties — a revolution occurred: an upheaval powered by email and electronic document transfer. Suddenly, paper started to vanish. Typewriters gathered dust. Pens met paper only for signatures and correspondence with constituents.
By the time I entered my 14th term, my office was using electronic communications for just about everything. My Congressional operations were able to disperse — in fact, my Chief of Staff worked 350 miles away from Washington — and the immediacy of email allowed me to engage more rapidly with constituents. The emergence of the BlackBerrys and other smartphones only added to our efficiency.
Today, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a time when Washington dealt with paper instead of bits. But truth be told, the Beltway was slow to realize the benefits of digital culture — and unfortunately, the halls of Washington are still lagging behind the speed of innovation. While many Congressional leaders have embraced the rise of social media, only recently has attention turned to the underlining spectrum infrastructure that increasingly powers things like Twitter and Facebook.
To be fair to my former colleagues, very few were able to anticipate the mobile broadband earthquake — or the spectrum shortage it has created. But with the FCC Chairman himself warning of a coming spectrum crunch within a few years, it’s critical for Washington to break out of its traditional slow-footing and act quickly to catch up with technology. The innovation and the billions in wireless network investment now needed to meet the ever growing demand for wireless services are far too critical for our country’s future to be slowed down by the molasses of regulations and process.
It took a while, but Washington eventually awoke to the opportunities of the Internet age. For America to continue to lead in this new mobile era, we can’t afford further delays. After all, who knows what’s coming next?
That’s our own Rick Boucher, as quoted by Andrew Feinberg from The Hill, regarding the FCC’s decision last year to block the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile (a merger, it should be noted, that was partly driven by the need for more spectrum for wireless use).
At Daily Tech, Jason Mick talked with our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher on spectrum auctions and the potential for the FCC to exclude some bidder. As Mick writes:
[Boucher] praises Congress, saying that he thinks that they did a couple things right with the recent authorization. He states, “The FCC has been instructed by the Congress to develop a process for [carrying out] a spectrum auction…Congress correctly instructed the FCC not to disqualify from the incentive auction process any carriers based on their size or position in the mobile carrier market.”
But then the issue returns to the fear of potential discrimination via the spectrum screen—a provision design to protect against “inappropriate concentrations” of spectrum in the hands of a few holders in individual markets. While that provision may be legal to enforce in some cases, he suggests, he argues that overall, “We have antitrust laws that are designed to prevent undue concentration.”
Today to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) released the report “An Assessment of the Viability of Accommodating Wireless Broadband in the 1755-1850 MHz Band.”
The NTIA’s proactive efforts to identify spectrum available for commercial deployment deserves recognition. Quickly making more of this limited, valuable resource available to fuel consumers’ smartphones, laptops and tablets is crucial for supporting the American ingenuity of small business owners, students, teleworkers and innovators across our nation.
Consumers count on using their mobile-broadband-powered devices to be more productive, utilize educational resources, access better health care, and tap into job opportunities. It is essential that policy makers bring more spectrum to the market now so that wireless providers can meet consumer demand by expanding and enhancing their wireless broadband networks.
In a post for The Hill‘s Congress Blog, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher warns of the “legislative black hole” when it comes to mobile broadband legislation:
If we are going to keep the wireless industry growing and encourage the build-out of a more powerful Fourth Generation wireless infrastructure across America, spectrum auctions must be properly designed. Rigging the system so that key stakeholders are barred or discouraged from participating, or spectrum availability is selectively curtailed, could cost our country billions in much-needed revenue and deal a severe blow to innovation from one of our most vibrant industries. A recent study from Deloitte Consulting estimates that deploying 4G networks across America could create as many as 771,000 jobs. That’s a lot of jobs, but it can only happen if wireless providers have the spectrum they need to power the networks they build.
Yesterday, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher participated in a spectrum event hosted by TechAmerica. The National Journal‘s Juliana Gruenwald was there, and offers a report:
“This is a continual process,” said Boucher, who headed the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee before losing re-election in 2010…. “Next on the block for auction to the wireless carriers will probably be re-purposed government spectrum. Don’t know how quickly that will come but to meet the kinds of demands that we see with these predictions from the FCC for mobile data use, we’re clearly going to need more spectrum.”
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