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Georgetown Panel: New Markets, New Rules

01.30.2013

Today’s rapidly evolving communications technologies have long outgrown the regulatory structure that was designed for the monopoly telephone system, said panelists at an event sponsored by the Georgetown University Center for Business & Public Policy.

The question to ponder is which rules and regulations should be in place to govern the conduct of individuals and firms, and how should they be established, said John Mayo, the center’s executive director and president of the McDonough School of Business.

Mayo described research where he examined the mood of the public against the drive to regulate. He found that large deregulatory shifts, such as in the airline, trucking and railroad industries, occurred when the American mood favored less government. He advocated a results-based process for regulatory policy, observing that efforts driven by ideology are not optimal.

AT&T’s IP transition petition got a strong plug from Aspen Institute fellow Blair Levin. “The downside of granting the waiver is quite limited,” he said, which should ease the fears of those who think granting the waiver could cause harm.” He also called for government to set a date for the shift to all IP networks, a move that will facilitate investment and job creation. “We want to do this as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It’s vital that the FCC reassess the way it regulates,” said AT&T Senior Executive Vice President James Cicconi. “I’m not saying no regulation,” he said, but “the facts are changing on the ground as we speak.” He was particularly impatient with the Federal Communications Commission’s views on competition in the wireline industry, particularly since more than one-third of Americans have cut the cord and use only a wireless phone. “The FCC refuses to recognize its own data in this area:  People increasingly are letting landlines go.”

The downward decline in landline usage and growing array of competitive voice alternatives are cornerstone arguments in USTelecom’s recent petition asking the FCC to end dominant carrier regulation. Granting the USTelecom petition would take an important step toward building a regulatory system that reflects today’s multi-networked reality.

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