For over a year, momentum has been building for the Federal Communications Commission to establish a series of wire center trials to test exactly how an all-IP world might work.  To FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s credit, last January the agency issued a formal IP Transition Trial Order outlining exactly what it wants to see in these trials, and yesterday AT&T took up the challenge by filing the inaugural test proposal.  Overall, I was impressed with the IP Transition Trial Order—it was written with a professionalism that has largely been absent from the Commission in recent years.  Like most FCC orders, the document was rich in …
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Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its kick-off hearing on a potential update of our nation’s communications laws with no less than four former FCC Chairmen.  As was appropriate, the hearing did not focus on specific items for change, but rather facilitated an excellent discussion of broad themes on how Congress should approach the complex task ahead.  I commend the Committee for holding this discussion, because it is very important, in the words of Congressman John Dingell, for Congress to “legislate properly” in order to minimize the inevitable unintended consequences.  Indeed, while Congress has had its share of legislative successes in the …
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The Federal Communications Commission is at a crossroads.  Burdened with implementing laws designed for a market structure of a bygone era—and with little prospect of a comprehensive legislative update on the horizon—incoming FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler faces a daunting task to adapt and modernize the agency’s approach to regulation so that we can remove, in President Obama’s words, those rules which have “outlived their usefulness.”  Equally as important, Mr. Wheeler has the related and no less daunting task of re-establishing the FCC’s credibility with the industry, Capitol Hill, the courts and (most importantly) the public as the “expert” agency which not only uniquely understands the …
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Two weeks ago, the Phoenix Center held its Second Annual Rooftop Policy Roundtable where we focused our attention on the complex issue of the IP Transition.  We really appreciated everybody coming out to the event, particularly given the Washington DC heat and humidity (not to mention the thunderstorm).  After giving myself some time to think about the excellent conversations we had, I thought I would use this blog to highlight what I believe to be the major takeaways from the event. First, it became immediately apparent (at least to me) that the IP Transition is not a discrete issue; instead, the IP Transition concerns the …
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This week, USTelecom filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission requesting the agency to issue a declaratory ruling that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are no longer subject to dominant carrier regulation when providing interstate mass market and enterprise switched access services.  As the Commission begins to evaluate USTelecom’s petition, we need to keep in mind that the policy question at the heart of this proceeding is not necessarily one of de-regulation per se (although deregulation is the end objective of USTelecom’s petition), but one of regulatory symmetry.  That is, does it make sense to maintain asymmetric regulation for one select segment of the …
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Last month, I authored a blog entitled It’s Time to Start the Conversation on the IP Transition where I argued that we could no longer postpone the development of a cohesive regulatory paradigm to manage the complicated issue of facilitating the transition from legacy TDM networks to the more efficient IP-based networks.  This view is shared by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai,who has long-proposed the creation of an “IP Transition Taskforce.”  And now, the chorus of supporters widens to include FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who announced today that the FCC intends to form an agency-wide “Technology Transitions Policy Task Force” that will “coordinate the Commission’s efforts …
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Every now and then, a genuine and radical change occurs in the telecommunications business that can no longer be ignored and, as such, a policy response can no longer be postponed.  In the past, these cycles have been relatively long, but today significant supply-side and demand-side shocks seem common.  Such is the case of the need to develop a cohesive regulatory paradigm to manage the complicated issue of facilitating the transition from legacy TDM networks to the more efficient IP-based networks. For those of us who study telecom policy closely, the need for the Federal Communications Commission to start to develop a cohesive policy framework …
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Last week, George and I returned from an amazing trip to Peru where we held two days of workshops with OSIPTEL—the Peruvian telecoms regulator—as part of a project for USAID.  As we covered a wide range of topics, we were once again reminded that while language and individual political nuances among various countries may differ, the fundamental economics—and concurrent complex policy issues—facing telecom regulators remain universal.  That is, how do we get more broadband deployed when it isn’t necessarily profitable to do so? In light of this universal question, we spent a significant amount of time talking about the economics of the “last mile” and …
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With the ever-present specter of spectrum exhaust hanging over the wireless industry, policymakers are constantly faced with the corresponding question of how to allocate spectrum among competing providers to ensure that market does not devolve into one with “excessive” concentration under Section 309(j)(3)(B) of the Communications Act.  Since the 1990’s, the FCC has tried a variety of approaches—from outright spectrum caps to the current and more flexible case-by-case “spectrum screen”—to try to manage its statutory charge.  As to be expected given the huge stakes at hand, stakeholders vehemently disagree as to the best approach moving forward (particularly with the new voluntary incentive auctions for broadcast …
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Late Wednesday night, the Federal Communications Commission released a Report and Order that would suspend, on an “interim” basis, its rules for automatic grants of pricing flexibility for special access services “in light of significant evidence” that the current deregulatory trigger—i.e., two competitors have collocated in a single Metropolitan Statistical Area (“MSA”)—is “not working as predicted.”  In particular, the Commission found that the geographic territories contained in most MSAs are “overly broad” and, in contrast, most competitive entry is occurring only in areas with “extremely concentrated demand.”  Although the Commission concedes that it “currently lack[s] the necessary data to identify a permanent replacement approach to …
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Over the last several years, we have seen the Federal Communications Commission put forth a rather clever argument to expand its regulatory authority over broadband services.  The argument goes basically like this:  Under Section 706(a) of the Communications Act, the Commission “shall encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans … by utilizing … price cap regulation, regulatory forbearance, measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.”  As part of its mandate, Section 706(b) requires the Commission to conduct a regular inquiry into “whether advanced telecommunications …
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This week, noted economist Arthur Laffer wrote an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled The Real “Stimulus” Record.  In this piece, Dr. Laffer argues that before policymakers in Washington again try yet another round of stimulus spending in an ostensible attempt to mitigate high unemployment and poor growth rates, they should remember that President Obama’s first stimulus package did not exactly meet with great success.  As support for his argument, Dr. Laffer cites the facts that while stimulus spending over the past five years totaled more than $4 trillion, increasing  U.S. Federal government spending from 21.4% to 27.3% of GDP over the 2007 …
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This week, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform released a new Staff Report entitled Continuing Oversight of Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation:  Job Creators Still Buried by Red Tape. Among other significant data, the Staff Report found that: From 2010 to 2011, the number of final rules issued by federal agencies rose from 3,573 to 3,807—a 6.5 percent increase.  During that same time frame, the number of proposed rules increased 18.8 percent; The published regulatory burden for 2012 could exceed $105 billion, according to the American Action Forum, headed by a former director of the Congressional Budget Office; Analysis from the Heritage Foundation …
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