Earlier this week I was sent an article discussing activity in congress to revise the Communications Act or more formerly the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The writer referred to the act as the "telecommunications bible". I thought about that for a bit and realized that a law would never be the telecom bible. For many of us, the telecom bible was called "Notes on the Network" published initially by AT&T. It was a technical overview of telecommunications in the US. When I was in switch engineering, I read it from cover to cover. I still have a copy of the 1980 release in my home library. Today the publication is maintained by Telcordia (previously known as BELLCORE (Bell Communications Research)) and has nearly 1500 pages at a cost of $700 (it will not be joining my copy at home anytime soon). But, I did find it curious how a set of rules and regulations have replaced the encyclopedia of telecom as its "bible".
In any case, four members of congress, Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Senator John Kerry (D-MA), and Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA), have asked for comments from members of the telecommunications ecosystem about revising the Communications Act. It is a logical next step given the "Third Way" announcement of the FCC to address net neutrality concerns. You can read my comments on the approach in "A Cautious Approach to Net Neutrality". Simply put, the approach is to apply six of the rules related to telecom in Title II of the Communications Act to ISPs, ITSPs and broadband carriers and forbid the application of the others. While Broadvox cautiously likes the compromise as it allows us to continue to build an exciting company based upon IP technology and SIP, I have noticed that one the loudest critics is AT&T. Applying the "Third Way" will definitely be difficult and I am sure mistakes will be made. However, I wonder if AT&T is complaining because they see a lost opportunity.
AT&T protests,"We believe this is without legal basis. Make no mistake--when it regulates the networks that comprise the Internet, the FCC is in fact, and for the first time, regulating the Internet itself."
Therein lies the true basis for the tirade. AT&T plans to sunset its TDM-based network and transition to an all IP Network. They were seeing a day where they would no longer fall under the strict rules of Title II and be free to engage a market with very little oversight. Now they see that the FCC is positioning itself to maintain the role of overseer and continue to hamper AT&T. Telecommunications in the US is a very competitive environment but is facing another crossroads. AT&T and Verizon have captured 60% of the wireless market and, given their resources, visibility and acceptance will only see that market share increase. Should the same be allowed to happen to the Internet?
Usually, I have a very firm opinion on these things but on this, I need to study further. AT&T and Verizon have competed very aggressively against the other in wireless and that has been good for consumers. Will unbridled competition by the LECs (posturing as ISPs) be good for the Internet as well?
Have a great holiday weekend and see you on Tuesday with another great recipe!