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Why Regulate Internet Services? Can Anyone Make the Argument?

Posted June 4th, 2012 in Internet, spectrum, state PUC and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

Larry Downes has a piece on CNET.com where takes issue with a preference by California’s regulators to regulate Internet-based telephony. I invite you to read the article here. Mr. Downes reminds the readers how notoriously slow regulators are when it comes to removing roadblocks to the introduction of new services such as call waiting back in the 1980s.

Regulators are notoriously slow to recognizing the advent of new technology. Imagine if regulators regulated wireless? The 500,000 apps we enjoy today would be near nonexistent.

I would prefer state regulators get more in front of the spectrum issue. Although spectrum access is a federal matter, state PUCs can throw some weight and expertise around by persuading localities to support zoning requests for antennas and towers. They can also explain to the public that a spectrum crunch is pending and that an important resource for accessing state services may be severely impacted. This would be the better use of state regulator time than trying to regulate the Internet.

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I would love to see Apple eat up Sprint

Does the word “communications” or “telecommunications” mean anything anymore? Communications refers to the act of imparting or interchanging thoughts, opinions, or information by signs, writing, or speech. A communication may be a document or message imparting news, views, or information.

If I talk to my son, I’m communicating (or trying to. Kids are hard headed.). If I call him on his cell phone, we are still communicating since the only thing happening is that electrons are moving up and down a wire and the message isn’t being changed by the phone company (But as parents we know the message is being changed in our kids’ heads…).

The reason I’m pondering the definition is because I’d love to see Apple, Google, or Facebook make a play for a wireless or even a wireline company. I don’t want to see them get bogged down by 20th century notions of what communications is, however. The FCC and a bunch of state regulatory commissions would love to get their hands on a piece of Apple’s, Google’s or Facebook’s cash flow.

With people using their smart phones as miniature and mobile information access terminals (I avoid using the term computer or phone when I can), maybe some type of separations cost scheme is needed, much like the separations mechanism used by the FCC and the states to share access revenues. That would really give Apple, Google, or Facebook an advantage by reducing their cost of entry into the wireless market while giving AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile a run for their money.

I expect, given their truly nationwide network that AT&T and Verizon would do well. Deadweight companies like Sprint and T-Mobile would probably go the away like the wind, given their networks are not as large or as fast.

Let’s face it. Apple, Google, and Facebook are media companies. It’s only logical that they would want to secure the distributional channels for the information that they want to share, namely our information. It would be like AMC Studios owning movie theatres. They produce the flick, they sell the flick.

Can FCC follow policy that would keep them out of the way of a potential mega deal?

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Florida PSC does me proud

Telecommunications Reports reported on 5 October 2011 that the Florida Public Service Commission voted to cut annual regulatory assessment fees for telecommunications companies by 20%.

Other than having a serious soft spot for my past employer, the Florida PSC was always ahead of the game when it came to telecommunications, especially on competition issues.

For example, a year before the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 was signed into law, the state of Florida passed its own deregulatory piece of legislation. The Florida PSC was at the tip of the spear in identifying and crafting the three baskets of telecommunications services and how they should be treated for regulatory purposes.

Don’t see how consumers would benefit directly from the measure, but indirectly it may go some way toward ensuring that a consumer’s telecommunications carrier stays in the state.

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Brain drain at state PUCs

Posted October 10th, 2011 in Government Regulation, state PUC and tagged , by Alton Drew

At the Comptel convention last week, Telecommunications Reports reported on 6 October 2011 that the issue of brain drain at state public utilities commissions was brought up. Allegedly, industry experts are seeing increases in rates for increasingly inferior services, but given the reduction in the quality of staff, and an alleged growing focus on energy issues, the rate increases and inferior service will get worse, according to insiders.

This brain drain has always been around, and the hemorrhaging really started to run like a river back in the mid 1990s. (I ought to know. I was part of the flow.) Back then, compared to now, the issues were a bit more straightforward. Telecommunications is always complex, but deregulation, the introduction of high-speed Internet services and how to classify them, and the issue of limited spectrum only makes it more frustrating for some 22-year old young buck straight out of State U.