The telephone companies say they are no longer your father's
monopoly and have asked to get out from under decades of voice service regs.
USTelecom asked the FCC on Wednesday for a declaratory
ruling that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are no longer the dominant
providers by virtue of their switched-access services, pointing to new IP nets
and service provided by competitors, like cable operators now bundling voice
service into their offerings.
a determination would get them out from under tariffs but not obligations
like 911, privacy and disability access they point out in the filing.
In a blog on the petition to the FCC, USTelecom president
Walter McCormick said the petition was meant to be the beginning of a dialog
about moving his industry closer to parity with its competition.
The FCC just created a task force to brainstorm on the
migration to IP delivery and Fred Campbell, director of the Communications
Liberty and Innovation Project, suggests that the USTelecom petition should be
one of the steps along that path.
He points out that the petition does not include broadband
or special access services, but simply the plain old telephone service, a
service that is getting plainer and older in comparison to the digital IP
world. "Given the rate at which telephone companies are losing customers
when they cannot raise prices as a regulatory matter, it is preposterous to
continue presuming that they could raise prices as an economic matter," he
says. "Though the relief sought by USTA is a small step toward regulatory
modernization, it is an essential one that the FCC can take immediately under
existing precedent," he adds.
The Internet Innovation Alliance agrees it is time to
rethink old regs in a new world.
"The vast majority of the nation now benefits from a highly
competitive telecommunications marketplace," the group said in a
statement. "Consumers have an abundance of wireless and wireline options
for telephone communications and are taking their pick from an array of
technologies. Policy makers should prioritize the modernization of regulations,
eliminating rules that are inappropriate to apply in today's dynamic and robust
marketplace. In places where there is clear competition in the offering of local
voice telephone service, the 'dominant carrier' status now accorded to local
phone companies should be repealed."