Congress Must Update Law to Match Vision of FCC's National Broadband Plan

Congress must update Internet law to match the forward-looking vision of the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan and to settle jurisdictional issues that hamper progress on policies important to consumers and the industry, a senior communications executive told a national policy forum Wednesday (March 24).

"We now have a national broadband plan that lays out a vision for a vibrant broadband and Internet marketplace," said Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications.  "To fulfill broadband's potential, it's time for Congress to take a fresh look at our nation's communications policy framework."

Tauke spoke at an event sponsored by NDN (New Democrat Network) and the New Policy Institute.

"The problem is that the statue is irrelevant to the ecosystem that has developed," Tauke said.  "There are new pressures and challenges and problems cropping up that policymakers didn't consider a decade ago - such as the 5 billion potential cyberthreats monitored and acted upon each day."

He said the approach articulated by former FCC Chairman Bill Kennard, a Democrat, of using a light regulatory hand to create a highly competitive marketplace has worked.  "Now, we need to put in place a framework that will continue to encourage ongoing investment and innovation for this vibrant ecosystem we see," Tauke said.  "This should be the cornerstone for a refreshed policy framework."

The Verizon executive suggested four general principles as the foundation for a new policy framework to be determined by Congress. First, he said, "consumers must be fully empowered" and "well-informed." Second, they must "feel safe" and "confident that their online security and privacy are protected."  Third, "consumer access and adoption should be priorities."  Fourth, "the test for government intervention in the marketplace is to prevent either harm to users or anti-competitive activity."

Concerning potential harm to consumers and competition, Tauke said threats can come from many places: "Harm to consumers and competition should not be permitted, from any source. So the level playing field needs to be big enough to include all of the players. If you're on the field, then the referee can blow the whistle. That's a simple principle - and a good one. Good public policy is always good for companies that want to play by the rules."

He argued that traditional regulatory models written for "static, one-purpose industries, such as TV or telephone service, are not only out of step with today's dynamic, converged Internet ecosystem, they are harmful to the innovation process that characterizes broadband and the Internet."

Instead, he called for "a process that uses the innovative, flexible and technology-driven nature of the Internet to address issues as they arise." Such a framework would involve Internet engineers, technologists and other experts.

"This will require clear statutory authority for the implementing agency," Tauke continued.  "In other words: This is a job for Congress."

He said the Comcast-Bit Torrent court case increased questions about who has jurisdiction over broadband issues, and that Verizon's work with Google and others in the industry on issues such as network neutrality, behavioral advertising and privacy protection often "degenerated into disputes over the statutory authority of the FCC."

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 91 million customers nationwide.  Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers innovative, seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of approximately 222,900 and last year generated consolidated revenues of more than $107 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.