WASHINGTON - A top telecommunications executive today called on industry players and the public policy community to transcend the recent rhetorical excesses of the Net Neutrality debate and return to a genuine discussion of how to make sure that broadband networks have the flexibility to provide the services consumers will need in the future.
Speaking at Pike & Fischer's "Broadband Policy Summit 2006: Charting the Road," Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications, said Verizon and other network providers have made great strides in deploying high-speed fiber-optic networks. But he said there is much left to be done, and that public policy should help, not hinder, broadband deployment.
"The plain truth is that today's access and backbone networks simply do not have the capacity to deliver all that customers expect," Tauke said. "Next-generation Web services will require a next-generation architecture.
"Building out America's Internet and broadband infrastructure will require billions more in private capital investment," he said. "There are also looming policy issues that could advance or hinder broadband's future."
On one issue - reform of the monopoly-era video franchising laws to increase competition and consumer choice in the cable television market - Tauke said he is encouraged by "positive steps" in Congress and several states "that will encourage investment, promote competition and permit consumer choice." The results, he said, "will be a vibrant marketplace driven by innovation and new services."
But Tauke warned that Net Neutrality legislation "could stall or derail this good news in broadband," despite the fact that legislators and industry experts cannot even agree on its definition. "It seems we now have more versions of Net Neutrality than Baskin-Robbins has flavors," he said.
Taking aim at those in the industry who have asserted that broadband network providers may deny consumers access to what they want on the Internet, he said doing so would be "akin to Starbucks hatching a plan to secretly serve customers Folgers crystals - on paper it makes them more money; in reality it puts them out of business."
Industry participants seeking new government regulation of the Internet space in the name of Net Neutrality are seeking "a security blanket" because they "fear a future driven by consumers, markets, competition and innovation," he said. "We, on the other hand, see opportunities for the marketplace, for consumers and any number of 'garage innovators' working on the next 'killer app.'"
Tauke said Verizon is committed to ensuring full access to the Internet at speeds and prices that meet consumers' needs. But he said that sound policies and a better policy debate are needed.
"There is a legitimate discussion to be had about broadband networks and their reliability and accessibility," he said. "But that isn't what we are having right now. Instead, we have heated rhetoric, fueled by unfounded fear that overlooks the success of the market and forgets the consumer.
"We should not fear the capabilities of new networks or doubt the ability of consumers operating in a free market to get it right," he said.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), a Dow 30 company, is a leader in delivering broadband and other communication innovations to wireline and wireless customers. Verizon operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 53 million customers nationwide; one of the most expansive wholly-owned global IP networks; and one of the nation's premier wireline networks, serving mass market and wholesale customers. Based in New York, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 250,000 and generates annual consolidated operating revenues of approximately $90 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.