FCC frees Verizon from a host of regs

Telecom giant won't have to share high-speed lines with competitors, removing common carrier obligations.

Verizon has been freed from several unpleasant regulations, including having to post its proposed prices with the  government and allowing access to its high-speed data lines to competitors, the Washington Post reports. Depending on whom you ask the move frees Verizon from "overly burdensome regulations" (FCC chairman Kevin Martin) or puts "competition and consumers ... at the mercy of Verizon's financial self-interest" (Democratic commissioner Michael Copps.

Copps suggested that Verizon could be freed from some obligations to cooperate with federal wiretapping statutes, from federal privacy protections and from obligations to pay into the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes service in poor and rural parts of the country.

"Here we permit a . . . petition [to] go into effect that erases decades of communications policy in a single stroke. In effect, we provide industry the pen and give it the go-ahead to rewrite the law," he added.

"The chairman's action yesterday represents the height of irresponsibility by a federal official," said Earl Comstock, head of the Comptel trade association, which represents smaller phone companies. "With this action the chairman's has unilaterally abdicated the commission's responsibilities with respect to oversight of Verizon's common carrier service offerings. As a result, competition and consumers are now at the mercy of Verizon's financial self-interest."

Verizon was pleased: "We are appreciative that supporting Commissioners recognized changes in technology and the marketplace," Susanne Guyer, Verizon senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "The end result will be greater innovation, more competitive pricing and more flexible arrangements tailored to meet the needs of our business customers."

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