Why IT policy won't change under Powell replacement

I've been researching the public statements of several candidates foroutgoing FCC Commissioner Michael Powell's seat. As a result, I'm highly confident that no telecommunications policy changes will take effect if any of the people likely to be nominated are confirmed.

I've been researching the public statements of several candidates foroutgoing FCC Commissioner Michael Powell's seat.

As a result, I'm highly confident that no telecommunications policy changes will take effect if any of the people likely to be nominated are confirmed.

Before I get into the specifics, let's do a candidate roll call.

The Wall Street Journal speculates replacements could come from the ranks of former Texas Public Utility Commissioner Becky Klein; current National Telecommunications and Information Adminstration head Michael Gallagher; telcom consultant Janice Obuchowski, who served in the Commerce Department under the first President Bush. The newspaper's editorial says that former chairof the (now-defunct) Interstate Commerce Commission Darius Gaskins or former Federal Trade Commission chair Jim Miller also would beworthy choices.

While there are no on-the-record statementsconcerningVoIP regulation from any of these folks, let's see what we can find out from what they have had to say on regulatory issues.

On Becky Klein's Congressional candidate Web site (which is still up), she indicates her general economic policy views:

"I want to keep the Feds out of your shops and out of your pocketbooks."

In December, 2003, Michael Gallagherwas quoted by the Vonage VoIP Forum and Bloomberg News that "any regulation 'should be minimalist' and that 'importing last century's regulatory apparatus onto 21st-century technologies will stifle innovation and investment.' "That sounds a lot likePowell's position.

Janice Obuchowski doesn't have any VoIP statements on the public record, but she has been praised by current FCC Commissioner and Democrat Michael Copps for her stewardship of international telecommunications conferences. To me, that indicates at least an impulse toward bipartisanship-- an important quality on a politically divided FCC. So, she might be the only one of the five who might be persuadable. Not on VoIP, though, but perhaps on other telecommunication policy matters.

Darius Gaskins has long been a deregulation supporter, and appears at events sponsored by the anti-regulatory Progress & Freedom Foundation. Among its supporters, the group notes several ILECs, including most with VoIP services or plans. For these companies, state regulations and state taxes on services - both PSTN and VoIP- are burdensome.

Jim Miller is also a P&FF panel participant. More directly, we can learn about where he stands from his public testimony. In December, 2004, Wired News quoted him favoring FTC action "against P2P companies that tell consumers that their software is legal -- without telling them that they can't use it to download or distribute copyright works without permission."

"'What's being communicated to them is that it's OK to download files, download copyrighted files," he said. "That's just outright deception,'" Wired News quoted Miller as saying.

Woe be then, to P2P's that bundle in VoIP softphones and also make it possible to illegally swap music files.

What does all this mean? Meet the new Comm... same as the old Comm.

Agree? I'd like to see your thoughts. Posta Talkback.


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