A Season of Great Change in D.C. Won't Bring Smooth Sailing

Carl Weinschenk

Climate change, the economy, health care and various odds and ends confront the Obama administration. Telecommunication policy, another sticky issue, is on the horizon. While it isn't quite as monumental as those three, it certainly is vital. It also challenges and perhaps surpasses them in complexity.

 

Complexity comes with the territory. Regulation and administration of telecom always has been fraught with complications because of a basic and inherent contradiction: Major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon simultaneously compete with and supply other companies. Being fair to the Davids as well as the Goliaths is a complex minuet that, if nothing else, has put the sons and daughters of countless telecom lawyers through college.

 

The lines for a potential battle are being drawn as FCC chairman-designate Julius Genachowski is on the point of confirmation and ground rules for broadband stimulus funding are being finalized. Computerworld reports that Genachowski addressed the stimulus issue during hearings on his nomination. It won't be the last time he faces these issues.

 

Telecommunications is entering an era of great change. There are almost limitless details in the way in which complex regulations are drafted and enforced that can radically skew how things actually play out. We are entering a season when it will be even more important than usual to employ lobbyists and attorneys who are savvy in the ways of Washington.

 

A small sign of things to come is the formation this week of the NoChokePoints coalition. The coalition is aimed at ensuring the big carriers that control the special access connectivity make the links available to businesses and organizations at reasonable rates. A good working definition of the types of connections the coalition addresses is available at Ars Technica.


 

The point isn't whether the carriers are or are not abusing their ownership of the infrastructure, as the coalition claims. Rather, it's that the grand old game of politics is gearing up-in a scenario with a different party in control of the levers of power, a lot more money on the table and a new head of the FCC. Once the easy work is out of the way-healthcare, the economy and global warming-look for a battle royale over telecommunications.



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