Well, I just returned from Charleston, South Carolina, where I spoke on a panel on telecommunications competition at a conference entitled "Reconciling Markets and Regulation" sponsored by Michigan State University's Institute of Public Utilities. The conference was held at the venerable (read: old and a bit musty, but still pretty nice) Francis Marion Hotel. As most of you regulatory animals know, Francis Marion was known as "The Swamp Fox." Marion earned this endearing sobriquet the hard way. During the Revolutionary War, he led forays against British patrols and outposts in and around Charleston and then vanished ghost-like into the swamps.
In Charleston, I fancied myself like the famous Swamp Fox, making a lightning quick strike into beautiful Charleston to speak to a generally (but not exclusively) pro-regulatory crowd, including many state regulators, and then vanishing, ghost-like, back into the swamps of Washington.
I previewed a report to be released very shortly (watch this website) with the sexy title: Trends in the Competitiveness of Telecommunications Markets: Implications for Deregulation of Retail Local Services. The bottom line of the report: The local telecom market is sufficiently contestable that retail rates should be deregulated.
There was a lot of useful discussion and good fellowship at the conference, and congratulations are due to Dr. Janice Beecher and her staff for putting together the event. As far as I could determine, however, much of the debate was about whether price-cap incentive regulation is an improvement over rate-of-return regulation, whether there are ways incentive regulation might be improved further, and whether new dispute resolution techniques should be used by regulators. Despite the rapid emergence of new competitive threats to incumbent carriers, I didn't hear anyone else other than myself utter the word "deregulation"--at least at those sessions I attended.
So, the Swamp Fox is safely back in Washington after unleashing his deregulatory volleys into the midst of the red coated-regulatory-minded conference goers. And don't forget to check back tomorrow to get your own copy of the very foxy (as in sexy cover) but unswamp-like "Trends in the Competitiveness of Telecommunications Markets" study!