Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Powell Offers a Compromise to States

From today's NARUC speech:

In that light I want to call for action and enlist your help:

• Beginning today, competitors and incumbents should enter into a 30 day negotiation period. I call upon both sides to work earnestly to arrive at commercially negotiated rates for access. The Statute authorizes and encourages commercial negotiation of interconnection agreements and it would be irresponsible for the critical industry players not to make meaningful efforts to do so. I urge states to encourage these negotiations.

• If those negotiations fail, however, I will propose to my colleagues that the FCC adopt an interim set of rules to protect against precipitous disruptions that might result after day 60 because of the court's ruling. I fully appreciate that my colleagues and some states have indicated their interest in pursuing an appeal of the USTA II decision. I disagree with that course, for I am convinced it will prolong the morass of litigation, and extend the already lengthy and punishing period of uncertainty. Nonetheless, nothing in this interim plan would prejudice my colleague's ability to pursue that course of action if they deem it appropriate.

• To absolutely ensure stability and to eliminate the possibility of consumers experiencing significant disruptions, I will work with my colleagues to craft an 18 month moratorium and transition to protect existing UNE-P customers from sudden changes in their service.

• I will also instruct our staff to begin developing a framework and proposals for new rules that are judicially sustainable and faithful to our mandate to advance local competition. I encourage state commissioners and staff to work with the Commission in this effort. No matter what twist or turns continued litigation will bring, eventually this matter will likely require further regulatory decisions. We must not waste a moment in developing ideas for new rules, so we can act quickly once the litigation merry-go-round finally stops spinning.

Working in partnership, we can identify the reasonable middle ground - if we can put aside entrenched positions associated with one industry group or another. Doing so will require compromise. It will require moving past jurisdictional battles and toward recognition that both of us - state and federal regulators - owe a duty to get this right for consumers. We are entering a remarkable information era that delivers value for consumers and economic growth for America. Working together we can make meaningful competition a reality.

To date, these soothing words have not been reciprocated. To the contrary, NARUC has already launched a lobbying effort aimed at the administration. Powell's proposal ensures that the reliance interests of current UNE-P customers are attended to. In all, it is a defensible and prudent path toward a consumer-beneficial competitive regime.

posted by Ray Gifford @ 12:02 PM | General