This morning's Communications Daily reported that approximately 25% of states that launched Triennial Review Order cases have suspended those dockets as a result of the D.C. Circuit ruling. Comm Daily has counted 10 states suspended of the 42 state proceedings and an additional three states that have a temporary halt pending a final decision this week. Among the forces that argued against the TRO's unbundling regime, Comm Daily reports that Verizon is seeking suspension of state proceedings across their region, SBC "has no plans to request" a halt but would support others who made such a request and BellSouth would neither seek suspensions nor support others' request for a suspension in their states.
This information was at the heart of several questions to panelists at today's Regulatory Source Associates conference held concurrently with NARUC's winter meeting. While I didn't poke my head in on the NARUC committees and cannot speak to their tenor, it is fair to say that the state commissioners I heard are dealing with a dose of cognitive dissonance.
Maybe it is simply a dose of caution in case the Circuit ruling is reversed en banc or at the Supreme Court. Maybe it is simply too soon; the ruling is less than a week old and it takes time to digest. Or, perhaps many more state officials than we have heard from thus far recognize that a massive unbundling regime is more valuable as a tool for full regulatory employment than it is as a tool to spur investment and competition. It gives state commissions plenty to do and plenty of power to lord over the private sector. Yet without federal skirts to hide behind, the rational choices of state officials may tip toward facilities-based competition and away from what the D.C. Circuit would call "synthetic competition." Until last week, state officials could pass the blame. But looking forward at the short and medium term, accountability for the performance of telecommunications markets will hit closer to home.