Thursday, April 8, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

California Dreamin'

Some two-dozen different parties have filed a motion or comments in the VoIP proceeding at the California Public Utility Commission.

Only a handful of petitioners see the need for extensive economic regulation. To wit: The Consumer Protection and Safety Division at CaPUC was both "vexed" and "troubled" by the absence of "utility regulation" or a "consumer bill of rights" for VoIP. With a nod to equitable policymaking, San Francisco officials use the term "fair" seven times in a six-page filing. That is, it is only fair to regulate VoIP because every other service is heavily regulated. The Peninsula Ratepayers Association wants CaPUC to "use its jurisdiction as a basis to force the FCC to confront" universal service.

Hardly is failure in one area a sufficient reason to advocate economic regulation in another. Of course, a different point of view can be found here.

The consistency among petitioners is notable. Participants with interests as varied as Cox, Motorola, Covad, SBC and AT&T all call for the CaPUC to step back until the FCC has concluded its rulemaking. Many call for a total retreat from tentative CaPUC conclusions that VoIP ought to be regulated as a telecommunications utility.

We know that disruptive technologies realign the marketplace. However, they do not necessarily realign the incentives and interests of most regulators.

The VoIP proceeding is a useful signal to policymakers - in capitals across the country - that the knottiest problems are not resolved by asking if a new service ought to be regulated but by asking how to fix current systems like inter-carrier compensation and universal service.

posted by @ 11:35 AM | General