TCS Daily

Tauke: Telecom Act Wrong

By Duane D. Freese - November 13, 2000 12:00 AM

Tom Tauke, vice president of government affairs for Verizon, on Friday said the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 was "wrong" and "should be changed." Tauke made his remarks during a panel discussion about telecommunications issues at Technology and Society 2000, an annual conference sponsored by the Cato Institute and Forbes ASAP.

Asked by panel moderator and TechCentral Station Host James Glassman whether he thought the Telecom Act, which set in motion deregulation of the telecommunications and cable industries, was a mistake and should be changed, Tauke responded: "Yes, I believe it should be changed; if the policy is wrong, then talking about changing the policy is productive."

The statement was the clearest yet by a Regional Bell Telephone Company official expressing opposition to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The RBOCs originally were partners in negotiating the historic act, which aims to open competition in all areas of telephony. But after passage, several sought to have aspects of the act overturned in court. They also fought the Federal Communication Commission's guidelines for opening the local telephone exchanges to competition if they were to enter into long distance service.

None of the regional phone giants has thus far fully implemented those guidelines. A renegotiation of the Telecom Act could further delay the opening of their systems to full competition. At the same time, renegotiation of the act might give the RBOCs what they have not yet won in court, before the FCC or Congress - new access requirements upon potential cable competitors that would undercut cable companies' investments in broadband.

"I don't see much of a difference," Tauke said, between the RBOCs' government created phone monopolies and cable companies' exclusive franchises. He further said that wireless and satellite services were not competitive with wire services, thus justifying cable regulations requiring them to open their systems to all comers.

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