The role of marketplace incentives, and a transition to a regulatory approach based on functional equivalence emerged as central themes in comments submitted by telcos and other groups on Monday in response to a House Energy and Commerce Committee white paper on regulatory issues that relate to network interconnection. The white paper constitutes one of a series of recent inquiries that have been initiated by the committee as the first step in laying the groundwork for an update of the 1934 Communications Act. It is widely anticipated that legislation proposing the first major overhaul of the Communications Act in nearly twenty years will likely be introduced sometime next year.
Asserting that the marketplace offers “ample incentives” for Internet protocol (IP)-based interconnection, the U.S. Telecom Association (USTA) voiced opposition to the retention of “regulatory mandates governing interconnection that apply only to legacy services.” USTA further suggested that lawmakers should “seek to advance new policies that treat functionally equivalent services in symmetrical ways, and afford both consumers and network operators with a common set of expectations and business standards without regard to the technology or platform used.”
Similarly, AT&T argued that “reliance on market forces, which have successfully guided the thousands of Internet interconnection arrangements since the inception of the commercial Internet, will best ensure the efficiency and growth of those traffic exchange arrangements going forward,” as it warned that “U.S. regulation of IP-to-IP interconnection would encourage foreign authorities . . . to begin regulating Internet peering and transit in opposition to U.S. interests.”
CenturyLink echoed these same sentiments, noting that “as voice services move to IP networks, all providers have incentives to negotiate commercial agreements enabling their customers to make calls to and receive calls from anyone, regardless of provider.” Proclaiming that “no other segments of our economy are more marketplace-driven than the communications and technology industries,” ITTA, an association representing the interests of mid-size telecommunications and broadband service providers, voiced confidence that the market “can be relied on in most cases to produce reasonable interconnection rules-of-the-road.”