Think Tank Pres. & Former PUC Chair, Weighs-In on Telecom Order
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Already overburdened and understaffed in most cases – and with electricity grid problems, rising natural gas prices and similar challenging issues already staring them in the face – state public utility commissions have been saddled with still another whammy: doing what should have been the Federal Communications Commission’s work in establishing the regulatory basis for federal sharing mandates. That is the warning and crie de coeur of a former state public utility commission chairman turned think tank president heard by attendees of a CATO Institute forum this afternoon.
The former regulator, Raymond L. Gifford of The Progress & Freedom Foundation, faulted the FCC for an “incoherent” Triennial Review order that he believes ignores the law and leaves states with an “impossible task” with an almost “preordained outcome” – construing in many cases ‘necessary’ and ‘impair’ language of the 1996 Telecommunications Act in a way that requires an overly expansive regime of sharing incumbent providers’ systems with competitors at subsidized rates. He says the state commissions, “with vastly differing institutional capabilities and resources,” have been turned into FCC branch offices, undertaking “data-intensive and time-intensive decisions on what constitutes ‘impairment’.” What’s more, he added, “the precarious legality of this order means states might go through this process only to have courts repudiate it.”
Gifford appeared at CATO’s “Telecom and Broadband Outlook After the FCC’s UNE Triennial Review Decision” policy forum on Wednesday, with other experts. That conference occurred the day after Progress & Freedom Foundation senior fellow and director of communications policy studies Randolph J. May published his new study on the FCC decision – “The Triennial Review Scorecard: A Disappointing Grade”. May wrote that prompt deregulatory action in the outstanding cable and wireline broadband proceedings would at least minimize the damage he believes was done in the Triennial Review order.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.