Communications Networks Need Unified National Policy and Deregulation
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Technological change, including the recent move toward Internet-based 'phone calls', is delocalizing communications networks and services to such an extent that jurisdictional distinctions between state and federal governments are becoming less necessary, even counterproductive. That is the view of University of Colorado computer science and telecommunications professor Douglas C. Sicker, who is calling for a "more uniform national policy" and greater deregulation of the communications sector.
"Modern telecommunications networks are evolving in ways that render local and state authority over many telecommunications policy decisions less justifiable," Sicker writes in a paper released by The Progress & Freedom Foundation, where he is an adjunct fellow. "Networks, and the services offered over these networks, are delocalizing in design, operations, traffic and cost characteristics. Further, the benefits from a modernized network may be undermined by policies that attempt to make a distinction between local and non-local aspects of the network, particularly as this relates to the services carried on these networks."
Sicker sites six key technology trends that are influencing the network: the growing insensitivity of a call to distance; the increasing modularity of the network; the shift from circuit-switched to packet-routed networks; the irrelevance of geographic boundaries to emerging technologies and the de-localization and de-emphasis of the central office.
Sicker writes that, "Voice has become merely another application in the Internet Protocol space, and this has caused an appreciable regulatory quandary." His warning: "traditional notions of jurisdiction could inhibit the emergence and adoption of new technology and service models." For example, regulating voice over broadband service as a traditional telecommunications, rather than a data service "would force costly telecommunications obligations...onto a fledgling technology. Thus an innovative service would be lost and an alternative provider eliminated...impeding network efficiency."
"While it may be advantageous to allow states to serve as regulatory laboratories, the federal government must ensure that a uniform environment emerges that supports rapid technology adoption and deployment, " he says.
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.