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CONTACT: Mike Wendy
June 16, 2010
(202) 969-2957
"Next Communications Act" Event Transcript Released
Industry Officials at PFF Event Discuss Need to Update US Comms Laws

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Progress & Freedom Foundation today released the transcript from its recent event, "What Should the Next Communications Act Look Like?" featuring the panel discussions of telecom industry veterans Link Hoewing of Verizon, Walter McCormick of US Telecom, Peter Pitsch of Intel, Ray Gifford of Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, LLP, Michael Calabrese of the New America Foundation, and Barbara Esbin and Adam Thierer of PFF.

The well-attended event, held at the National Press Club on May 7th, covered the implications of the recent Comcast v. FCC court decision, the FCC's then pending "Net Neutrality" Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, as well as other developments which have led many in the policy community to call on Congress to update the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Highlighted excerpts from the panel discussions include:

  • Link Hoewing: "…[T]he statute that we're working under today, you have to torture it to try to do anything to make it work with the Internet ecosystem we have now. When you look at the old technologies that were essentially single-purpose—they were analog in most cases—it just doesn't work for the Internet. And in fact, if you look at the Congress's policy statement in 1996, section 230(b), it says that the Internet ought to be, essentially, unfettered by state and federal regulations. So they recognized that; they just didn't know where it was going to go. And so I think that's why… we need to have a new policy framework, ultimately."

  • Walter McCormick: "The Internet is a convergence of all the prior forms of communications, and it's unclear what authority the FCC has. And as we all know, regulatory agencies, independent agencies that come under the jurisdiction of the Commerce committees, only exercise delegated, quasi-legislative power that's been specifically delegated by the Congress… The Chairman's having to do contortions to try and figure out whether or not he has authority to enter into a field that just simply did not exist upon the passage of prior acts."

  • Peter Pitsch: "…I do think there is a problem in the spectrum space. The services we all have are wonderful, and the industry has done a great job. But anyone who's been following the growth of data and the problems that are arising with the use of smart phones realizes that there is going to be a tremendous increase in demand. And if we don't get spectrum, and do other things, but if we don't get additional spectrum, there is going to be a big problem."
  • Barbara Esbin: "…[T]he wireless model was held up as the ideal light regulatory framework and that is because Congress permitted the FCC to deregulate the rates of commercial mobile radio service providers and that is the key difference today. There is no act of Congress permitting the FCC to implement its Third Way. Now the wireless model might be a great basis for the next act in terms of how much regulation do you need in a competitive marketplace, but it's hard to use that analogy today because of the lack of legislative authority."

  • Ray Gifford: "…[Y]ou can criticize [the FCC] from any number of directions, but what's the most remarkable thing to me… is the essential lawlessness of the place…It's a criticism to be sure, but it's not meant to be that laden with judgment. It doesn't follow procedures and protocols that normal, regular institutions would if industry and consumers were going to rely on it. It follows a much more political rhythm. And what you see coming out of the FCC are, so often, political documents. Which is why they have a record in front of the courts that the Detroit Lions have."

  • Michael Calabrese: "The next Communications Act needs to make a clear distinction between the Internet and its on and off ramps. Congress should reaffirm it will not regulate the Internet and yet apply equally certain basic common carrier consumer protections to all facility based providers of last-mile Internet access."

The transcript of the event can be obtained here. Please contact Mike Wendy at for more information.

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.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation