The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should get out of the business of creating broadband regulations and only step into an enforcement role when customers complain about service, a Verizon Communications executive said Wednesday.
Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president for public affairs, policy and communications, called on the FCC and the U.S. Congress to create an "updated role" for government in telecommunications regulation, particularly for rules related to broadband Internet access and services that run over broadband.
Tauke, a former Republican congressman, called for an end to what he called "anticipatory regulation" designed to head off problems before they exist. Instead, government should allow a "market-driven" approach where broadband carriers are free to offer the services they choose.
"This does not mean there is no role for government; it simply means that there is an updated role for government," said Tauke, speaking at a policy forum sponsored by conservative think tank the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF). "Government should not be on the field, calling the plays, nor should it be writing the rules. Instead it should fill a referee-like role: observing the field of play, responding to complaints by any of the players and addressing cases of market failure."
The goal of PFF's policy forum was to address the so-called "Net neutrality principles," a set of guidelines endorsed by the FCC that would allow broadband customers to have access to any content, attach any device and run any application on the network, as long as the customer was acting legally and was not harming the network.
Some lawmakers and consumer groups have pushed for those principles to be required by law, but the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Verizon and some other broadband providers have objected, saying a law isn't necessary and could make it more difficult for providers to enter into business relationships with content providers or to block bandwidth hogs or virus writers.
Tauke spent little time addressing Net neutrality, instead using his keynote speech to more broadly call for an end to nearly all broadband regulations. As an example, Tauke criticized a draft broadband reform bill released last week by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.
Some observers have described the draft bill as helpful to large telecom companies such as Verizon that are looking to provide video over IP (Internet Protocol) services in competition with cable television providers. The bill would streamline local franchise requirements, but it also includes a Net neutrality requirement.
"Some policy makers do take a lot of comfort in using the power of government to shape the market," Tauke said, talking about the draft bill and some other telecom legislation before Congress. "They want to imagine all of the things that could possibly go wrong, and then write rules to prevent them from happening."
Government regulators trying to predict the direction technology will take is "a fool's errand," he added.