Telecommunications Reform: Is The "Network Layers" Approach the Right One?
Telecommunications Reform: Is the "Network Layers" Approach the Right One?

The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) hosted a Washington, D.C. based September 10, 2004 'Friday Forum' to debate approaches to telecom policy reform.

Featured speakers were Rick Whitt of MCI and Link Hoeing of Verizon. The event was moderated by PPI Vice President Dr. Robert Atkinson.

Mr. Whitt gave a slide show presentation demonstrating his view that the old paradigm vertical network layer hierarchy is giving way to a converged one as various applications communicate by common standards, such as IP (Internet Protocol). Mr. Whitt seemed to favor the notion of last mile multi-vendor Open Access over primary conduits and equipment now controlled by local carriers like Verizon and cable companies. The argument here is that as was mandated under telecom Common Carrier rules in the heretofore Internet dialup connectivity access days, namely allowing multiple providers on the last mile telco plant, this would be healthy in the broadband era.

Mr. Whitt is of the belief that in ten years there will be little distinction between voice, video, and other network application uses, rather the notion of data over networks will be of primary import. In the near-term he believes that the many policy issues surrounding Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will come to the forefront to be addressed.

Link Hoeing, Verizon Communications, took an opposite tack on Open Access, declaring that broadband competition between his companie's DSL (and upcoming fiber to the curb) offerings, along with cable broadband, satellite, power line broadband, WiMax, etc. offer choice and competition. He pointed out how speeds of Verizon's DSL offering have increased, yet they have been able to somewhat lower pricing, or offer bundled competitive products. In short, Mr. Hoeing did not favor a Common Carrier type Open Access approach to Broadband over Verizon plant and equipment. He would like to see some parity in respect to rules regulating cable broadband.

Both Mr. Whitt and Hoeing seemed to find common ground on the need to address policy issues surrounding VoIP and other data services.

Discussion of CALEA (law enforcement access to data), 911 services, universal service, state's role were touched upon by the presenters or audience participants.

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