For anyone who thought that we didn’t need a comprehensive, focused inquiry on how to clear the path for communications to move from a TDM-based circuit switched world to an all-IP, broadband future, you must have noticed a ripple in the force last week (I won’t name names, but if you attended NARUC you heard from a few of them.  That ripple, of course, was caused by the failure of the FCC to meet the statutory one-year deadline to decide a US Telecom petition that seeks forbearance from, among other things, rules which apply to carriers engaged in furnishing “radio-telegraph, wire-telegraph, or ocean-cable service,” and requires such carriers to maintain “separate files for each damage claim of a traffic nature.”

That’s right. One year was not enough time to determine whether we could finish making the move from the telegraph-era to the telephone-era.  Apparently, this is tricky stuff.

But fear not, under the statute, the Commission is only allowed to extend the due date on this request for three more months, and I am confident that, given that extra time, the Commission will see the light and grant this relief.  I mean, the telegraph part of US Telecom’s request was un-opposed.  And Commission Staff has been recommending the revocation of that rule for 10 years, so the result should not be in doubt, right?? (I’ll keep knocking on wood just to be safe). But what the FCC ultimately does with telegraph rules is not the reason I am writing.  It is the fact that regulations have a tendency to persist long after they outlived any usefulness and it takes real focus and effort to ultimately remove them from the books even when everyone agrees that it is the common sense thing to do.

I am worried, of course, that without a focused, comprehensive effort, we will still be talking about TDM services and, perish the thought, the rate at which carriers’ should be required to sell 1.5 MB DS1 services well into the 22nd Century.  Because, as we should have learned by last week’s non-action/delay on US Telecom’s petition, the regulations of those services will continue to exist long after consumers have abandoned those services to the pages of history.  And while that may be the goal of those unnamed commentators who oppose conducting the IP Transition in an orderly, efficient and comprehensive fashion, it is not a goal that policymakers concerned about generating more IP infrastructure investment should embrace.  As I have said before, policymakers should be focused on maximizing private investment to expand the nation’s broadband infrastructure, not on preserving yesterday’s technologies and rules.

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