Remarkable Leverage

Feb 17, 2006 | Inside: Regulation & Policies

One of the big problems with the enormously problematic E911 Order [warning: very large and very strange pdf file] is that it required VoIP providers to hook into the legacy E911 system controlled by the Baby Bells without mandating that the Bells allow the VoIP guys to connect.

This was a tailor-made holdup situation for what was already an enormous holdup. (Remember that it took the wireless industry more than ten years to figure out how to work with the legacy E911 world, but the FCC only gave the VoIP companies a few months.) The Bells had full authority to give the appearance of being helpful while slowly dragging their feet and pushing the VoIP providers (their competitors) closer and closer to a deadline that (initially at least) was supposed to trigger mass cut-offs of VoIP customers for whom E911 service wasn’t available.

Diabolical, right?

Well, the scheme is even worse than that. The Bells are required to let local competitors (the people who know the acronyms call them CLECs) connect. CLECs can, therefore, provide VoIP guys with the access to the E911 system that they need to avoid being subject to enforcement actions by the FCC.

So this paragraph in a recent Drew Clark column caught my eye:

‘That [selling retail access to VoIP providers to selective routers] is probably a business opportunity for many of the carriers that are out there,’ [FCC Chairman] Martin said… ‘I have continued to believe that the competitive carriers are going to play an important role and many of our rules and regulations should be viewed as actually an opportunity for people.’

What? Let’s get this straight. This means that the FCC is not only pushing for VoIP providers to be obligated to go through the legacy system—a solution that is bad enough in itself—but further ensuring that they must work with middlemen to do so. (If the Commission had wanted to open the legacy hardware to the VoIP people, the FCC could have done that.) And, to boot, FCC is propping up the middleman-market as an “opportunity” for their familiar regulated entities, telephone companies.

I’m pretty cynical about the entire E911 debacle, but this is breathtaking.

Let’s go for BPL and hand it over to FERC. Soon.

(like the acronyms?)

This has been a featured post from Susan Crawford, Assistant Professor of Law. To visit the weblog maintained by Susan Crawford click here.


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