(October 20, 2000) Cisco lobbyist Bruce Mehlman gave an address to a FCBA luncheon in which he summarized high tech related policy issues that are current in Washington DC. He predicted that fight over spectrum for 3G wireless services, which will allow for mobile Internet access, will get ugly.
Bruce Mehlman, Telecom Policy Counsel for Cisco Systems, spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Online Communications Practice Committee of the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) in Washington DC on Thursday, October 19.
He said that the recent policy successes of high tech include the bill increasing the annual cap on H1B visas, the bill extending PNTR status to China, the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, legislation extending the research and development tax credit, encryption export relief, the bill providing for the acceptance of digital signatures, and the Y2K relief bill.
He said the Cisco Chairman John Chambers "loves interacting with government" which "is worth ten DC lobbyists."
Most of Mehlman's address was devoted to outlining the high tech policy issues that are coming up, and what are the policy goals of the different high tech industry sectors. He grouped the policy issues into four categories: consumer protection, access, scarcity, and control.
Consumer protection, said Mehlman, includes privacy, security, and law enforcement issues, such as CALEA implementation.
Access includes the "digital divide," universal service, and the "last mile."
Scarcity issues include spectrum, workers, bandwidth, and teachers. On the issue of spectrum, he stated that "maybe we will find technology solutions to that." During the question and answer session he was asked about third generation (3G) wireless services, and where spectrum would be obtained for that. "It would be a mistake to displace the MMDS providers," said Mehlman. "That doesn't accelerate broadband."
Control includes intellectual property, distribution, and government jurisdictions. He focused on distribution issues. "There are forty-four states that make it illegal for me to buy a car directly from dealers" over the Internet. He also took a shot at state and federal protectionist laws that make it illegal to buy alcohol over the Internet. Liquor distributors argue that such laws protect children. "Children can't get fine wine online," said Mehlman.Mehlman then summarized the major policy interests of different high tech sectors. ILECs want regulatory relief from the 1996 Telecommunications Act. "CLECs will be arguing in the same places at the same time for exactly the opposite things."
ISPs want open access to cable platforms at a regulated rate, and protection from liability. Mehlman also suggested "privacy is going to raise new questions of ISP liability."
"Wireless guys want more spectrum," said Mehlman. "You are going to have to try to move somebody. That fight is going to be ugly." Wireless providers also do not want "interference."
Broadcasters want to control the spectrum that has been assigned to them, and they want copyright protection from the threats posed by peer to peer networking.
The cable industry does not want to be regulated as common carriers.
"We have no technology religion" at Cisco, Mehlman asserted. "We don't have an ax to grind."
"Our mission is the same as Bill Kennard's; the same as Billy Tauzin's," said Mehlman. FCC Chairman Kennard and House Telecom Subcommittee Chairman Tauzin might be surprised to learn that they share the same mission.