Address by FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth.
Re: access to cable facilities which provide Internet access.

Event: Georgetown University Law Center panel discussion.
Date: October 5, 1999.

Editor's Notes:
   This document was transcribed from a low quality audio recording. The speaker often spoke softly, and away from the microphone. Consequently, there are gaps in this transcription. There are also likely to be errors in this transcription.
   Copyright Tech Law Journal. All rights reserved.


Thank you, Scot. It is a great privilege and honor to be here today at Georgetown University with the NCBA. Scot and George and I met briefly at the beginning of the session, and try to go over the ground rules, and, George being George, Scot asked George to go first. He didn't have anything prepared, but he thought he could just about cover ten minutes. [laughter] I, of course, had the great honor to go last. Scot, I feel a bit like either the referee or an umpire for a boxing match, and I don't know which role you have. But --

Scot Harris. I am the time keeper. [laughter]

Harold Furchtgott-Roth. You're the timekeeper. Well, let me know when the bell is about to ring.

Last week I was in Seattle for a conference. It was at a big convention center with a long elevator ride up every time. I got on an elevator with a gentleman who was very nattily dressed. And we got on the elevator. He just looked at me very hard. At last he said, "so what do you sell?" [laughter]

I tried to stand up tall, and said, "I don't sell anything, I am with the federal government, the Federal Communications Commission."

"Ahh," he said. "You sell regulations." [laughter]

I was taken a bit aback. But it did occur to me that people approach things from their background. And so this gentleman, who was obviously some kind of salesman, thought everyone was in sales. And, I am taken by the extraordinary presentations we just heard from AOL and AT&T. They have done a very good job of selling the policy positions of their companies. ____ I have to say, if one were looking at the program for this session, one would not have been ______.

And indeed, a year ago, we would not have been discussing cable deployment at all at this session. We might have been discussing Section 706 of the Act. We might have been discussing IP telephony, its regulatory treatment. We might have been discussing the definition of "telecommunications service." We might have been discussing universal service. But, these issues have been overtaken in the past year. Indeed, in the past five months, on the issue of access to cable.

Scot, you said you envied George for being a lawyer working on policy. I am in the unenviable position of being an economist working on law. [laughter] And, also in the unusual position today of being a spectator to a boxing match in Washington, without being pugilist myself.

Editor's Note: Jack Fields represented the 8th Congressional District in Texas (suburban Houston) from 1980 to 1996. He sat on the Commerce Committee, and its Telecom Subcommittee, before retiring at the age of 44.

At the FCC, I have kind of a strange view, which is, we don't set policy. The Congress does policy. They write policy into law. Former Chairman Jack Fields is with us today. He had a very substantial role in the 1996 Act. The issues before the Commission are not about whether AOL or AT&T has the better business plan, or better policy. The issue is what does the law command of the FCC.

When it comes to unbundling the cable systems, under Title II or Title VI of the Act, and I think you will find out ______________ for the FCC to require cable unbundling.

Editor's Note: This portion of the audio recording was inaudible.

Indeed, language similar to 251(c) requiring the incumbent LECs, not the CLECs _______________ .

But there is a separate issue which is _________________ what municipalities may do. Now, ___________________ what municipalities may or may not do. ___________________.

The issue we have before us at a boxing match is just part of the broader change in the landscape of telecommunications and regulation. For the past six decades, telecommunications markets were very much defined by regulation. One could look at the books of an AT&T, decade after decade, every service had regulated report(?). Every service was designed with the input of regulators, and was reported specifically to regulators.

Times have changed, for the better. We now have a different paradigm, in which regulations must not only follow the law, but, in which markets define the manner in which _______.

Many of the old forms of regulation simply won't work very effectively in a world in which consumers have choices or alternative means of telecommunications service, and can choose those that are the least encumbered by regulation. Actually, they are going to choose whichever is the best value to them. But, often times that will be the one that ____ regulation.

But, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that the Internet today is entirely without regulation. It is regulated in many ways, but the content of electronic commerce, or its distribution, or its _____transport. Practically every aspect of the Internet today is regulated, directly or indirectly. And there are some at the Commission who might ____ us to even more regulations. And. It is true that it is less regulated than other media. And there are those of us who would like to _______. But we will see how that plays out.

I would urge those, however, seeking a deregulated landscape, to think twice about urging the Commission to jump into the fray. Good intentions don't always lead to good results. That is particularly true in the area of regulation. Markets and technology and the Internet or electronic commerce change far more rapidly than regulators can possibly respond to even with perfect information.

And so, I am, I am pleased to echo the words of Chairman Kennard. [laughter] Although, I might put it a different way. It is not that we must resist the urge to regulate. I for one have never had that urge. [laughter] I think we need to resist those who would keep us from deregulating. But, if that comes out better than to resist the urge to regulate, I am happy to _____. [applause]