September 20th, 2005
I spent most of my time at the Communication Policy Summit.
The most exciting session got to be Lawful Intercept session, with speakers from Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation explaining why they need CALEA and they did a great job. Unfortunately for them, their opponents John Morris and Brad Templeton did an even better job. In short, no one deny the law enforcement agencies the right to do legal intercept but the objection is how it is implemented. As it is current proposed, it is trying to retro fit a new technology into an old model, making technical requirements like 0.2s timestamp that increases the cost of implementation without any explaination why it is needed, and most importantly, why the industry should spend millions/billions of dollars to implement which is incomplete and easy to circumvent (it does not deal with IP-to-IP so all the terroist needs to know is www.skype.com).
The other session I enjoy is session on policy reformation. The two hour session is extremely informative covering topics like (1) inter-state/carrier settlement (2) universal access fund (3) VoIP jurisdiction. For (1), it looks like US Congress don’t really know what they want but they want FCC to solve it. Conclusion is that it is not going to be resolved anytime soon. For (2), the issues seem simpler, or at least California Commissioner Susan Kennedy thinks it can be resolve easily by associating the contributions with phone numbers. The debate is more of a re-definition of what is “universal access” as no one wants to use the money to build an old copper infrastructure especially if you can get broadband IP infrastructure for cheaper cost. (As it stands, the universal services is bias towards copper network). For (3), Susan surprised me by saying she supported FCC to have jurisdiction over VoIP instead of the PUCs. In her words, “take it away from us before we hurt ourselves”.
Well, I disagreed so we had a little discussion. Her final statement surprised me but it also explained a question I had for a while: after FCC waive the “right-of-way” for new fiber laid, how are they going to balance the market? Where is the wedges they can use on the fiber operators?
The discussion goes this way:
Me: I agreed with everything you said. I believe in free market and I prefer competition over regulation. But as you said, you have 80% DSL and 92% cable pentration so there are still some small pocket people who has no choice in their carrier and …
Susan: For them, we have universal access funds.
In other words, the universal access funds are being used to create competitions (she confirmed this after the session).
Everything makes senses now: Using universal access funds to create competitions at the same time deregulating the “right of way” (The government should avoid regulating a monopoly in the hopes of making it “The Good Monopoly”. Instead, devote resources to promote competition and abundance. see Lessons learnt from history).
But shouldn’t it be called “Universal Competition Funds” then?