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FCC's Powell Takes Telecom Policy To Task At Supercomm

The great hall was packed, and the mood was friendly toward FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. Even he admitted that he was "preaching to the choir" at last evening's keynote session of Supercomm. The message from the chairman was simple. The burden of proof on taking regulatory action should be on the FCC -- not industry -- and that he wants to be associated with movements that encourage the deployment of new innovative digital services that enhance the quality of life of consumers, and the operational efficiencies of the private sector.

Working against these aims, he said, is a legislative and regulatory framework that is rooted in a highly segmented past, and which does not provide much guidance on how to manage current technological developments.

"We [at the FCC in particular, but government in general] are pretty good at looking at the past and understanding it. But we are not so good about anticipating the future," he said.

He added that much of the confusion about how to deal with new converged network technologies and services are rooted in a Telecom Act of 1996 that prescribes rules according to media delivery types.

"If you open up the Telecom Act of 1996 you will see chapters on common carriers in local and long distance markets, broadcasters, cable. But the Act does not entertain what should occur when players in one arena start offering services in a another, using technology that was not even conceived at the time the Act was written."

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