Verizon is taking the discussion of a National Broadband Plan managed by the FCC as an opportunity to advocate for the type of full-scale changes in communications law that only Congress can enact. The company is looking for a regulatory environment that basically treats all communication service providers equally.

In a speech yesterday, Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications, said that traditional regulatory models written for “static, one-purpose industries, such as TV or telephone service, are not only out of step with today's dynamic, converged Internet ecosystem, they are harmful to the innovation process that characterizes broadband and the Internet.”

The last time there were major changes in communication law, in 1996, there was a clear separation among cable, phone, and satellite companies, and law both recognized and institutionalized those differences.

The devil will of course be in the details. Cable companies, for example, negotiate franchise agreements with local governments. When AT&T got into the video business, it refused to do likewise, instead negotiating for statewide and national franchise allowances. In the past, phone companies were compelled to give new rivals access to their own networks.

Congress could presumably make everyone subject to those same rules. Tauke is setting the table for getting rid of regulations.

He said the approach articulated by former FCC Chairman Bill Kennard, a Democrat, of using a light regulatory hand to create a highly competitive marketplace has worked.

“Now, we need to put in place a framework that will continue to encourage ongoing investment and innovation for this vibrant ecosystem we see,” Tauke said. “This should be the cornerstone for a refreshed policy framework.”

Tauke spoke at an event sponsored by NDN (New Democrat Network) and the New Policy Institute.

The Verizon executive suggested four general principles as the foundation for a new policy framework to be determined by Congress. First, he said, "consumers must be fully empowered" and "well-informed." Second, they must "feel safe" and "confident that their online security and privacy are protected." Third, "consumer access and adoption should be priorities." Fourth, "the test for government intervention in the marketplace is to prevent either harm to users or anti-competitive activity."

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