Bush policy draws criticism for failing to promote effective competition.
LOS ANGELES-No conference on technology policy would be complete without a
debate on where America
stands in the global competition race.
Is the pipe half full or half empty? Not surprisingly, the talk at the
second annual Tech Policy Summit was decidedly mixed.
is still the most dynamic broadband economy in the world," said Ambassador
Richard Russell, the associate director of the White House's Office on Science
and Technology Policy. "As opposed to being miles ahead, though, we're
only a little ahead."
But Yale Law
School's Susan Crawford called
Russell's position "magical thinking. We're not doing well at all."
She proceeded to call the White House's effort "completely inadequate on
Bush is lambasted at the Tech Policy Summit. Read more here.
Crawford added that what America
needs is "access to a general communication structure that is open with
universal access," a notion characterized by Russell as a "tragic
mistake" and invoked an image of a single, regulated monopoly.
"More pipes into the home is the key," Russell said.
Crawford, though, said the administration has failed to promote competition
through its free-market approach, noting that even the recent 700MHz spectrum
is not likely to change the competitive landscape much, since Verizon
Wireless won the best slice for wireless broadband. "The big actors
[telecoms and cable companies] are running regional duopolies," she said.
Russell said there is no need for any new legislation to create a more
competitive atmosphere. "People don't understand how hard it is to write
legislation," he said, citing the 1996 Telecommunications Act as a prime
As originally passed by Congress, lawmakers envisioned the act creating
competition by forcing telecoms and cable companies to share their lines at
discounted prices with competitors.
"Look how that turned out. [Congress] decided to have everyone share
the same line and the wire was copper," Russell said. "The
administration has opposed any new legislation because you never know how it
might turn out."
Click here for 10 things the next president should do about IT.
Joe Waz, Comcast's vice president of external affairs and public policy,
blamed the failure of the 1996 legislation on "endless gaming of the
system by the incumbents." M2Z Networks Chairman and CEO
Milo Medin laid the 1996 act's failure at the feet of politicians.
"Congress was trying to cut the baby in half. Politicians love this sort
of thing," he said.
Crawford said Congress' primary mistake was imposing a "thy shall
cooperate" regime on the Baby Bells and cable companies. However, they did
not and proceeded to launch a blizzard of protracted litigation.
By the end of the debate, Crawford was the only member of the panel still
insisting on an activist Congress to address issues such as network neutrality
and network management. The other members were putting their faith in the free
"This is really about the rights of unborn technology," she said.