ATLANTA—While faring far better than most of their start-up rivals in recent years, the Regional Bell Operating Companies are not attracting the kind of investment capital they are accustomed to, and they are looking to the government to change that.
The Bells lobbying efforts to eliminate their regulatory obligations is unremitting, but in the sluggish economy, the incumbent telephone companies have become increasingly vocal in blaming federal rules for their hard times. At the Supercomm show in Atlanta Tuesday, BellSouth Corp. Chairman and CEO Duane Ackerman took the regulators to task.
The way to spur renewed capital investment in the telecommunications sector is by reducing regulations, which have not kept pace with marketplace developments, Ackerman said.
"Telecom has been locked in its own glass bubble for some time now," the BellSouth chief executive said. "Public policy has controlled what we grow and what we breathe and the relationships that we form."
Echoing a recent theme sounded by Verizon Communications Inc. and SBC Communications Inc., Ackerman implored the Federal Communications Commission to give the Bells more leeway in negotiating interconnection and resale agreements with rival carriers.
"We must create a more natural climate for commercial agreements," he said. "Policy makers are grinding along at a glacial tempo."
The FCC continues to grind along in crafting a set of rules revising the Bells obligations to share future broadband infrastructure with rivals. The revisions are part of a periodic FCC exercise known as the "Triennial Review." In a highly divisive and controversial vote in February, the commission decided to retain much of the Bells obligations with regard to their existing copper facilities but eliminate those obligations when it comes to future broadband facilities.
The Bells staunchest ally in that effort, Commissioner Kevin Martin, was the only commissioner to speak at this years Supercomm. Martin addressed the forum even though the FCC has not finalized the rules that it decided on more than three months ago. Speaking at the show Tuesday afternoon, Martin said that he is confident broadband deployment will lead to new period of economic growth and innovation in the sector.