Role of State and Local Governments in Telecom Regulations

October 27, 2005

Exploring ways to streamline current and conflicting telecommunication regulatory policies in the United States was the focus of a conference at Colorado Law on October 26. Titled "Re-Examining the Role of State and Local Governments in Telecom Regulations," the conference examined how the 1996 Telecommunications Act and the conflicting roles that state and local governments play in telecommunications regulation have hampered economic development in the telecommunications industry. The law school's Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program co-sponsored the conference with The Progress & Freedom Foundation, a think tank devoted to the study of the digital world. "The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did not consider carefully the role that states and localities should play in telecommunications regulation -- roles that were defined under the original telecommunications act in 1934," said Professor Phil Weiser, Silicon Flatirons' executive director. "Given the emerging technological landscape -- characterized by services provided over broadband and wireless networks -- it is important that policymakers begin developing a harmonious nationwide regulatory system," he said. According to Raymond Gifford, president of The Progress & Freedom Foundation and former Colorado Public Utilities Commission chairman, digital applications such as voice over internet protocol "are making a mockery of local, state and national boundaries." "The erosion of these boundaries undermines economic regulation at the state and local level, but those regulators may possess expertise on the implementation of social policy," said Gifford. "What we need to do is to define roles for regulators at all levels that will allow digital technologies and services to continue their remarkable growth." The conference featured a presentation of the foundation's new report on how to modernize telecommunication regulations, as well as discussion by policymakers, academics and practitioners on future directions in telecommunications policy reform. Participants included Gifford, Arvada Mayor Ken Fellman and Tom Nathan, Comcast Cable general counsel.