Video: Jim Cicconi Unafraid of ITU Internet Takeover; Is Afraid of 1934-style Regulations for Today’s IP Networks

by Mike Wendy on December 3, 2012

Jim Cicconi was at the New America Foundation late last week to discuss his thoughts about the U.N. / ITU / ITRs currently being addressed in Dubai, as well as their connection to how companies like AT&T can modernize its communications networks for consumers in a way that is not hamstrung by 1934-style telephone regulations.

Above is a brief video except of that talk, and below is the transcription of that excerpt.

Jonathan Koppell, interviewer: How is the business model, if you will, in these countries, and the regulatory power countries, threatened by the status quo?  And what is the protection they’re seeking, right, from a business point of view?

Jim Cicconi: I think it was stated earlier.  I can’t remember who said it, but you do have bad actors here.  You do have authoritarian countries who simply want control in this space for purposes of repression.  And then you have a group of other countries that may want control, maybe not for that purpose, but just have trouble abandoning the old model.  And I think it was said earlier, and I agree with it, that the danger is not that the ITU takes over the Internet.  You know, that’s not what AT&T is worried about.  But we are worried that it does provide a legal underpinning for nation-states being much more repressive, much more controlling about the Internet.

(Video transition)

Cicconi: I think that anybody who argues to change it, or that we need more governance or regulation, whether it’s at the ITU or some nation-state level, you know, in the current situation, I think bears a heavy burden of demonstrating why.  Now, we’re going to confront a lot of these questions here in this country, you know, as we make our own broadband transition.  We have to modernize our own regulations.  Everybody understands this because the regulations we have in place today are still designed for a monopoly, voice-only phone system that doesn’t exist anymore.  They’re not designed for an IP broadband world.  And I think just as we’re resisting the ETNO proposals, we need to resist similar notions here of just reflexively taking those old-style rules designed for 1934 and applying them to a 21st Century technology.  I’m not saying that this has to be a regulation-free zone or something.  But I am saying that we ought to design the regulations for the technology we have today, for the problems that we face today, not simply assume, you know, that things are going to be like they were 70 years ago and apply the same model.  The President talks about smart regulation, and I think this is the epitome of it.    It’s silly as heck that when you build a modern IP network, you can’t turn off the old network.  The regulations bar you from doing that, whether you’ve got any users on it or not.  It makes no sense.  And, of course, it costs you money forever not being able to do that.  So, we need to modernize this, and I think it can be done in a tempered way, and in a careful way, but it needs to be done.  And we need to resist this notion, I think that’s being pushed by other carriers in other countries, that we should somehow just treat the Internet like it’s one big telephone system. It’s not.

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