USTA Chief Takes Shot at FCC's Ferree


Kenneth Ferree, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Cable
Services Bureau, took some heat Tuesday for published comments about his view on
the regulation of phone-company high-speed-data services.

Walter McCormick, president of the United States Telecom Association,
announced that he was 'stunned' to read in newsletter Communications
that Ferree said his goal was not to create regulatory parity between
cable-modem service and digital-subscriber-line service.

'The [FCC] will give real meaning to the terms `arbitrary and capricious' if
it chooses to define and regulate functionally equivalent services, such as
these, in disparate ways,' McCormick said.

Ferree responded with a statement intended to put his comments in a new

'It is unfortunate that there was a misunderstanding. As I said in the
interview, the [cable] bureau, in preparing the cable-modem-access item, was not
trying to craft rules for both wireline and cable providers. That said, the
commissioners have a broader perspective that encompasses concerns about
regulatory consistency, and the bureau will continue to coordinate as necessary
to address those issues,' Ferree said.

More broadly, McCormick's statement took an indirect swipe at FCC chairman
Michael Powell for charging ahead with a staff reorganization but keeping the
cable- and DSL-classification issues in separate dockets.

'As the [FCC] reorganizes itself, what it should be asking is: Why are we
running two proceedings through separate bureaus, rather than consolidating
these initiatives into one?' McCormick said.

McCormick's letter was something of a puzzle in terms of the point about
regulatory parity between cable-modem service and DSL because the commission is
clearly heading in the direction he is advocating.

The FCC has tentatively concluded that high-speed data provided by phone
companies is an information service, which the agency has traditionally declined
to regulate. On Thursday, it is expected to classify cable-modem service as an
information service.However, the commission is planning to explore to what
extent various regulations should apply to phone- and cable-data services. The
results could be different for each service due to statutory requirements it
might not be able to ignore.