Verizon Critical of House Telecom Draft

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Washington -- House telecommunications legislation still in the drafting stage came under attack Wednesday by an official of Verizon Communications Inc., partly as an example of what not to do to promote greater competition to incumbent cable operators.

The draft bill, generated by leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, began circulating last week to largely favorable reviews, especially from supporters of minimal government regulation of broadband networks and services.

In a speech here, Verizon executive Tom Tauke offered a different perspective. He complained that the draft bill was flawed because it would lower cable market-entry barriers based on the sophistication of set-top-box technology that a provider intended to deploy.

“This notion raises red flags. Why, we wonder, is Congress trying to design the service we offer or dictate the capabilities of the customer-premises equipment, specifically our set-top box?” said Tauke, Verizon’s executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications.

Verizon’s strategy is to deploy broadband networks capable of offering video without having to sign agreements with thousands of local communities, as currently required by federal law. Perhaps anticipating change on Capitol Hill, Texas recently repealed local franchise requirements, passing a law that the cable industry is now trying to overturn in federal court.

Another Verizon goal is to serve geographic areas free from requirements that mandate service to every household in a community.

According to Tauke, the 77-page House draft dealt with market-buildout requirements with just the words “to be determined” when it should clearly stated that no buildout requirements would apply.

“The good news is that nothing is there. The bad news is that somebody apparently believes that there should be something there, specifically, a buildout requirement,” Tauke said.

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