Verizon’s Tauke Sees Cable as Player on Capitol Hill

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The cable industry would likely turn to Congress if the courts insist that cable operators must share their broadband facilities with competing Internet-service providers, a senior Verizon Communications official said Monday.

Cable operators are potentially faced with open-access requirements unless the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling favorable to cable.

Tom Tauke, Verizon's top Washington lobbyist, said that if cable companies can't get court relief, "I think [cable] would probably rush to the Hill and say, ‘We need something done.’ I don't want to speak for the cable industry, but I think they have issues that they would like clarity on, too."

Yet Tauke backtracked a little by noting that if the cable industry wins in court, it might be less interested in legislation.

"If that issue gets clarified by the courts or something else a few months down the road, then their views may change," he added.

Tauke told the New America Foundation that his preference was for the Federal Communications Commission to deliver broadband deregulation, adding that the legislative process was too unpredictable.

"Any time you embark on legislation, it's always done with some hope and trepidation," he said.

Both the Baby Bells and cable operators could gain broadband deregulation from the FCC despite court setbacks. The agency, for example, could forbear from applying its open-access regulations.

While current law provides the FCC with amply authority to shape new broadband policies, Tauke argued that Congress might have to pass a law ensuring that state and local governments could not regulate voice-over-Internet-protocol services.