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National Regulation

2008 Cable Show: Gutierrez: Broadband Regulation Too Costly

5/20/2008 6:00 AM Eastern

New Orleans -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez on Monday said cable operators should be allowed to manage their broadband networks free from intrusive regulation.

“Broad regulations that limit the ability of operators to price or manage their networks could actually deter and delay investment and innovation. The result would be fewer choices and higher prices for consumers,” Gutierrez said during his remarks at NCTA's The Cable Show '08 late Monday afternoon.

Gutierrez claimed the Bush administration recognized that the private sector was the source of innovation and that government should not adopt regulations that can't  keep pace with changing technology.

Crafting rules designed to ensure that broadband providers manage their networks in a reasonable fashion were unlikely to succeed, Gutierrez said.

"The rapid pace of change makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to even define what constitutes reasonable network management," Gutierrez said. "Network providers need flexibility to manage congestion quickly and effectively."

In his speech, Gutierrez lavished praise the cable industry for investing $130 billion in their networks since 1996.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, by contrast, seldom has kind words for the cable industry and often complains about rising nominal cable rates. Martin did not attend the cable convention.

At press briefing before his speech, Gutierrez was asked whether the FCC under Martin has been sufficiently deregulatory given that cable operators and programmers have filed 10 lawsuits to overturn Martin-sponsored cable regulations.

“I won't comment about the lawsuits. Obviously, they are in the legal system,” Gutierrez told reporters. “The FCC is an independent body, so we have to be careful and not assume that we can manage day-to-day the workings of the FCC. But we have communications with the FCC. We talk about how we see the future of network management, and we'll continue to work as closely as we should work with the FCC.”

Gutierrez also said he also supports the White House nomination of Neil Patel to replace Meredith Attwell Baker as head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the division the Commerce Department charged with  supervising the $1.5 billion digital television converter box coupon program.

Patel is an aide to Vice President Cheney. Baker, who is also Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, broke off a conversation with reporters and walked away after she was asked about her future plans.

 

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