Task Force to Examine State Role in Telecommunications

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Citing tremendous changes in technology and federal jurisdiction, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commisioners (NARUC) launched a new task force to review and set forth new policies on telecommunications regulation.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Task Force on Federalism and Telecommunications will examine whether the Association’s existing positions and resources need to be updated to keep up with changes in the telecommunications and wireless sector.

The task force was announced by NARUC's new president, Philip Jones, Washington state's commissioner, during the organization's 124th annual meeting, held Nov.11-14 in Baltimore. NARUC is a national organization representing state utility regulators.

The task force will begin with a review of the Association’s 2005 White Paper “Federalism and Telecom" and develop revisions that will include the following:

  • A framework for the role of states and how States interact and react to decisions by the Federal Communications Commission and other federal agencies.
  • An updated negotiating framework for any pending rewrite of existing federal telecommunications law.
  • Principles to evaluate state level telecommunications legislation.

Jones, in consultation with John Burke, Vermont's commissioner and chair of the NARUC Committee on Telecommunications, named Orjiakor Isiogu, Michigan's commissioner, to chair the task force. He also appointed the following state commissioners to serve on the task force: James Cawley of Pennsylvania, Paul Kjellander of Idaho, Ryan Palmer of West Virginia, Ronald Brise of Florida, Catherine Sandoval of California and Chris Nelson of South Dakota. In addition, NARUC General Counsel Brad Ramsay, Legislative Director-Telecom Brian O’Hara and National Regulatory Research Institute Telecommunications Principal Sherry Lichtenberg will serve as support staff.

The group will meet in person and over the phone as much as necessary, with the goal of producing a revised “Federalism and Telecom" White Paper by next November.

“The changes in the telecommunications industry since 2005 are immeasurable," said Jones. “Back then no one knew what an iPhone was, let alone an iPad. Voice-over-Internet-protocol technology was in its infancy, and most people still relied on their landline for service. Nowadays we can tap the Internet in our pockets and many of us have ‘cut the landline cord’ and rely solely on our smart phones. But the goal of providing reliable and affordable service remains the same, and state regulators are key players. This task force will examine the current landscape of the industry and determine whether NARUC’s policies should be revised. State regulators will always play a strong role and we must work with our federal counterparts, determine our core competencies, and ensure consumers are protected."

“The time is ripe for this kind of review," said Isiogu. “Congress is considering changes to telecommunications law and the Federal Communications Commission is pursuing new policies as well. Meanwhile, telecommunications companies are investing billions to rebuild their systems with new technologies. As state regulators, we must make sure consumers are not left behind. I look forward to working with my colleagues and I thank President Jones for this appointment."

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