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Comcast & Verizon, Sitting in a Tree...

LAS VEGAS -- Telecom '04 -- Have cable companies and phone companies buried the hatchet?

Not exactly. But the two sides are uniting to send a message to regulators to back off. In a more genteel way, that's what Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) CEO Brian Roberts said as he took the stage here and talked up the similarities of phone companies and his cable cohorts in the race to modernize their networks without government interference.

Roberts cautioned the phone companies (the lot famous for carping about an unfair regulatory environment) that if they don't pick their regulatory battles carefully, the case for industry-wide deregulation is weakened for everyone.

"Neither of us can or should expect to be completely unfettered by regulation," Roberts says.

But it's clear that Roberts wants his cable company to be thought of as innovating new services, rather than a company that's regulated like the gas company. "We never thought of ourselves as a public utility and have never wanted to be one," Roberts told the crowd here.

Instead of being just a substitute for traditional phone service, Roberts says his company's intent is to grow the overall telephony market by offering more services. He says Comcast wants to integrate its cable IP-phone service with wireless service, "because consumers want a seamless flow from their mobile network to their in-home IP network."

"Some in the telephone industry seemed intent on making the case for telephone deregulation by disparaging cable, and to me this made no sense," says Roberts.

Roberts asked his assembled rivals not to use regulation "as a competitive sword," bent on pitting the government against one another. Rather, he sided with the carriers by acknowledging that the regulations we live under today were written for another time.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Ivan Seidenberg, in a chat with reporters after his own keynote speech, said that he and Roberts are on the same page -- from a high level -- regarding government regulation. Neither side wants it to force the companies that own networks to have to share those networks.

Seidenberg says the government shouldn't drain the value of "investment-based companies" -- his description of what most folks call facilities-based carriers -- and give it away to other companies.

He also says the laws governing communications networks have to change. "Even if we have enlightened regulators, the laws sitting around them don't make any sense," says Seidenberg.

"I take him at his word," Seidenberg says of Roberts. "He came here to suggest that he's trying to create a new value proposition to grow the pie, and therefore he's willing to rethink some of these issues."

"I would be careful not to take this very complicated subject and boil it down to one binary sentence," Seidenberg says, boiling his thoughts down to one binary sentence: "But I just think he [Roberts] opened the door to all of us feeling comfortable that there is more opportunity to work together than we have in the past."

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

lastmile 12/5/2012 | 1:11:30 AM
re: Comcast & Verizon, Sitting in a Tree... Every bit of news revolves around regulation.
A new telecom act in 2016 (20 years after the last crap) may make a difference!
Why don't we just deregulate completely now and let the market decide what is best for the consumer.
There are many alternatives available.
1. A roof top antenna for TV. (free)
2. A walkie talkie for communication.(free)
3. No more FCC (less tax).
4. etc etc.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 1:11:29 AM
re: Comcast & Verizon, Sitting in a Tree... Why don't we just deregulate completely now and let the market decide what is best for the consumer.

Because access networks aren't conducive to markets and hence will be (or are being) gamed at the expense of the public's interests.

It's not Walmarts we're building. It's the roads. Infrastructure like roads aren't created by markets, but rather markets form using the enabling infrastructure. We can't get that backwards if we are to progress.
rjs 12/5/2012 | 1:11:26 AM
re: Comcast & Verizon, Sitting in a Tree... You cannot deregulate one end and regulate
the other.

See what happened with CA and the deregulation of
power industry. One big mess.

You have to deregulate from both ends (the two ends
being suppliers and consumers).

We (or should I say our policy makers) just refuse to learn from our mistakes.

I agree with rjM's analogy of highways. The incumbants will have a field day manipulating the
markets, if you allow deregulation without clear case of marktet having competition.

And please don't tell me the MSOs are competition for the RBOCs. Because they are another set of monopolists wanna be. At best we will end up with a duopoly, which is better than a monopoly, but still not good enough to let the free market flourish.

-rjs
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