Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Kathleen Abernathy presented her thoughts on the proper role of federal regulation in the age of digital convergence on June 21 at the Progress and Freedom Foundation Digital Age Communications Act Workshop in Washington D.C. Below are excerpts from her speech. It’s a pleasure to be able to be with you today to discuss a topic that’s likely to monopolize a lot of time and effort over the next several years: rewriting the Communications Act. The working paper released by the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Regulatory Framework Working Group is a thoughtful reassessment of the proper role of federal regulation in the age of digital convergence… The report essentially deconstructs the regulatory approach of the current 1934 and 1996 legislation and reframes it in light of the technical and marketplace realities of today’s digitally-converging telecommunications industry. It takes a sweeping, de novo look at how many of the regulatory principles and structures developed in the depths of the Great Depression may no longer further the interests of consumers in the Digital Age.  When it comes to new technologies and new competitors, the FCC has seen the benefits of minimal regulation. Where we have been able to abandon the notion of dominant providers, apply a light regulatory touch, and resist calls to micromanage the marketplace, consumers have benefited.  The shining beacon for me has always been the FCC’s treatment of commercial wireless services and, more recently, wireless broadband services. I have often spoken about the wisdom of the Commission’s lightly-regulated model for wireless services. Instead of imposing a heavy-handed regulatory regime on incumbent cellular providers to "create" a competitive market for new PCS providers, the FCC opted for a narrower approach focused on interference prevention, and otherwise let go of the regulatory reins.  Congress provided critical assistance by enacting Section 332 of the Communications Act, which preempted state regulation of rate and entry, thereby paving the way for national service plans.  These policy choices put us on the right path. There is no doubt in my mind that we would not have seen the robust price competition, widespread use, and high degree of innovation we enjoy today if not for Congress’ preemption of traditional state utility regulation and the FCC’s decision to refrain from imposing heavy-handed common carrier regulation on wireless services. Another model of successful de-regulation involves the Commission’s decision to refrain from subjecting broadband network facilities to the sharing obligations known as "unbundling" requirements. As a consequence of this decision, Verizon and SBC announced plans to invest billions of dollars in new fiber-to-the-home and other deep-fiber architectures that will support very high-speed Internet access services as well as competitive video programming services.  Smaller carriers have also stepped up plans to deploy fiber deeper into the network. I am confident that eliminating the specter of burdensome unbundling obligations will continue to have a very positive effect on lagging DSL deployment, which in turn will speed the adoption of faster and more exciting consumer applications. From commercial wireless service to broadband deployment, competition has thrived, innovation has flourished, and consumers have been the beneficiaries. By contrast, historic overregulation in the wireline arena has drawn all providers – incumbents and competitors alike – into a downward economic spiral and litigation that has benefited only lawyers and lobbyists. The Working Group’s Report adds an important new voice to the call for a statutory model that would treat like services the same, and abolish the existing regulatory silos for wireline, wireless, cable, and satellite services.