Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Good Doctor's Prescription

When he was at the FCC heading up the agency's policy shop, where he served with distinction for so many years, Dr. Robert Pepper was known as one of the most knowledgeable and astute senior officials. He kept especially close tabs all those years in government service on the development of competition in various telecom markets, and he always seem to have in his briefcase the latest color-coded chart chronicling "on the ground" competitive developments.

In other words, Pepper (as he is wont to call himself) has been around long enough to have witnessed telecom markets that lacked effective competition and, therefore, needed some measure of regulatory intervention to protect consumers. And, conversely, he understands that regulatory intervention when it is unnecessary to protect competition imposes real costs on consumer welfare.

And I've been around long enough too to pay attention when Pepper speaks. So it catches my eye when I see in the October 23rd edition of Communications Daily [subscription required] that Pepper, now now a senior managing director at Cisco, is reported to have said at the recent CITI conference that net neutrality is really not about neutrality, but rather about some people's views of the government's role in business deals. And more specifically, according to Comm Daily, he said that "while network management technology can be used to create very competitive access environments...over-regulation can completely stifle it."

I don't think Dr. Pepper has any particular axe to grind as a senior Cisco official other than promoting a healthy a vigorously competitive broadband market that will be good for the country and, coincidentally, consume more and more Cisco equipment. When he speaks out in the net neutrality debate, it's worth paying attention to his diagnosis and prescription.