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Friday, January 31, 2014

The reform of the US Communications Act – my position

Hon. Fred Upton
Chairman
Energy and Commerce Committee
US House of Representatives
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Greg Walden
Chairman
Communications and Technology Subcommittee
Energy and Commerce Committee
US House of Representatives
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re:  Communications Act Update

Dear Representatives Upton and Walden,
With regard to the update of the US Communications Act, in course before the Congress, I would like to share a professional perspective. I am a telecom competition attorney based in Romania.  Until October 2013 I was the Vice-President of the Romanian Competition Council and I was involved mostly in the cases and the debates surrounding the communications.
There is no doubt that communications law is global as communications themselves are truly global, more than any other economic activity.  Especially, legislation from the United States can have an impact in Europe, both positive and negative.  Europe is still struggling to find its way and to fill the digital and technology divide that separates it from the United States and Japan/South Korea.  There are hot ongoing debates about a legislative package at the EU level,  which aim is to accelerate the integration of the EU members states market (a feature which is specific to the EU, with serious effects on development and innovation) and, in the same time, solve all the issues pertaining to the digital economy, such as the rather false topic of the ”Net neutrality”.
As you move through the process, please keep in mind that the following
.       1. Both the U.S. and the E.U. need a “Digital Age” Communications Act.  Laws come to create frameworks for aspects which are the reality of the times in which they are enacted.  But the communications and the technology evolve at such a high pace that legislation must not impede such an evolution and the innovation coming with it.  It’s time to retire outdated classifications that apply to obsolete networks. My hope is that the U.S. will retire these classifications for telephone, cable, radio and so on.  Its leadership will be an important example for Europe and other regions to modernize their laws. 
2. Innovators and consumers deserve a level playing field in the marketplace.  The point of competition law is not to protect competitors, nor is it to give some parties preferential operating conditions. In Europe a number of American internet companies avoid paying tax and complying with data protection laws.  Furthermore the profits these companies make in Europe is not taxed in the USA. Meanwhile the local versions of the services stick to the rules and their development is affected.  It is difficult to win a race when you have to press the brakes too much and when your competitors are allowed to use lighter cars (i.e. less money paid as taxes).  This cannot be tolerated because competition in technology is global and such imbalances affect the consumers and the progress of technology everywhere. 
3. I believe that modernized laws will facilitate dynamic competition. This market competition – not old phone-era regulations – is the best driver of pro-consumer behavior, investment and new innovation.
We are where we are in terms of technology because of the competition and the innovation it facilitated this evolution. Please, do anything you can to preserve this in the future.
Remember of what the late Ronald Reagan used to say: ”If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it”.
Thank you for your leadership and I wish God gives you wisdom on your update process.

Yours sincerely,
Valentin Mircea         
Telecoms and Competition Lawyer

Romania