The Federalist Society

2006 Telecommunications Federalism Conference

This conference was published online by the Boston College Intellectual Property & Technology Journal in September 2007.

Introduction and Keynote Address

  • The Honorable David M. McIntosh, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, and former Member, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable John M. Engler, President, National Association of Manufacturers,
    and former Governor of Michigan

Panel 1: Franchising

Traditionally, cities required utilities and other users of public rights-of-way to obtain franchise agreements before serving within their boundaries. These agreements provided for use of rights-of-way, included a gross receipts "fee," buildout requirements, and, sometimes even, specified acceptable rates for end-users. Thus, telephone companies, electric and gas utilities, and cable companies each negotiated franchises with individual cities to serve within their boundaries. For video service, the cable act of 1992 eliminated any regulatory purpose for franchises, leaving only the taxation and in-kind service donation to the cities intact. Now, the Bell companies appear poised to enter video markets, bringing new competition against cable and satellite providers. However, the new entrants point out the exorbitant costs and delays associated with negotiating thousands upon thousands of individual franchise agreements. The incumbents, by contrast, point out the inequity of allowing new entry without the same regulatory burdens that they face. Franchise reform has become a front-burner communications law issue, spurred by Bell entry into communications markets. Texas became the first state to pass a statewide franchise process, allowing a single franchise for video entry, while keeping the local taxation aspects of franchising intact. Other states may follow, and there is talk about a federal law concerning franchising.


  • Ms. Elizabeth W. Beaty, Executive Director, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors
  • Professor Thomas W. Hazlett, George Mason University School of Law
  • Mr. John M.R. Kneuer, Acting Assistant Secretary, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, United States Department of Commerce
  • Mr. Walter B. McCormick, Jr. President and CEO, United States Telecom Association
  • The Honorable Kyle E. McSlarrow, President and CEO, National Cable & Telecommunications
    Association, and former Deputy U.S. Secretary of Energy
  • The Honorable David M. McIntosh, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, and former Member, United States House of Representatives, Moderator


Panel 2: The Role of Public Utility Commissions

The convergence of voice, video, and data on internet protocol-based platforms undermines the traditional regulatory role of the states. Public utility statutes that gave states authority over in-state, voice communications are now quaint - not to mention near-meaningless - in an era of voice over internet protocol communications that refuse to respect state boundaries, much less state regulatory edicts. Should state regulation of communications thus whither in the face of the dynamic, converged broadband platforms? Or do states still have a regulatory role going-forward, albeit a quite different one than when they regulated incumbent telephone monopolies? A panel of state regulators will discuss the role of federalism in communications regulation, attempting to define where state authority should yield, where it should remain, and what states should do in this digital broadband age.


  • The Honorable Kathleen Q. Abernathy, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and former Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
  • The Honorable Larry S. Landis, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission
  • The Honorable Connie Murray, Missouri Public Service Commission
  • The Honorable Gregory E. Sopkin, Chairman, Colorado Public Utilities Commission
  • Mr. Randolph J. May, Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Policy Studies, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Moderator


Date: Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Location: Capitol Hill Club

The Federalist Society