Roberts Opposed to New Telecom Law

Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts is opposed to a drastic overhaul of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, arguing that legal changes would undermine confidence in his industry.

“To do a massive rewrite of the Telecommunications Act, I think, would create nothing but instability [and] would destabilize capital markets,” Roberts told the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday.

Some senators want to revise the law -- especially lawmakers from rural areas, who want to ensure that high-cost and sparsely populated areas have access to the most advanced telecommunications services.

Roberts did advocate support for legislation sponsored by Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) that would bar states from regulating voice-over-Internet-protocol services, which Comcast is rolling out in three cities this year.

“We hope these policies will not have to await a comprehensive rewrite of the Telecommunications Act,” he said. “We need them sooner rather than later.”

Roberts also warned that his company’s high-speed-data business faced regulatory uncertainty because a federal court ruling could require cable systems to sell competing Internet-service providers wholesale access.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. It won’t be known until late June whether the Department of Justice’s Office of Solicitor General will support the NCTA’s effort. Support from the DOJ would improve getting the case heard by the high court.

“The question is whether [the DOJ is] going to appeal to the Supreme Court,” Roberts said.