Roberts Reaches Out to Bells

Cable and phone companies should unite behind a set of deregulatory policies that aim for rough but not absolute parity between the two industries, Comcast Corp. chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said Monday.

Roberts, speaking to a phone-industry convention in Las Vegas, voiced support for a united front that include removal of unnecessary regulation, imposition of a strict burden of proof for the application of new regulation and a minimalist approach to voice-over-Internet-protocol services.

“I think we need to be persistent, but realistic and patient. We need to think in terms of a regulatory win/win. This is the one battlefield where -- whatever our differences -- we should be fighting for the same fundamental goals,” Roberts told the United States Telecom Association, a trade group that includes three Baby Bells and hundreds of small phone firms.

Phone companies, especially the Bells, have complained that cable-modem service has flourished because it is largely unregulated. The Bells have been pressing Congress and the Federal Communications Commission for the same treatment for their digital-subscriber-line services, which they must share with rival Internet-access providers.

Roberts said the pursuit of “total symmetry” between cable and phone companies was unrealistic because the two industries evolved in different ways. Instead, he advocated peeling away regulatory layers that burden both industries.

“If a rule or tax doesn’t make sense, or if competition has eliminated its reason for being, we should ask government to get rid of it, and not dump it on everyone else,” he added.