WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks.
The Cato Institute
WASHINGTON -- FCC decision in unbundled network element triennial review
By Adam D. Thierer, director of telecommunications studies
Thursday's decision by the Federal Communications Commission in the Unbundled Network Element Triennial Review constitutes one step forward, but two steps back on the path toward genuine free market deregulation of America's telecommunications industry.
This complicated proceeding, which examined the unbundled network element platform, or UNE-P, that incumbent local exchange carriers, known as ILECs or Baby Bells, must provide to competitive local exchange carriers, known as CLECs, at regulated rates, provided the FCC with the chance to significantly revise the infrastructure sharing rules put in place by federal and state regulators in previous years.
Those rules focused on infrastructure sharing as the preferred short-term method of encouraging entry by offering CLECs generous discounts to network elements owned by the ILECs.
These rules rested upon the mistaken notion that competition will not develop in local telecom markets in the short term. On the contrary, credible threats already exist to the traditional hegemony of ILECs from cable and especially wireless providers. In the future, such facilities-based alternatives will continue to develop, but the commission's unbundling and infrastructure sharing rules may be slowing their arrival since it has encouraged competitors to share existing networks and technologies before deploying new facilities of their own.
Regrettably, Thursday's decision by the FCC did little to alter this balance. Indeed, the commission's order is a contradictory mix of half-hearted reforms. For example, while the decision carves out of the regulatory mix high-speed fiber optic lines to the home to ensure that incumbent carriers are not discouraged from deploying such broadband facilities, the order also demands that "dark" fiber line continue to be shared.
Similarly, while the order proposes to deregulate switching systems for certain business customers, it continues to mandate that switches be shared for almost everything else. And many other mandatory sharing regulations remain in place.
Worse yet, what little good might be accomplished under today's FCC's order will be almost completely undercut by the commission's decision to delegate broad and virtually unlimited discretion to state regulators in determining future telecom infrastructure sharing rules. "States' rights" has triumphed over interstate commerce and a national policy framework for the telecom sector.
This element of the decision promises to have profound and quite deleterious consequences for long-term reform and deregulation in the United States. In essence, today's decision sanctions a balkanized telecommunications policy lead by 51 different state regulatory offices. While communications carriers seek to develop national and international networks for the future, they will be busy interpreting 51 conflicting regulatory schemes for how to get there.
Finally, with this UNE ruling, the FCC risks forcing yet another round of costly litigation since it merely tweaks the previous rules that the Courts have already struck down before. In all likelihood, the courts will once again strike down the commission's rules and require another revision of them. In the meantime, genuine deregulation and facilities-based competition has once again been placed on hold by an FCC that clearly has little faith in the free market.
The East-West Center
(The East-West Center is an education and research organization established to strengthen understanding and relations between the United States and the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The center carries out its mission through programs of cooperative study, training and research. The center is supported by the U.S. government and the governments of nine Asia-Pacific nations.)
HONOLULU -- In whose interests? The future of the U.S. military in Asia
Statements from conference on Feb. 20-22 at the East-West Center
The presence of the U.S. military is often the cause of protest and challenge in countries that host U.S. bases. Citizens of Japan, South Korea and the Philippines judge the bases and forces in their communities in terms of social, economic and political impacts rather than strategic importance. Conference participants are discussing common patterns emerging in Asians' responses to the U.S. military. Following are comments from three conference participants:
-- Sheila Smith, East-West Center specialist on Asia-Pacific security relations, with a focus on Okinawa/Japan, on Asian attitudes toward U.S. forces based in the region and the impact on security policy:
"Domestic politics in Asian nations will start to have more impact on their military alliances with the United States.
"With 100,000 U.S. troops remaining in the region, many believe their host nations have not reaped much 'peace dividend' since the end of the Cold War. This, in addition to longstanding concerns over the way force is used, policies on nuclear arms, and the behavior of U.S. forces based overseas, has placed more pressure on governments to consider public concerns in connection to security alliances.
"Local feeling has national resonance. This is a political situation that will ultimately affect security policy. Activist groups have become more dynamic, sophisticated and international. For example, women in Okinawa who oppose the presence of U.S. forces there have a Web site and a chapter of sympathizers in the United States. Activists also keep close watch on developments connected to the U.S. military elsewhere in the world, such as Puerto Rico.
"Security policy, like any other realm of public policy, is subject to domestic political activism and how the public voices its interests. There is only a rudimentary understanding of how this affects the U.S.-Japan alliance, the U.S.-South Korea alliance and the U.S.-Philippine alliance.
"Moreover, on the flip side, there is little empirical data that evaluates the effectiveness of the policy response when citizens complain. The policymaking process surrounding the U.S. military presence is also not well understood.
"This conference seeks to take a comparative look at the dynamics of the U.S. military presence in the host societies and analyze the convergent and divergent dynamics at play; focus on the ideas, the tactics and the agents that come to the fore in the domestic politics of the U.S. military presence; and address the ways in which policymakers -- in Japan, Korea, Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand -- have responded to citizen complaint and activism."
-- Patricio Abinales, associate professor at Kyoto University's Center for
Southeast Asian Studies, on U.S. troops in the southern Philippines.
"The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last year that although 'militant groups assailed' the presence of U.S. troops in Mindanao, 'most residents of Zamboanga City and Basilan welcomed it.'
"It is difficult for an extremely nationalist media corps to concede that the past successes by the Philippine government to correct the imbalance in Philippine-U.S. relations has not altered the high regard Filipinos continue to have towards the United States. However, issues like the presence of the U.S. military in a country cannot be simply looked at as the outcome of deliberations and debates at the upper levels of national government but also by the relationship between local governments whose domains are the ones directly affected.
"While many communities in Southeast Asia are regarding the return of the Americans to the region with extreme suspicion, the polling group Social Weather Stations reported that 84 percent of Filipinos 'strongly approved' of U.S. military assistance in the fight against terrorists in the Philippines. A second survey showed 63 percent expressed satisfaction with U.S. assistance to the Philippine military's pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf, and one half had no problem if American troops become involved in the combat zones.
"The most-often invoked explanation to this persistent pro-Americanism is 'colonial mentality,' which looks at the United States as the ideal society to emulate and its intimate presence in Philippine affairs something normal and expected. Indeed, despite the legislative success in 'kicking out' the U.S. bases, and despite the persistent anti-American position taken by academe and the media, these opinion makers have been unable to dent this seemingly resilient pro-Americanism.
"American popularity may have less to do with 'colonial mentality' and more with the way Philippine-American relations developed at two levels -- the national and the local -- through time. Widespread Filipino support to American strategic interests did not emerge from one single source but from various and often contradictory origins.
"In Mindanao, pro-Americanism was not simply the outcome of a coming to mind between local elites and national authorities. In fact, it was as much the result of tensions between these two centers of power, used as an instrument in the attempt by state leaders to impose central state authority in the periphery, and likewise as a weapon by local power to undermine these centralizing efforts. In short, domestic tensions are as equally central an issue as the power and influence of the United States over a weak state like the Philippines in the effort to understand the oddities of Filipino pro-Americanism."
-- Katharine H.S. Moon, Jane Bishop associate professor of political science, Wellesley College, on activism against U.S. troops in South Korea.
"Yun Kumi, a prostitute outside the U.S. Army base in Tongduchon, South Korea, was murdered by a U.S. Army private in 1992. Yun's death became a turning point in the Korean public's political awareness of civil-military relations between Koreans and Americans and the social costs of maintaining U.S. troops on Korean soil.
"It took two decades of hard work by mostly women's organizations and scholars around the world to get governments and international organizations to recognize sexual violence against women by agents of the state as a political and policy issue, not just 'private' matters that fall outside the purview of foreign policy and national security.
"Since the 1990s, the plight of these women has become a springboard for civic activism regarding Korea-U.S. relations. Many of the camp towns in which the women live and work have become living classrooms for civic activism regarding Korea's relations with the United States, particularly on security matters.
"Starting in the late 1980s, Korean, Japanese, Filipina, and North American feminist activists initiated the exchange of information, mutual visits, and the coordination of some activities regarding problems related to the U.S. troop presence and women/gender relations in each country or locale. In this regard, transnational activism and solidarity around gender/women's issues have been indispensable to defining and shaping the larger social movement regarding the U.S. bases in Asia, just as the Tongduchon 'classroom' has been for the domestic anti-base movement.
"In sum, the camp town advocacy groups have played important roles in developing civil society and pushing democracy. They have facilitated a change in the balance of power between the capital and the regions, prompting both local governments and residents to articulate and press their interests with governmental authorities and Seoul-based civil society organizations.
"In contrast to the authoritarian past, Koreans today quite freely can criticize government policies, including foreign policy and national security, without fearing the state. They eagerly have been exercising new democratic rights by demanding government transparency and accountability toward citizens.
"Moreover, new laws that boost citizens' access to information, government transparency and self-governance have emboldened local populations around the U.S. bases to scrutinize and voice their opinions about the U.S. presence and behavior of troops.
"Based on the notion that those who live most closely to the bases ('those whose skins touch' in Korean colloquialism) know the situation best, activists who are distanced from interactions with the U.S. bases look to local residents to legitimate a complaint, grievance, proposal, or any public criticism regarding the U.S. bases. Korean and American authorities in Korea and in Washington need to take the grievances more seriously and systematically."
The Institute for Public Accuracy
(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)
WASHINGTON -- Weapons inspectors going to work in America
A group of Canadian, British, American, Italian and Danish parliamentarians, scientists, academics, and religious and union leaders have informed the Pentagon that they intend to inspect the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland this Sunday. Among the parliamentary members in the delegation are: Alan Simpson from the United Kingdom, Libby Davies from Canada, Sen. Francesco Martone and parliament member Graziella Mascia, both from Italy, and Pernille Rosenkrantz from Denmark.
In a letter delivered to (U.S. Defense Secretary) Donald Rumsfeld earlier this week, Christy Ferguson of the Canadian group Rooting Out Evil, which is organizing the inspector delegation, wrote: "As a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on April 29, 1997, the United States has agreed not to develop or use chemical weapons and to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles. As a party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, entered into force on March 26, 1975, the United States has agreed to prohibit the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and bacteriological methods of warfare ... (We are) focusing our inspection on the Edgewood site because our research reveals that the facility may be developing and stockpiling weapons that contravene the above stated conventions."
-- Ed Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project in Austin, Texas, is a biochemical weapons expert and will be participating in the delegation.
"All countries that research weapons of mass destruction need to submit to an inspection regime. This symbolic action is particularly poignant because last year in Geneva the Bush administration destroyed a six-year effort involving 140 countries to create a global inspection regime for biological weapons agents. It didn't just pull out, it actually stayed in the process with the explicit purpose of insuring there was no agreement."
-- Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of Western States Legal Foundation, a nuclear disarmament advocacy organization, Cabasso recently led a "Citizen Weapons Inspection Team" to the gates of the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory in Livermore, Calif. She is co-author of the recent article "The End of Disarmament and the Arms Races to Come."
"While U.S. officials try to cast the worst light on the U.N. weapons inspectors' generally favorable reports, they have prepared contingency plans to use nuclear weapons in Iraq. This manifests the Bush administration's increasingly aggressive and unilateral 'national security' policy which tears down the wall between nuclear and conventional weapons, and contemplates nuclear weapons use 'against ... emerging threats before they are fully formed.' While focusing on a speculative and questionable Iraqi 'threat,' the United States is actively pursuing 'more useable' nuclear weapons for use against seven named countries, in blatant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Which country poses a greater threat to global security? Why aren't international weapons inspectors in the United States? Who will disarm America?"