Timothy M. Denton

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Watching the Master at work

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When I consider the skill it takes to converse with the Commissioners in a hearing, and not argue,  I can only admire Ken Engelhart of Rogers. Engelhart manages to maintain a conversation between regulator and regulated that is remarkably free of cant, rancor, contention, and evasion.

He frankly admits things that others would shy away from. Example, today before the Commission, he maintained that it would be very difficult to get a third wire into the home, and therefore that, as a practical matter,  access would continue to be regulated for an indefinite future, unless phased out, which Rogers recommends over a period of five years.

I disagree with that recommendation, but that is not my point.

My point is that he tells stories, true as far as I can tell, based  a realistic appreciation of how much complexity that humans can handle before making serious mistakes. Phase 2 costing (long run incremental costing) was his particular target this morning.

But that is not my point either. He seems able to take the tension out of assertions. Bell has superb regulatory artillery, for example, accurate and well deployed. By contrast, Engelhart manages to convey the possibility that even very clever people (commissioners, staff, the industry itself, and Ken Engelhart himself) can make mistakes. He does so by relating his arguments as stories.

Calm, unhurried, shrewd, Engelhart makes disagreement about policy look like a civilized exchange of views over the dinner table with invited guests. I can only admire the tone control. My agreement, or lack if it, is irrelevant. This is a master at work.

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Timothy Denton is a lawyer by training who practices principally in telecommunications and Internet policy and domain name issues, with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means.

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Guest Sunday, 25 August 2019
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