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Corrected: Phone Company Group Says Regulation Uneven Corrected: Phone Company Group Says Regulation Uneven

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Congress

Corrected: Phone Company Group Says Regulation Uneven

The previous version of this blog post incorrectly stated that U.S. Telecom is asking Congress to regulate Facebook. What follows is a correct version of what Walter McCormick, the president of U.S. Telecom, is asking for.

A trade group for major phone companies including Verizon and AT&T thinks it's unfair that such as Facebook can offer Internet-based telephone services without regulation, yet wireless and landline telephone companies have heavy regulatory burdens.

Walter McCormick, the president of U.S. Telecom, called on lawmakers Thursday to update telecommunications laws to reflect the new state of the industry. While phone companies face countless state and federal regulations, "Facebook is free of any regulation whatsoever," McCormick said at a Minority Media and Telecommunications Council conference.

"We haven't said to Congress how you should update the laws. We haven't said you should broadly regulate the industry," McCormick said in a telephone interview afterwards.

But he has a hint for Congress. "If consumers have choices, there is no need for economic regulation," he said.

"At this point in our conversation with Congress, we are just talking now about the fact that you have expanding competition and you have expanding consumer choice, and yet you continue to regulate one segment of the industry in a way that limits our flexibility to innovate and to meet emerging competition," he added in a telephone interview.

He pointed out that Facebook's user base of 750 million outnumbers that of any single phone company, and that the company now provides voice capabilities through a partnership with Skype. "It's a tale of two networks--ours, built on wireline networks, and theirs built on software," McCormick said,

Congress should update telecom law in a way that equalizes the regulatory burdens on Internet companies and telecom companies, McCormick said. "We need to have laws that don't advantage or disadvantage particular networks," he said.

Most tech and telecom stakeholders acknowledge that it would be useful to update telecom laws, which haven't been overhauled in 15 years, to reflect the rise of the Internet. But the agreement ends there, and analysts see Congress as unlikely to take a crack at major telecom legislation any time soon.

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