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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

Telecom Companies Call for Cybersecurity Incentives, Not Regulation

photo of Josh Smith
March 7, 2012

Government cybersecurity efforts should focus on incentives instead of regulation to stem the tide of cyberattacks, officials from top telecom companies told a House subcommittee on Wednesday.

“Overbroad regulation and certification requirements will likely have unintended consequences, such as emphasizing the status quo by focusing on yesterday’s challenges,” Edward Amoroso, AT&T’s chief security officer, told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “Quite simply, innovation is inconsistent with standardization.”

Rather, any new cybersecurity legislation should provide “market incentives,” like liability protection and information-sharing measures, Amoroso said.

 

Comcast’s Jason Livingood, meanwhile, testified that Comcast already takes steps to protect cybersecurity.

“Comcast has strong incentives – without the need for a government mandate – to explore and implement successfully a wide range of cybersecurity measures,” he said.

That message largely found a sympathetic ear in subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., who noted that he has organized a bipartisan working group to examine cybersecurity issues “with an eye toward incentive-based approaches.”

Other witnesses at Wednesday's hearing included John Olsen of MetroPCS, Scott Totzke from BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion, and Century Link's David Mahon, who also argued that incentives and partnerships are preferable to regulation or mandates.

“Because our network is the one central asset of our business, CenturyLink and our industry peers already have the strongest commercial incentives to invest in and maintain robust cybersecurity,” Mahon said. “There is neither a lack of will nor a lack of commitment to do this among the major communications providers.”

Congress is considering several pieces of legislation to reduce cyberattacks. A bill backed by Senate Democrats and the White House would increase government oversight of cybersecurity in certain critical industries, potentially including telecom companies. An alternative put forth by Senate Republicans and pursued by their counterparts in the House has a greater focus on industry-friendly incentives.

Democrats say their proposals are the lightest possible level of regulation, and the White House has criticized bills that include only incentives as “half measures.”

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