Oklahoma’s telecom regulators appear on the verge of loosening or eliminating many of the state’s price controls. SBC, the state’s main telecom company, said it would immediately deploy DSL service in 68 new communities and would upgrade all 208 of its switching centers in the state by 2007.

Many regulators and state legislators call this practice — of investing in new technology when outdated regulations are relaxed — a quid pro quo threat. The rest of the world just calls it good business. In today’s competitive communications marketplace, too-big-for-their-britches state utility regulators cannot force companies to make large unprofitable investments. Governors, state legislators, and utility regulators everywhere should take notice: state telecom policy matters. One wishes these state commissions didn’t have the power to extract detailed promises out of companies in exchange for policy that should prevail regardless; nevertheless, unleashing the key providers of communications services from old regulations means more communications capacity for everyone.