Robin Norton, Consultant

Telecom Regulatory Consulting, TMI

As my clients and many others know, I am going to retire as of January 1st, after 35 years in this business. Utility regulation is the only professional career I’ve ever pursued which has been extremely satisfying and enjoyable for me. I am, however, a great bore at parties. 

Perhaps I’ll be able to change some of that. People keep asking me what I am going to do, assuming I suppose that I’ll just be kicking back and doing nothing – since I can. That I hope is wrong.

I plan to catch up with friends and family both in the U.S. and abroad. I want to take up my music again after decades of neglect. There is lots I’ve got slated to do, some things fun and some dutiful.

I’ve often said that I want to be a snow bird when I grow up. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to do that. Meantime, I’ve got two sons and their families including four grandchildren who currently range in age from 3 months to 19 years. I plan to become a greater part of all their lives.

Of course after this long, there is much to look back on. I’ve been with TMI for 16 years and at the Florida Public Service Commission for 14 years before that. A couple other related stops even before that. I found many good people along the way from whom I have learned a lot – fellow consultants, the industry, regulators, and clients. I teach others as well. Life happens like that.

I am old enough to have been there when Divestiture happened and witnessed the groundwork for competition as it was laid. We all gasped when the Baby Bells won the right to keep the iconic phone logo and AT&T had to scramble for another one and came up with the globe. The world as we knew it was no longer.


I sat amazed as Bell engineers designed the rate structure for access charges – only an engineer would come up with 20 rate elements to get a call from Point A to Point B. Where were the economists?


I witnessed hordes of IXCs as they hatched. The incubation period was virtually nil and the mortality rate was high.


Wireless telephony was also taking off. In 1993 while I was at the Florida PSC, Cellular One filed a petition in an effort to obtain favorable ILEC interconnect rates. This was highly disturbing to the major landline players (Southern Bell, GTE and United/Centel as they were known) who were absolutely convinced that wireless spelled the end of the road for them.


Then in 1996, the new federal Telecom Act was enacted and gave birth to competition in the local exchange market ……… which is why many of us have jobs.


VoIP has come into its own more recently. But it has obviously changed the face of the telecom industry and has generated very interesting regulatory jurisdictional issues. Regulators’ responses vary widely – this we and our clients have learned.


And there is this unique little niche in the industry in which I somehow became rather expert – the institutional services market. It has actually been around for quite a long time as things go in this industry. TMI worked closely with the very first competitive players in the late 80’s and early 90’s to get them certificated. Some are large and well established providers today but were regarded as rather strange and alien creatures at the time. I’ve really liked this work. Among other things, it’s been great fun teaching regulators because I’ve sat on their side of the desk. Nonetheless eyes still glaze over at parties.


Connie Wightman, our president, has been there for all of it. She established this consulting firm in 1986 and has ridden the waves as this monopolistic industry metastasized into one with vast numbers of participants. I don’t think anyone was truly expecting how exciting and intense this ride was going to be. Everyone at TMI works really hard to help identify the evolving needs of our clients – both regulatory and exploratory. Connie provides the forum that has allowed ideas and people to flourish. I know our clients have and will continue to benefit from her efforts and vision. I know of no other place like this.


To all of you, live long and prosper.