Bells Win Round 1
The major local telephone companies succeed in securing a victory in the U.S. House of Representatives with the passage of the Internet Freedom and Deployment Act, known as the Tauzin-Dingell bill; now lobbyists are gearing up for a tough Senate battle.In one of the most aggressive lobbying campaigns in recent Washington memory, the major local telephone companies succeeded late last month in securing a victory in the U.S. House of Representatives with the passage of the Internet Freedom and Deployment Act, known as the Tauzin-Dingell bill. The RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies)Verizon Communications Inc., SBC Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc.are now escalating the lobbying battle in the Senate, but key senators overseeing telecommunications have denounced the bill in terms ranging from subtle to profane (Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., described it last month as "blasphemy"). The opposing camp, made up primarily of long-distance companies, CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) and independent broadband providers, is bracing for the next round of lobbying.
Politics aside, the legislation sponsored by Reps. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and John Dingell, D-Mich., would eliminate regulatory barriers that the RBOCs argue discourage them from building out their broadband infrastructures. Federal Communications Commission rules ban the Bells from providing long-distance services in their local markets until they satisfy regulators that their markets are open to competition. In addition, the FCC regulates the rates that Bells charge competitors to lease last-mile connections. The Tauzin-Dingell bill would exempt broadband services from those restrictions.