Broadband promises

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2002-03-12 Print this article Print

Broadband promises Others worry that once relieved of competitive obligations, the Bells may not make the expansive broadband investments theyve told lawmakers they plan to make. Although incumbent carriers had DSL (digital subscriber line) technology more than a decade ago, they did not begin deploying it in earnest until after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 spurred a myriad of CLEC DSL providers into business.

"The RBOCs may not elect to deploy the capital to upgrade their networks," said David Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent Communications Inc., in Washington. "Ultimately, [the bill] is somewhat anti-competitive. I think it means fewer choices and higher prices."

The legislation has gained notoriety for the huge sums of money both camps have spent on lobbying—in campaign contributions and in radio, television and newspaper advertising. For some telecom users, the brazen and expensive politicking casts the legislation in an unfavorable light.

"Once the vote goes down, Id like to see next to each of their names how much each has been paid by the [telephone companies]," Baradet said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the 273-157 House vote corresponds closely to patterns of campaign contributions by both the long-distance carriers and the Bells. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in Washington, the 273 representatives who voted for the Tauzin-Dingell bill received an average of $14,706 from the Bells and an average $2,265 from the three major long-distance carriers AT&T Corp., WorldCom Inc. and Sprint Corp. The 157 House members who rejected the bill received an average of $5,745 from the long-distance carriers and an average of $5,016 from the Bells.

"While there are many reasons members vote for or against a bill, the pattern would seem to suggest that had the Baby Bells not spread as much largesse around Capitol Hill as they did, the vote might have come out very differently," said CRPs Larry Makinson in his assessment of the vote. House members who received approximately equal amounts from the Bells and the long-distance carriers voted 2-1 against the bill, the center found.

In total, the Bells spent more than $19 million on federal contributions in 1999 and last year, and the long- distance carriers spent more than $12 million in the same period—money that some users said could be put to better use upgrading networks.


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