Washington -- House Commerce Committee chairman Tom Bliley
(R-Va.) said last week that he opposed legislation that would deregulate data services of
the Baby Bell phone companies before they open their voice networks to competition.
Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Baby Bells are
barred from long-distance service until they meet a 14-point competitive checklist
overseen by the Federal Communications Commission. Only Bell Atlantic Corp., in New York,
has satisfied the checklist.
Bliley said it was unnecessary to waive the checklist data,
as proposed by Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) in a bill (H.R. 2420)
with 144 co-sponsors.
"I think there is nothing to prevent the [Bells] from
offering new services today," Bliley said. "But to allow them to get into
digital long distance before they have completed the checkoff list at this point in time
is probably premature."
Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson said Tauzin would meet with
Bliley and ask the chairman to change his mind.
Instead of forcing cable operators to open facilities to
third-party Internet-service providers, Tauzin favors deregulating Bells and letting
competition set the ground rules.
The National Cable Television Association supports Tauzin,
but AT&T Corp. and other long-distance companies are fighting the bill.