McCain Offers Broadband-Dereg Bill

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill Thursday designed to deregulate
residential broadband-service providers, but without stripping the Federal
Communications Commission of its authority to intervene if market conditions
warrant.

Under the bill, the FCC and the states would be barred from requiring
broadband-access providers -- presumably cable operators and phone companies --
to offer access to competing Internet-service providers.

However, the commission is permitted to impose access requirements on 'any
entity' that was shouldering access requirements prior to enactment of McCain's
bill. That provision appears to be aimed more at phone companies because the FCC
does not currently require cable operators to provide access to multiple
ISPs.

After five years, the FCC would lose its authority to mandate access unless
it found that it needed to continue to possess that authority 'to preserve and
protect competition' in the residential broadband market.

The bill also addressed fees imposed by local governments. McCain's bill
would require cities to charge only cost-based fees to broadband-access
providers that need to use city-owned rights of way.

In provisions likely to rile telecommunications start-ups, McCain's bill
would not require the Baby Bell phone companies to unbundle fiber loops and
subloops for lease to rivals, nor would it require them to offer their
competitors collocation at remote terminals.

'The bill has multiple components designed to address all aspects of
broadband deployment and usage, while providing adequate safety nets in the
event of market failures that harm consumers,' McCain said in a prepared
statement.

McCain, one of the few senators to vote against the Telecommunications Act of
1996, said his bill would take a measured approach to modifying a law that he
said is excessively regulatory.

'If I had my way, I would throw out the 1996 Act and start from scratch,' he
added. 'Now is the time for a measured approach that focuses on achieving what
can be done to improve the deployment of services to all consumers. I believe
this legislation does just that.'

The bill -- which McCain introduced without a co-sponsor -- applies to the
residential sector, and not the business market.

'We are frankly puzzled by the apparent failure of the bill to provide
regulatory relief for broadband services in the business arena. Business
customers already have the most competitive choices for high-speed-data service,
and no company is dominant,' BellSouth Corp. vice president of governmental
affairs Herschel Abbott said.

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