Reps. Pressuring FCC on Phone Rules

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Nearly 100 House members from various points on the political spectrum are
urging the Federal Communications Commission to overhaul its local
phone-competition rules in a manner that helps to revive the ailing
telecommunications sector.

In a Sept. 16 letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell, 98 House lawmakers said
current FCC policies have inflicted harm on the economy because they require the
Baby Bell phone companies to lease network elements at below-cost rates -- a
policy they said gave no incentive to new entrants to buy their own gear.

'It simply makes no economic sense for these companies to spend the billions
of dollars necessary to invest in their own networks if they can instead rent
access to Bell-company networks and resell their service at an enormous profit,'
the two-page letter said.

House Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Rep. John
Dingell (D-Mich.) were lead signatories of the letter.

The FCC is expected to adopt new rules this year, but it is unclear how far
the agency is willing to go to assuage the Baby Bells. AT&T Corp. and other
firms trying to protect their local phone-market gains are expected to wage a
strong defense of the current regulatory regime.

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