Telco Serves Up Access Bill in Indiana


GTE Corp., already stoking the Internet debate elsewhere,
will have open-access legislation waiting when the Indiana General Assembly reconvenes
Jan. 10.

Officials for the Dallas-based regional phone company have
already met with members of the House and Senate Commerce Committees in preparation for
hurrying a bill through what will likely be a short session, lasting perhaps only until
late February.

"They were very interested in the issue," said
Neil Krevda, GTE's manager of legislative affairs in Indiana. "The issue has
been so high-profile that they knew quite a bit about it already."

But because of the short session, GTE will need to have its
sponsors on board by the time the legislature reconvenes.

"We have to be ready for hearings, maybe that first
week," Krevda said. "I don't think we'll have any trouble getting
sponsors for this bill."

In its final form, the open-access bill is expected to
contain language mirroring similar GTE proposals introduced in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Those proposals would force cable operators and their
affiliates to grant any requesting Internet-service provider "access to its broadband
Internet-access transport services, unbundled from the provision of content, on rates,
terms and conditions that are at least as favorable as those on which it provided the
access to itself, to its affiliates, or to any other person."

Moreover, access would be required at "any technically
feasible point selected by the requesting Internet-service provider."

GTE will stress the idea of regulatory fairness, noting
that if local-exchange carriers must open their networks to competitors, the same should
be required of cable.

"There are 120 CLECs [competitive LECs] in Indiana,
and they can all come in and use our network. We would also like to be able to
compete," Krevda said.

The Indiana Cable Telecommunications Association began
gearing up for a fight after GTE officials made it clear that the state "would not
get a pass" on open-access legislation, ICTA executive director Dottie Hancock said.

In addition to cable's plans to make its case before
lawmakers, GTE's hopes for enactment aren't helped by the fact that the
legislative session could be made even shorter by election-year politics.

Krevda said part of GTE's case will be centered on how
Comcast Corp. currently dominates the Indianapolis Internet market with the introduction
of its Comcast@Home cable-modem service.

It will argue that consumers attracted to the
lightning-fast speeds offered by cable modems are unlikely to pay $39.95 for Comcast@Home,
then an additional fee to keep their existing ISP, leaving the rest of the players in the
market at a disadvantage.

In an interview with TheIndianapolis Star,
Comcast regional vice president David Scott responded, "Our customers have a lot of
choice when it comes to this access issue."