Trade Group Seeks Broadband Hearing

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A trade group for new telecommunications companies is seeking a Senate
hearing on new Federal Communications Commission proposals to deregulate
broadband services of large phone companies.

The request was made by CompTel president H. Russell Frisby Jr. in a letter
Wednesday to Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest (Fritz) Hollings
(D-S.C.), a longtime critic of Baby Bell phone-company deregulation prior to
effective competition.

'We fear that this [FCC proposal], like others recently issued by the FCC,
will simply serve to benefit the very largest carriers at the expense of
competition and consumers,' Frisby wrote.

Last week, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) also wrote Hollings about his concerns
with the FCC's proposals and requested a committee hearing, a Dorgan aide said
Wednesday.

Under FCC chairman Michael Powell, the agency is considering proposals that
have the potential of scaling back requirements that the Baby Bells share their
networks and facilities with broadband competitors.

Speaking at Georgetown University Law Center Wednesday, Powell indicated that
some people were getting agitated over a notice of proposed rulemaking in which
many questions were asked but no firm conclusions were drawn.

'I wish people would remember that NPRMs ask questions,' Powell said. 'It is
just that: It is a set of tentative conclusions with a whole lot of questions so
we can explore what the impact would be.'

Officials with some new telecommunications carriers have said they don't view
the FCC's proposals as a threat to their ability to lease broadband lines from
phone incumbents to provide digital-subscriber-line access for Internet-service
providers.

In his comments, Powell indicated agreement with that position.

'To the extent that they are telecommunications carriers, they have the right
[to lease DSL lines] that Congress provided them,' he said.

However, Powell also indicated that ISPs that want to lease
broadband-transmission facilities from incumbent phone carriers might not have
the protection of regulation because ISPs are not telecommunications carriers as
defined in the law.

'By the way, it shouldn't be heresy that [ISPs gain access] maybe on terms
and conditions that are somewhat more commercial,' he added.

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