Pull together to help ISPs and defeat Tauzin-Dingell

by Andy Oram

Most of this weblog is a reposting of items from mailing
lists about a bill that would help Bell (incumbent) phone
companies maintain and expand their monopolies.

The one-line summary is: Call or fax your Representative in
the House and urge a vote against Tauzin-Dingell.

A slightly longer explanation has to refer to the 1996
Telecommunications Act. That act hammered out an extremely
fragile balance, saying to the local phone companies: give up your
monopoly on local service, and you can try out the tempting
new services like long-distance data.

The Bells have not fulfilled their side of the bargain; the
law did not really put much teeth in the injunction to allow
local competition. Now Tauzin-Dingell threatens to sweep
away most of the balancing provisions. The Bells will never
have to upgrade local lines--or will do so at their own
comfortable pace--and most of us will still be stuck at 56K.

(The following segment comes from Tom Horn,
tomhorn@cpros.com, on a mailing list. I haven't gotten the URL to work, but you may have better luck.--Andy)

The Tauzin-Dingell bill is scheduled for a vote in the House this
Wednesday. If you haven't spoken to your legislators yet regarding this,
now is most definately the time. The bill, if passed, will eliminate most
of the anti-competitive protections that the Telecommunications Act of
put into place.


Some points of interest are;

  • (Sec. 3) Prohibits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and each
    State from regulating the rates, charges, terms or conditions for, or
    into the provision of, any high speed data service, Internet backbone
    service, or Internet access service, or to regulate any network element to
    the extent it is used in the provision of any such service.

  • (Sec. 3) Prohibits the FCC or any State from requiring an incumbent
    (established) local exchange carrier to provide unbundled access to any
    network elements used in the provision of any high speed data service.

  • (Sec. 4) Prohibits either the FCC or a State from interpreting the
    line-sharing order to expand a local exchange carrier's obligation to
    provide access to any network element for line-sharing.

This bill is tailor-made to hand over a complete monopoly on DSL to
ILECs. It is detrimental to ISPs and end-users by eliminating any
equal-access requirements for ISPs and reducing the DSL options for
end-users to one, whatever the ILEC decides to provide.

Get involved through the AISPA http://www.aispa.org/1031/ or some other
group, call your legislators, anything. This bill will have a great impact
on your ability to offer high-speed access. For your own sake, don't sit
back and do nothing.

The horror that is HR 1542 (Tauzin-Dingell) is finally heading to the floor
the day after tomorrow for a vote. I did a briefing this morning for Hill
staffers along with Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation of America,
explaining in detail why this bill targets the independent ISP for
elimination and will hurt consumers. I explained how being able to get
service from a local ISP is about so much more than just which number you
set your modem to dial, or in the case of DSL, where it is pointed.

In the past couple of weeks ISPs around the country have been emailing their
customers to urge them to contact their representatives and run their fax
machines dry with protest against this bill. Even though some members in
the House clearly believe that they can go ahead and vote for the bill, safe
in the knowledge that it won't pass the Senate (something you can never know
with confidence) the fact remains that a favorable vote on the bill only
gives Michael Powell more confidence in his plan to rearrange the rules in
the Bells favor.

We've been fighting this awful bill for more than 2 years, but now the wolf
really is at the door. If there was ever a time to ask for your customers
support in this fight, the hour is now. Be sure to provide them with email
addresses and fax numbers - there's no time for snail mail, and Congress
doesn't receive snail mail any more anyway because of the anthrax problem.
If I can be of help looking up representatives and contact info, please
don't hesitate to call or email me.

In the meantime, here's a sample letter that a WAISP member wrote to his
customers and shared with other ISPs on the WAISP list, that you may find
useful. ISPs do have the power to stop this, but you have to act now.

Sue Ashdown

Executive Director

American ISP Association



The River Report - Urgent Legislative Update - February 2002

To The River Community:

Beyond sending out our monthly newsletter, we very rarely contact all of
our clients when an issue of great importance arises. Legislation is
currently under consideration in Washington D.C. that directly impacts you
and the future of the Internet as a whole. We believe it is of such vital
and urgent importance that we are asking for your attention and help in
letting your elected representatives know how you feel about this matter.

Chairman Michael Powell of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has
recently made some controversial statements about the future of DSL and the
Internet as a whole. Chairman Powell believes that the deployment of DSL
is somehow being held back by legal requirements requiring the incumbent
telephone companies (including Qwest and Verizon) to work cooperatively
with competitive telephone carriers (Focal, ELI, TWT, etc.) and Internet
Service Providers like The River.

Sharing Chairman Powell's beliefs are Congressmen Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and
John Dingell (D-MI). You may have heard of the proposed "Tauzin-Dingell"
act, which is legislation designed by the big telephone companies to remove
a lot of the restrictions placed on them in 1996 when they were partially
deregulated. The Telecom Reform Act of 1996 was designed to gradually and
carefully deregulate the telecommunications industry, which has had a
government-mandated monopoly for decades in most markets. The idea was to
allow competition to develop and grow, to allow consumers to have a choice,
and to make sure that we did not face another deregulation debacle like the
energy crunch in California. The Tauzin-Dingell legislation, as well as
the proposed FCC ruling, would destroy key aspects of the 1996 Act and
would, in effect, kill or severely damage independent Internet Service
Providers and competitive local telephone operators.

The River is firmly in favor of deregulating telecommunications and other
industries, but like the authors of the Telecom Reform Act of 1996,
understands that when a decades-old, previously-regulated monopoly is to be
deregulated, the process needs to be incremental and gradual.

If there is one thing worse than a state-sponsored monopoly, it is a
formerly-state-sponsored monopoly with no regulatory oversight and no
competition. Qwest may be able to lock independent service companies like
The River out of the DSL market entirely under the proposed
legislation. When there is no competition, there is no incentive to
innovate, improve service, or reduce rates. When there is no competition,
consumers invariably lose.

As your Internet Service Provider, we are asking for your help in sending a
message to Washington D.C. saying clearly that you value your right to
choose your own ISP and DSL service provider. If the proposed FCC rules
and legislation pass, you will likely have little or no choice in Internet
Service Providers within a few short years, and may be stuck with your
cable company or your telephone company as your ISP. Examples of what this
scenario might look like are already surfacing -- the massive failure of
Excite@Home, Comcast Cable logging web-surfing habits of customers for sale
to marketing companies, and Qwest's recent partnership with MSN, which
conveniently strips former qwest.net customers of ownership of their own
home DSL lines!

We need you to take a moment and let your member of Congress know that the
Tauzin-Dingell proposal is dangerous to consumers, and it actually harms
competition, despite what the telcos would lead us to believe. Please call
your Congressional representatives, asking the Member of the House to vote
*NO* on the Tauzin/Dingell bill. Telephone numbers are listed below, for
your convenience. Time is of the essence, as the vote is set for February
27th -- only a few short days from today!


The Management of The River Internet Access Co.

What will happen to phone competition and data service?