US broadband row gets louder

And we think we've got problems...

A bitter war of words is raging in the US over the roll-out of broadband services across the country.

Those in favour of the Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act - introduced in July 1999 - believe it will give a much needed fillip to the sector by removing red-tape that ties the hands of the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs).

Opponents fear that the bill - known as Tauzin-Dingell after co-sponsors William 'Billy' Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana, and John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan - will make the telcos even more dominant and snuff out any chance of genuine competition.

The latest salvo comes from the American ISP Association, a vocal opponent of the bill, which claims that the four Bell giants already have a stranglehold on DSL deployment.

It jumped on recent figures from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which showed that DSL growth during the final six months of 2000 was 108 per cent, with annual growth running at a whopping 453 per cent.

Said Sue Ashdown of AISPA: "The upshot of this FCC report could not be more clear: it's a straightforward factual presentation on surging broadband deployment that torpedoes the whole rationale for Tauzin-Dingell.

"Tauzin-Dingell is grounded in the idea that rolling back one of the most important consumer protections of the 1996 Telecom Act is necessary to help the four Bell giants roll out DSL lines. But a 453 per cent annual increase shows how shallow that reasoning is!

"The other crucial fact - not included in today's report - is that fewer than one in five consumer and business DSL lines is administered by competing
carriers. All the rest are under Bell company control.

"So DSL deployment is surging and the Bell giants have a stranglehold on it.

"Rather than pursuing the Tauzin-Dingell give-away to the Bells, Congress should instead focus on bringing healthier competition to the DSL industry," she said. ®

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