House Backs Bells' Broadband; Senate to Oppose

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Date: Thursday, February 28th, 2002, 10:27
Category: Archive

In the ongoing battle between telcos, cable companies, and third parties for broadband dominance, Reuters reports that the U.S. House voted 273-157 to allow the Baby Bells (SBC, Verizon, BellSouth, and Qwest) to offer long-distance data services like DSL without opening their networks to competitors. Currently they are required to provide their networks to DSL competitors, and as this author has experienced, even this process is hardly perfect, as companies like Verizon often abuse its competitors’ customers by throwing up roadblocks that delay or interfere with service. And DSL service now allows the Bells to regain their phone service monopoly: here in NY, for example, I wasn’t able to install DSL from EarthLink without changing my local provider back to Verizon. The Baby Bells, for their part, argue that cable providers don’t face similar network-sharing requirements.

The debate is as much about whether cable or DSL will be favored in the broadband battle as it is about competition. Cable customers outnumber DSL customers two-to-one in the US, says the Reuters story, or 5.2 million to 2.7 million. So, the Bells’ successful argument to the House was that the bill could speed DSL adoption — and broaband adoption in general, as most users remain modem-bound. But is that worth handing Bells a broadband monopoly? The Senate is apparently not as convinced; Sen. Ernest Hollings, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told Reuters he wouldn’t even consider the bill.

The PowerPage’s editor-in-chief and yours truly both remain stuck with “slimband”, so we’ll be happy when all this gets sorted out and ground and wireless broadband are everywhere.

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