Ma Bell's Arrogance, Multiplied : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Friday, April 27, 2001

Ma Bell's Arrogance, Multiplied

The nation's regional telephone companies, or Baby Bells, agreed five years ago to open their lines to competition in exchange for the right to enter the long-distance phone market. That was then. Today, they still control 95% of the local phone market and, like all monopolies, stick their customers with ever-rising bills. They deploy a barrage of legal maneuvers and technical hurdles to block other companies from offering high-speed Internet services, known as digital subscriber lines (DSL), over their networks.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act, meant to bring competition into local phone service, clearly hasn't delivered. Most consumers have no choice but to pay high prices. Reps. W.J. (Billy) Tauzin (R-La.) and John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) say they intend to fix this by allowing the Baby Bells into the long-distance DSL business while keeping their local-service monopoly. It is a proposal without logic. The change would only strengthen the Bells' chokehold on local service and remove any incentive to compete and innovate.

The reasoning behind Tauzin's bill, HR 1542, is that the local Bells need an incentive to invest the billions of dollars it would take to upgrade their systems for DSL service, and giving them free range in long-distance data service would do the trick. A staunch supporter of the local Bells, Tauzin says high-speed Internet service is in its infancy and should not be hobbled by regulation.

The Bells already control at least 75% of the DSL market, using their monopoly muscle to keep others out. The only thing they can't provide is long-distance services, voice or digital, unless specifically authorized. They prevent others from competing in their market, as some 70 California Internet companies told the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month, by delaying or denying service to independent Internet providers, stealing the independents' customers and pricing them out of the market. The penalties for such conduct are so low that the Bells simply consider them part of the cost of doing business. If there are no competitors in some markets, it is largely because the Bells drove them out.

Requiring competition in the local phone market by law has not so far provided sufficient incentive for the Bells to open up to newcomers. Lifting the mandate for the profitable long-distance DSL services would kill any hope of competition in the future. The Bells would keep on charging their consumers high prices regardless of the quality of their service.

No one except the phone companies would mourn the death of the Tauzin-Dingell bill. To Take Action: Rep. Tauzin, (202) 225-4031 or Rep. Dingell, (202) 225-4071 or

-- Martin Thompson (, April 27, 2001

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