|Commerce Committee Passes
Bell Relief Bill
|The House Commerce
Committee approved HR 1542, a bill to provide regulatory
relief to the Baby Bells. The Committee often passes
legislation by unanimous voice vote. However, this bill was
adopted after an eight and one half hour debate by a roll
call vote of 32 to 23. The bill is also known as "Tauzin
Dingell," for its lead sponsors, Rep. Billy Tauzin
(R-LA) and Rep. John
Dingell (D-MI), the Chairman and ranking Democrat on the
Committee. Tauzin and Dingell had the votes to pass the bill
from the outset. Opponents of the bill used the debate to
demonstrate the extent of opposition to the bill, and to
attempt (unsuccessfully) to amend the bill to increase the DSL
buildout requirements imposed upon the Bells, raise the bits
per second rate in the definition of high speech data service,
impose reporting requirements on the Bells, give the FCC more
authority to enforce the provisions of the bill, and extend
the existing line sharing rule to cover fiber. Early in the
meeting, Rep. Tauzin offered an amendment in the nature of a
substitute, also know as the "manager's
amendment," to the version of the bill reported by
the Telecom Subcommittee, also known as the "subcommittee
print." The committee approved several amendments to
this manager's amendment. However, all significant amendments
that were opposed by Tauzin and Dingell were either rejected,
withdrawn or ruled out of order.
Arguments. Supporters of the bill stated that it will
incent the Baby Bells to deploy broadband Internet access
services, particularly DSL service.
Supporters also argued that the bill will increase the Bells'
ability to compete with broadband cable service providers.
See, prepared statements of Tauzin
Opponents argued that the bill would end competition in local
phone markets, revert the Bells to monopoly status, kill off
many of the CLECs,
and reduce innovation and investment in new technologies and
companies. The meeting lasted from 10:00 AM until 6:30 PM,
with breaks for two floor votes and one fire alarm.
Rep. Ed Markey
(D-MA), an outspoken opponent of HR 1542, added his usual
color to the debate. He stated that this bill adds "two
new genres for the readers of telecommunications law." He
said that it adds "science fiction", referring to
the bill's attempt to distinguish between packet switched
voice and data traffic. "The Bell Empire is striking
back," said Markey. He also said that the bill adds
"mystery". That is, "Will competition
survive?" He also said of the bill: "It's undigital,
it's unnecessary, it's unfair."
Rep. Chip Pickering
(R-MS), a young Baptist from Mississippi, and another leader
of the opposition, asserted that he is "a lonely prophet
in the wilderness." This prompted Tauzin to interject
that "Prophets generally have very short lives."
|Analysis of Vote on HR 1542
|The votes on amendments and final passage did not break down
on party or ideological lines. Although, there was some
correlation between party and vote, with Republicans more
likely than Democrats to support the bill. See, roll
call votes. However, several other factors were predictors
of votes -- prior record of support for the Internet, gender,
region, and seniority. Techies, women, westerners and junior
members tended to oppose the bill.
Members from districts with new technology companies, or who
have been advocates of the Internet, tended to oppose the
bill. For example, Reps. Eshoo (Silicon Valley), Davis
(Northern Virginia), and Markey (suburban Boston) all
represent tech heavy districts, and were leaders of the
opposition to the bill. The one notable exception was Rep.
Rick Boucher (D-VA), a Co-chair of the Internet Caucus,
who supported the bill, and voted for the Tauzin Dingell
position on every vote in subcommittee and full committee.
Another good predictor of support for the bill was gender. Of
the eight women on the Committee, six voted no (Eshoo, Wilson,
DeGette, Harman, Capps, and McCarthy), only one voted yes
(Bono), and one was absent (Cubin).
Region was also a predictor of support for the bill.
Westerners were more likely than members as a whole to oppose
the bill. Of the seven Californians, five voted no (Eshoo,
Cox, Waxman, Capps, and Harman), and two voted yes (Bono and
Radanovich). The mountain state representatives -- Shadegg
(AZ), DeGette (CO), and Wilson (NM) -- all voted no. The upper
midwest representatives -- Luther (MN) and Barrett (WI) --
voted no. Also, representatives from districts with widely
dispersed populations (including many beyond the 15,000 foot
range of DSL service) tended to oppose the bill. Notably,
Stupak (upper Michigan), Strickland (Appalachian Ohio), and
Largent (who represents Tulsa, but seeks to become governor of
Oklahoma) were vocal opponents of the bill. Also, Shadegg,
Wilson, and DeGette (who represent urban Phoenix, Albuquerque,
and Denver) are from states with many citizens who live in
sparsely populated areas. Also, if the vote is broken down by
the territories of the original Regional Bell Operating
Companies, representatives from PacBell and US West tended to
oppose the bill, while representatives from SBC, Ameritech,
BellSouth, Bell Atlantic, and Nynex tended to support the
Seniority on the Committee also correlated positively with
support for the bill. For example, the seven Republicans with
the most seniority all supported the bill. There are 31
Republicans on the Committee. Of the Republicans from the top
half in seniority, 13 voted yes, 2 voted no, and 1 was absent.
Of the bottom half in seniority, 8 voted yes, 6 voted no, and
1 was absent. These junior members include all members
appointed to the committee since 1998, when Wilson got a seat
following her special election. On the Democratic side, the
telling statistic is that 8 of the 9 most junior members voted
Party membership was also a predictor of a member's vote. The
Republicans split 21 in favor, 8 against, and 2 absent. The
Democrats split 11 in favor and 15 against.
|5/9. The FCC released its Memorandum
Opinion and Order on Reconsideration [PDF] In the Matter
of Interconnection and Resale Obligations Pertaining to
Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS). The FCC denied the
petition for reconsideration filed by the Association of Communications
Enterprises (ASCENT) of the Fourth Report and Order in
this proceeding. The FCC reaffirmed that facilities-based CMRS
providers are not required to interconnect with resellers'
switches. The MOO was adopted on May 1, and released on May 9.
(See, CC Docket No. 94-54.)
|Amendments to HR 1542
|Build Out Requirements. The Committee spent much of
the meeting debating language that would mandate deployment of
broadband service. While the underlying premise of the bill is
that the regulatory relief which it offers to the Bells will
incent them to deploy DSL service, even its sponsors conceded
that the bill also needs to actually require the Bells to
deploy DSL service. The debate was over whether to adopt a
[PDF] offered by Rep.
Tom Sawyer (D-OH) and Rep.
Bobby Rush (D-IL), and backed by Tauzin and Dingell, or a
more stringent amendment
[PDF] offered by Rep.
Bart Stupak (D-MI). The Sawyer amendment sets year by year
requirements for the deployment of DSLAMs
in central offices (COs). The Stupak amendment would have
measured deployment beyond that what has already been
deployed. Stupak argued that the levels set by the Sawyer
amendment for the next few years have already been met by most
Bells, and hence, impose no real requirement. The Stupak
amendment also would have measured buildout based upon all
local loops of up to 150,000 feet, while the Sawyer amendment
would cover only those of up to 15,000 feet. Stupak argued
that most customers in urban areas are within 15,000 feet of
their COs, but that in rural districts, such as his, many
customers are far beyond 15,000 feet. The bill, as amended by
the Sawyer amendment, would impose no obligation to deploy DSL
service to customers who are beyond 15,000 feet from their
COs. The committee rejected the Stupak amendment by a vote of
17 to 37, and then approved the Sawyer amendment by a voice
Line Sharing. The Committee narrowly rejected, by a
vote of 27 to 27, an amendment
[PDF] offered by Rep.
Bill Luther (D-MN) that would have extended the line
sharing requirement to include fiber and remote terminals.
The Tauzin manager's amendment contained language providing
for line sharing, but only over copper lines. Tauzin
said that "this strikes at the heart of the bill."
Dingell derided it as a "killer amendment".
Definition of High Speed. The Committee also rejected,
by a vote of 18 to 33, an amendment
[PDF] offered by Rep.
Tom Davis (R-VA) that would have defined "high speed
data service" as at least 1.5 million bits per second
downstream, and at least 128 thousand bps upstream. Tauzin's
manager's amendment defined it as only 384 thousand bps in one
direction (presumably downstream). Harman and Largent
cosponsored the amendment. Rep. Markey spoke in support:
"They are promising us a superhighway, but we are only
going to get a bike path." He added that the Bells will
charge monopoly prices for it.
Reporting Requirements. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
offered an amendment
[PDF] that would have required the Bells to submit certain
data regarding the quality of their service to the FCC. She
described it as a consumer protection provision. Tauzin and
Dingell opposed it, and it went down to defeat, 18 to 27.
The main defenders of the bill throughout the day were Tauzin
and Dingell, but they received frequent support from Green,
Stearns, Sawyer, Rush and others. Upton made all of the
procedural objections to various proposed amendments to the
bill. The most vocal opponents were Markey, Largent, Wilson,
Davis, and Stupak, with support from McCarthy, DeGette, and
Harman. Rep. Chris Cox
(R-CA), who is an opponent of the bill, is now embroiled in
partisan and ideological maneuvering over President Bush's
effort to put him on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th
Circuit. He voted against the bill, but was not active in the
Ken Johnson, spokesman for Chairman Tauzin, stated that
"we will pass it out of the House", but that the
"bill's chances are much more problematic in the
Senate." The Judiciary Committee has also asked to be
given jurisdiction over the bill. Johnson said that Speaker
Hastert is unlikely to do this.
Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced HR 1765 on May 8. It would
enhance the FCC's authority to enforce the Telecom Act of
1996, by increasing penalties, and lengthening the statute of
limitations on certain forefeiture actions against phone
companies. This bill was not offered as an amendment to HR
1542. Tauzin stated that the Committee would hold a hearing on
the bill, but that there would be no attempt to move the bill
through committee or to the floor. Rather, it would be offered
as an amendment to HR 1542 on the floor. HR 1765, asserted
Tauzin, is not germane to HR 1542; and, he will ask the Rules Committee to
waive the germaneness rule. Davis offered an amendment to HR
1542 that would have given the FCC enforcement authority for
violation of its provisions. It was rejected on a voice vote.
Open Access. The markup of HR 1542 was also used a
forum to discuss and debate several other Internet and
telecommunications issues that are not addressed in HR 1542. Rep.
Rick Boucher (D-VA) spoke in favor of mandating open
access. Tauzin stated that this is "a very
appropriate subject matter for hearings of our
committee." Boucher offered no amendment.
Nondiscrimination. Boucher did offer an amendment
[PDF] that would require that volume discounts by phone
companies to ISPs be offered on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Tauzin promised to work with Rep. Boucher on this issue, and
Boucher then withdrew his amendment.
Right of Way Fees. Wilson offered, but withdrew, an amendment
[PDF] that would require the Bureau of Land Management, and
other government agencies, when granting rights of way, to
charge on the basis of either footage or cost of management,
rather than on the basis of the capacity or content of the
line. Tauzin expressed support for the idea. He said that
right of way fees based upon content amount to an
|5/9. The FTC published a notice
in the Federal Register that it is amending the Antitrust
Improvements Act Notification and Report Form and the
accompanying Instructions for Certain Mergers and Acquisitions
which must be completed and submitted by persons required to
report mergers or acquisitions pursuant to § 7A of the
Clayton Act. The interim rule takes effect on July 1, 2001.
However, the FTC requests comments, by June 8, 2001, regarding
the effective date. See, Federal Register, May 9, 2001, Vol.
66, No. 90, at Pages 23561 - 23587.
|People & Appointments
|5/9. Deborah Lathen announced her resignation as
Chief of the Cable Services
Bureau at the FCC, effective
May 18, 2001.
5/9. Troup Coronado was named Assistant Vice President
for Federal Relations in BellSouth's
Washington DC Governmental Affairs office. Previously, he was
Director of Government Relations with Sinclair Broadcast Group. He
has also worked for Sen.
Orrin Hatch (R-UT). See, release.
|Thursday, May 10
|Deadline to submit reply comments in response to the
for comments [PDF] on five reports that it has received
regarding the potential for ultra-wideband (UWB)
transmission systems to cause harmful interference to other
radio operations. UWB devices, which use very narrow
pulses with very wide bandwidths, have potential applications
in both radar and communications technologies.
9:00 AM. The House
Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on HR 718, the
Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2001, and HR
1017, the Anti-Spamming Act of 2001. Location: Room 2141,
9:30 AM. The Federal
Communications Commission will hold a meeting. Location:
Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington DC.
The agenda includes:
• Universal Service. The FCC will consider a
Fourteenth Report and Order and Twenty-First Order on
Reconsideration in CC Docket No. 96-45 and a Report and Order
in CC Docket No. 00-256 concerning a proposal to reform
federal high-cost universal service support mechanisms for
• Removed from Agenda.
Cross-Ownership of Broadcast Stations and
Newspapers. The FCC will consider a NPRM proposing to modify,
eliminate, or retain its rule that prohibits common ownership
of broadcast stations and newspapers within the same
geographic area. (MM Docket No. 96-197)
• Spread Spectrum Devices. The FCC will
consider a Further NPRM proposing changes to remove
unnecessary regulatory barriers to the introduction of new
wireless devices using spread spectrum and other digital
technologies. The FCC will also review the staff's denial of
an application for equipment certification filed by Wi-LAN,
Inc. (ET Docket No. 99-231.)
9:30 AM. The Senate
Banking Committee will hold a hearing on several
nominations, and a vote on several others. A hearing will be
held on the nominations of John Robson (President of
the Export-Import Bank), James Jochum (Asst. Sec. of
Commerce for Export Administration), and Peter Fisher
(Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance). Votes
will be held on the nominations of Grant Aldonas (Undersecretary
of Commerce for International Trade), Kenneth Juster
(Undersecretary of Commerce for Export Administration), Maria
Cino (Asst. Sec. of Commerce and Director General of the
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service), and Robert Glenn
Hubbard (Council of Economic Advisers). Location: Room
538, Dirksen Building.
10:00 AM. The Senate
Judiciary Committee will hold an executive business
meeting. The agenda may include a vote on the nomination of
Charles James to be Assistant Attorney General in charge of
the Antitrust Division. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.
11:00 AM. The House
Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Courts, the
Internet, and Intellectual Property will hold a hearing titled
"Patents: Improving Quality and Curing Defects."
Location: Room 2141, Rayburn Building.
FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth will be luncheon
keynote speaker for the Federal Asian Pacific American Council
Conference Congressional Seminar. Location: Russell Senate
Office Building, Caucus Room, Washington DC.
|Friday, May 11
|Deadline to file reply comments with the FCC in
response to its Notice
of Inquiry (NOI) regarding cable open access. (See,
In the Matter of Nondiscrimination in the Distribution of
Interactive Television Services Over Cable, CS Docket No.
01-7.) The deadline had been April 20, but was extended. The
filing system contains 27 original comments.
Deadline to file comments with the FCC in response to its
request for comments regarding the cable ownership limits
imposed upon AT&T by the FCC in its AT&T Time Warner
merger review proceeding, in light of the March 2, 2001,
opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Time
Warner v. FCC, 249 F.3d 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2001). (CS Docket
No. 99-251.) See, FCC notice.
12:30 PM. The Federal
Communications Bar Association will host a lunch. The
speaker will be Rep.
Fred Upton (R-MI). Location: Capitol Hill Hyatt, 400 New
Jersey Ave., NW, Washington DC.
12:30 PM. William
Gates, Sr., a founder of the Seattle based law firm of Preston Gates, and a
Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will speak
at a National Press Club
luncheon. Location: Ballroom, National Press Club, 529 14th
St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington DC.
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