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Summary of Bills Affecting
Broadband Internet Access
in the 106th Congress

This page summarizes the following bills:

  • S 877, Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act (Brownback-Nickles-Craig).
  • S 1043, Internet Regulatory Freedom Act (McCain).
  • S 2307, Rural Broadband Enhancement Act (Dorgan).
  • S 2321, Rural Telecommunications Modernization Act of 2000 (Rockefeller-Snowe).
  • S 2698, Broadband Internet Access Act of 2000 (Moynihan-Kerry).
  • HR 1685, Internet Growth and Development Act (Boucher-Goodlatte).
  • HR 1686, Internet Freedom Act (Goodlatte-Boucher).
  • HR 2420, Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act (Tauzin-Dingell).
  • HR 2637, Consumer and Community Choice in Access Act (Blumenauer).
This page was last updated on May 28, 2000.

Introduction. Each of these bills, except HR 2637, is designed to speed the deployment of broadband Internet access in the U.S. They all have have particular regard for areas not likely to receive cable Internet access. Each of these bills is being sponsored and cosponsored by Representatives or Senators from rural areas with there is low cable penetration, but almost universal telephone service penetration. Hence, these sponsors represent areas, where, in the short run, high speed Internet access will likely be provided by ADSL via an incumbent local exchange carrier (phone company). Each bill would reduce existing regulatory burdens on ILECs imposed by Section 251 of the 1996 Telecom Act when they provide ADSL service. The rationale is that the ILECs will have a greater incentive to invest in ADSL technology if the regulatory burden is reduced, and their return on investment is increased.

HR 2637 is an open access bill. It would require companies which provide broadband Internet access via cable to provide open access to competing ISPs.


S 877, Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act.

Sponsor. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS). Initial Cosponsors. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Larry Craig (R-ID). Additional Cosponsors. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS).

Summary. There are many technologies by which high-speed, or broadband, Internet access may be delivered. These include cable, ADSL cable copper telephone lines, satellite, electricity lines, and T-1, T-3, and other high bandwidth lines. However, in the short run, the two technologies that are likely to provide access to large numbers of people are cable and ADSL. However, cable networks are prevalent in urban, but not rural areas. S 877 IS is designed in part to assure that rural and small town America are not left out of the broadband revolution.

Sen. Brownback, who represents Kansas, stated that his "bill is intended to speed up the deployment of broadband networks throughout the United States and to make residential high-speed Internet access a widely-available service." However, it primarily provides "regulatory relief to telephone companies willing to deliver broadband connections to rural areas." (See, Statement in Congressional Record.)

First, the bill defines advanced service to include Internet access that is at speeds of 200 kbps downstream and 128 kbps upstream, or greater.

One key provision provides that incumbent local exchange carriers (ILEC, ie, the phone company) will not have to sell or make available their broadband access services to their competitors, under Section 251 of the 1996 Telecom Act, if they make 70% of their loops ready to support broadband access. Specifically, the bill reads:

"an incumbent local exchange carrier shall not be subject to the requirements of -- '(1) section 251(c)(3) with respect to facilities and equipment used exclusively to provide advanced service; and '(2) section 251(c)(4) for the provision of advanced service, in any State in which 70 percent of the incumbent local exchange carrier's loops in its service territory are DSL-capable, as determined by that State."

This provision is designed to give create an economic incentive for the ILECs to invest in ADSL technology.

Moreover, the bill provides that the Federal Communications Commission shall not regulate prices for broadband Internet access offered by the ILEC, if it has a competitor. Specifically, the bill reads:

"the prices, terms, and conditions of any advanced service by an incumbent local exchange carrier shall not be subject to regulation if the Commission determines that advanced service is being offered by an unaffiliated advanced service provider in competition with the incumbent local exchange carrier within a geographic area served by a central office."

Sen. Brownback described the substantive provisions of his bill as follows:

"First, incumbent local exchange carriers that make seventy percent of their loops ready to support high-speed Internet access will not have to resell their advanced services to competitors and will not have to make the network elements used exclusively for the provision of advanced services available to competitors. Second, the prices for advanced services offered by incumbent local exchange carriers that face competition in the provision of such services will be deregulated. Third, where incumbent local exchange carriers are offering advanced services but do not face competition, the companies will receive pricing flexibility. Fourth, competitive local exchange carriers will not be required to resell their advanced services."

Status. S 887 was introduced on April 26, 1999, and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.


S 1043, Internet Regulatory Freedom Act.

Sponsor. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Cosponsors. Mike Enzi (R-MN) and Jesse Helms (R-NC).

Summary. Like the Brownback bill (S 877), this bill would also relax the requirements of Section 251 for ILECs which deploy ADSL service. The key language of the bill provides:

"Notwithstanding any other provision, including section 271, of this Act, nothing in this Act applies to, or grants authority to Commission with respect to---

"(1) the imposition of wholesale discount obligations on bulk offerings of advanced services to providers of Internet services or telecommunications carriers under section 251(c)(4), or the duty to provide as network elements, under section 251(c)(3), the facilities and equipment used exclusively to provide Internet services;

"(2) technical standards or specifications for the provision of Internet services; or

"(3) the provision of Internet services."

The McCain bill also includes a statement of policy: "it is the policy of the United States to assure that all Americans have the opportunity to benefit from access to advanced Internet service at affordable rates by eliminating regulation that impedes the competitive deployment of advanced broadband data networks."

Status. This bill was introduced on May 13, 1999.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 5/13/99. S 1043 IS introduced in the Senate. See also:
    Statement by Sen. McCain in Congressional Record.
    TLJ story.
  • 5/13/99. S 1043 referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

S 2307, Rural Broadband Enhancement Act

Sponsor. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND). Original Cosponsors. Max Baucus (D-MT), Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Tim Johnson (D-SD). Additional cosponsors. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Bingamon (D-NM), Bob Kerrey (D-NE), Paul Wellstone (D-MN).

Summary. S 2307 IS would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to extend universal service subsidies to include deployment of broadband services to rural areas. The technologies enumerated are DSL, cable, wireless, and satellite.

The bill would also create a new $3 Billion loan program to be administered by the Rural Utilities Service of the Department of Agriculture to make loans to telecommunications carriers providers to finance the deployment of broadband telecommunications services to rural communities. Loans would be for 30 years and carry 2% interest.

The bill is also significant in that it treats broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service. The word Internet does not appear in this bill. However, it is clear that the bill is referring to Internet access services, through its references to "broadband" service, "digital subscriber line", and its definition:

The term `broadband service' includes, without regard to any particular transmission medium or technology, high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capable of delivering not less than 1.0 megabits of data per second to the user and 0.5 megabits of data per second from the user that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications.

This is the companion bill to HR 4122.

Status. This bill was introduced on March 28, 2000. No action has been taken.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 3/28/00. S 2307 IS introduced in the Senate. See also:
      Release of Sen. Dorgan.
  • 3/28/00. S 2307 referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

S 2321, Rural Telecommunications Modernization Act.

Sponsors. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Initial copsonsor. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Additional cosponsors. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ernest Hollings (D-SC).

Summary.

Status. This bill was introduced on March 29, 2000. No action has been taken.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 3/29/00. S 2321 IS introduced in the Senate.
  • 3/29/00. S 2321 referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

S 2698, Broadband Internet Access Act of 2000


HR 1685, Internet Growth and Development Act.
(Summary of broadband access provisions only.)

See also, full summary of HR 1685.

Sponsor. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) (web site | bio). Original Cosponsor. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (web site | bio). Additional Cosponsors. Additional Cosponsors. Martin Meehan (D-MA), Joe Skeen (R-NM), Norman Dicks (D-WA), Ciro Rodriquez (D-TX), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Michael Capuano (D-MA), James Talent (R-MO), John Olver (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), John Peterson (R-PA), Gary Miller (R-CA), Merrill Cook (R-UT).

Summary. HR 1685 IH is a broad bill which covers more than just speeding the deployment of broadband Internet access. For a complete summary of the bill, see Summary of HR 1685. This page summarizes only those sections which pertain to broadband Internet access. This bill also has sections relating to electronic signatures (Title I), spam (Title II, and Sec. 505 of Title V), and online privacy (Title III).

Title IV pertains to "Broadband Deployment." It has two sections. Section 401(a) amends the definition of InterLATA service to exclude the transmission of data by the Internet. But, Section 401(b) then provides that no Bell Operating Company (BOC) may provide two-way, voice only, interLATA telecommunications services until the FCC approves its Section 271 application.

Section 402(a) requires local exchange carriers (LECs) to prepare for the state telephone commission in each state which it does business a "plan to provide broadband telecommunications service in all local exchange areas in which such carrier has telephone exchange service customers as soon as such broadband telecommunications service is economically reasonable and technically feasible." Once approved by the state commission, the LEC must follow the plan. However, the LEC is then "free of Federal and State price, rate, rate of return, and profit regulation." Also, once the state commission finds that either the LEC has a broadband services provider competitor, or the LEC has made broadband service available to 70% of the access lines in an exchange, the LEC is no longer bound by the plan. Finally, the FCC is cut out of the process.

Section 402(b) provides that incumbent local exchange carrier's (ILEC) provision of broadband services shall not be subject to Sections 251(c)(3) and (4) of the 1996 Telecom Act if they certify three things to their state commissions: first, that "in central offices in which it provides local loops that are conditioned for broadband services, it provides such loops to other carriers at least as quickly as it provides them for its own customers"; second, that "in central office in which it does not currently provide local loops that are conditioned for broadband services, but in which such service is economically reasonable and technically feasible, it will provide such loops within 120 days of a request for such conditioning from another carrier"; and that disagreements over prices and terms shall be submitted to commercial arbitration.

Title V is designed to force broadband access transport providers, including ILECs with DSL conditioned loops and cable companies to unbundle their broadband transport and Internet access. It accomplishes this with three sections that amend antitrust law. Basically, the purpose is to stop the practice of cable companies to bundle their cable modem services with their Internet access services, and to protect the competitiveness of the many ISPs, online services, and other Internet access services.

First, Section 501 provides that ILECs which fail to provide conditioned loops are presumed to violate the Sherman Act. If an ILEC with market power in the market for broadband services fails to provide broadband conditioned "unbundled local loops when economically reasonable and technically feasible" it shall be presumed to be in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Second, Section 502 provides that broadband access transport providers (BATP) which enter into discriminatory contracts are presumed to violate the Sherman Act.

See also, Rep. Boucher's summary and statement of Rep. Boucher.

Status.  This bill was introduced on May 5, 1999, and referred to the Commerce and Judiciary Committees.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 5/5/99. HR 1685 IH introduced in the House.
  • 5/5/99. HR 1685 referred to the House Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
  • 5/25/99. HR 1685 referred to the House Telecom Subcommittee.
  • 6/30/99. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HR 1685.

HR 1686, Internet Freedom Act.
(Summary of broadband access provisions only.)

See also, full summary of HR 1686.

Sponsor. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (web site | bio). Original Cosponsor. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA). Additional Cosponsors. George Gekas (R-PA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Thomas Ewing (R-IL), Joe Skeen (R-NM), Stephanie Jones (D-OH), Richard Neal (D-MA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), John Olver (D-MA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Richard Baker (R-LA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Norman Dicks (D-WA), Ray LaHood (R-IL), James Talent (R-MO), Rick Hill (R-MT), Ciro Rodriquez (D-TX), John Peterson (R-PA), Merrill Cook (R-UT), Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Curt Weldon (R-PA), Steven Kuykendall (R-CA), Mac Collins (R-GA), Tom DeLay (R-TX), Mark Foley (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheila Lee (D-TX), John Doolittle (R-CA).

Summary. HR 1686 IH is a broad bill which covers more than just speeding the deployment of broadband Internet access. Also, everything in this bill is in the HR 1685. HR 1686 is a subset of HR 1685.

This bill has two Titles. Title I is almost identical to Title V of HR 1685. Title II is almost identical to Title IV of HR 1685. So, read the above summary of HR 1685.

See also, Rep. Goodlatte's summary.

Status. This bill was introduced on May 5, 1999, and referred to the Commerce and Judiciary Committees.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 5/5/99. HR 1686 IH introduced in the House.
  • 5/5/99. HR 1686 referred to the House Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
  • 5/25/99. HR 1686 referred to the House Telecom Subcommittee.
  • 6/30/99. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HR 1686.

HR 2420, Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act

Sponsor. Billy Tauzin (R-LA). Original Cosponsors. John Dingell (D-MI), Mike Oxley (R-OH), David Bonior (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Nathan Deal (R-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), John Shimkus (R-IL), Charlie Norwood (R-GA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Vito Fossella (R-NY), Norman Dicks (D-WA), James Barcia (D-MI), Rick Hill (R-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Al Wynn (D-MD), Joe Barton (R-TX), Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Lee Terry (R-NE), James Greenwood (R-PA), Greg Ganske (R-IA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Paul Gillmor (R-OH), Ed Bryant (R-TN), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Henry Bonilla (R-TX), Thomas Reynolds (R-NY), John Sweeney (R-NY), Sue Myrick (R-NC). Additional Cosponsors. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Richard Baker (R-LA), Earl Hilliard (D-AL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Robert Ney (R-OH), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Mark Foley (R-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Peter King (R-NY), Ron Lewis (R-KY), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Carrier Meek (D-FL), Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Walter Jones (R-NC), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Sonny Callahan (R-AL), John Peterson (R-PA), Jim McCrery (R-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Ken Lucas (D-KY), Jack Metcalf (R-WA), Anne Northup (R-KY), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), John Baldacci (D-ME), Terry Everett (R-AL), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Richard Pombo (R-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Dave Weldon (R-FL), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Ernest Fletcher (R-KY), Merrill Cook (R-UT), Tom Sawyer (D-OH), Adam Smith (D-WA), William Goodling (R-PA), Matthew Martinez (D-CA), William Thornberry (R-TX), Nick Lampson (D-TX), Max Sandlin (D-TX), Harold Ford (D-TN), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Jesse Jackson (D-IL), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Ciro Rodriquez (D-TX), Jim Gibbons (R-NV),, Charles Taylor, Silvestre Reyes, Nick Rahall (D-WV), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Connie Morella (R-MD), Wes Watkins, Ron Packard (R-CA), David McIntosh, John Cooksey, Benjamin Cardin, Phil English (R-PA), John Duncan, Joe Moakley (D-MA), Julia Carson, Curt Weldon (R-PA), John Murtha, Major Owens, Sam Farr, Donald Payne, George Radanovich, Steve Buyer, Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Robert Brady, Christopher John, Mark Green, Tim Holden, Rod Blagojevich, Jack Quinn, Steven Kuykendall (R-CA), Sander Levin, Jim Saxton, William Jefferson, Peter Visclosky, Sanford Bishop, Michael Simpson, Jim McDermott, Joseph Pitts, Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Alan Mollohan, Danny Davis, Robert Menendez, E.B. Johnson (D-TX), Ron Kind, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Martin Frost, Juanita McDonald (D-CA), Ken Bentsen (D-TX), Eva Clayton, Robert Andrews, Deborah Pryce (R-OH), David Phelps, Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Mac Collins, Don Sherwood, Carolyn Maloney, Gary Condit, Charles Bass, Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Solomon Ortiz, Tom DeLay (R-TX), Van Hilleary, Robert Weygand, Kenny Hulshof, Paul Knajorski, Charles Stenholm, Sheila Lee (D-TX), John Sununu (R-NH), Thomas Ewing, Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Bill Pascrell, James Talent, Bill Clayton, Stephanie Jones, JIm Turner, Michael Capuano (D-MA), James McGovern, Duke Cunningham (R-CA), Bob Stump, Joe Knollenberg, Jo Ann Emerson, Jim Ryun (R-KS), Thomas Allen, Steve LaTourette, John Doolittle (R-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Jerry Costello, Tom Coburn, William Lipinski, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jerry Weller (R-IL), Richard Neal, John Boehner, Gerald Kleczka, Gary Miller, Duncan Hunter, Joe Skeen, Todd Tiahrt, Charles Rangel (D-NY), Bob Clement, Baron Hill, Bob Filner, Thomas Petri, Joe Baca, Jay Dickey, John Olver (D-MA), Mark Souder, James Walsh, Don Young (R-AK), John Hostettler, Robert Matsui (D-CA), J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Christopher Smith, Bud Shuster, Dave Camp, John McHugh, Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Pat Danner, Donald Manzullo, Virgil Goode, Jose Serrano, Brad Sherman (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Carolyn McCarthy (D-MO).

Summary. HR 2420 IH amends both Section 254 and Section 271 of the Telecom Act of 1996 to provide regulatory relief for phone companies providing "high speed data services", which it defines as the "packet switched" transmission of information at at least 384 kbps in at least one direction. The bill also includes a broad deregulation clause.

 The bill does several things.

  • It deprives the Federal Communications Commission and state and local authorities of regulatory authority over high speed data service or Internet access services.
  • It amends Section 271 of the 1996 Telecom Act to exempt high speed data services and Internet access services from the prohibition on RBOC's provision of interLATA telecommunications services without prior FCC approval.
  • It amends Section 251 of the 1996 Telecom Act to provide that the obligations of resale and unbundled access that apply to voice services do not apply to any high-speed data services offered by ILECs.
  • It requires ILECs to allow ISPs to collocate equipment and acquire facilities and services for the provision of Internet access service, and to allow Internet users to access any ISP that interconnects with its high speed data service.

Section 4 of the bill provides that "neither the Commission, nor any State, shall have authority to regulate the rates, charges, terms, or conditions for, or entry into the provision of, any high speed data service or Internet access service, or to regulate the facilities used in the provision of either such service."

However, the bill goes on to clarify this broad language with the provision that "Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or affect the authority of any State to regulate voice telephone exchange services, nor affect the rights of cable franchise authorities to establish requirements that are otherwise consistent with this Act."

Section 4 of the bill also adds a new subsection to Section 251 of the Telecom Act of 1996 that provides that the FCC shall not require an ILEC to "provide unbundled access to any network elements used in the provision of any high speed data service ... or offer for resale at wholesale rates any high speed data service."

Also, Section 5 provides that each ILEC has the duty to provide:

    "(1) Internet users with the ability to subscribe to and have access to any Internet service provider that interconnects with such carrier's high speed data service; (2) any Internet service provider with the right to acquire the facilities and services necessary to interconnect with such carrier's high speed data service for the provision of Internet access service; and (3) any Internet service provider with the ability to collocate equipment in accordance with the provisions of section 251, to the extent necessary to achieve the objectives of paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection."

Status. This bill was introduced on July 1, 1999, and referred to the House Commerce Committee.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 7/1/99. HR 2420 IH introduced in the House. See also:
    Statement by Rep. Dingell.
    TLJ story.
  • 7/1/99. HR 2420 referred to the House Commerce Committee.
  • 7/21/99. HR 2420 referred to the House Telecom Subcommittee.
  • 12/17/99. Rep. Dingell wrote a letter to AT&T CEO Michael Armstrong, and a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard, regarding open access and HR 2420.
  • 5/25/00. The House Telecom Subcommittee held a hearing on broadband access, and HR 2420.

HR 2637, Consumer and Community Choice in Access Act

Sponsor. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Original cosponsor. Peter Defazio (D-OR).

Summary. HR 2637 IH is an open cable access bill. It would require companies that provide Internet access over cable to provide competing ISPs open access to its cable facilities.

The sponsor, Rep. Blumenauer, was a member of the Portland City Council prior to his  election to Congress in 1996. It is the City of Portland which first asserted the authority to impose an open access requirement on AT&T. AT&T has challenged that decision in court. The matter is pending before the 9th Circuit.

HR 2637 IH provides that the FCC "may require cable operators that provide interconnection, using cable system facilities, with the Internet to offer such interconnection on terms and conditions that are fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory."

In addition, "Such requirements shall include the obligation to provide direct or indirect interconnection with the facilities and equipment of any Internet service provider on terms and conditions that are functionally and economically equivalent to the interconnection provided to any other Internet service provider, whether or not affiliated with the cable operator. If the Commission determines, after notice and comment, that a cable operator is not complying with such obligation, the Commission may establish the terms and conditions of such interconnection."

Status. This bill was introduced on July 29, 1999, and referred to the House Commerce Committee.

Legislative History with Links to Related Materials.

  • 7/29/99. HR 2637 IH introduced in the House.
  • 7/29/99. HR 2637 referred to the House Commerce Committee.
  • 8/27/99. HR 2637 referred to the House Telecom Subcommittee.

Other Bills.

HR 3850, the Independent Telecommunications Consumer Enhancement Act of 2000, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and S 2572, the Facilitating Access to Speedy Transmissions for Networks, E-commerce, and Telecommunications (FASTNET) Act, sponsored by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) would provide various forms of regulatory relief to local exchange carriers with fewer than two percent of the Nation's subscriber lines.

S 1153, the Rural Telecommunications Improvement Act of 1999, sponsored by Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), would set up an Office of Rural Advocacy at the Federal Communications Commission. One of its responsibilities would be to "develop proposals" for speeding the availability of "advanced telecommunications services in rural areas."

HR 3487, the Competitive Broadband Telecommunications Rooftop Access Act.

 

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