Statement by Rep. Rick Boucher on the introduction of HR 1685.
Internet Growth and Development Act of 1999.

Date: May 6, 1999.
Source: Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA).


U.S. Representative Rick Boucher

Tuesday, May 5, 1999 I am pleased this morning to join with my Virginia colleague Bob Goodlatte, with whom I am privileged to co-chair the Congressional Internet Caucus, in the introduction of two bills which taken together will address the major challenges confronting the Internet today.

Heretofore, Congressional debates on issues affecting the Internet have been ad hoc and have addressed single issues only. The legislation we are introducing today will provide the first comprehensive framework for debate by the Congress of the major current Internet policy challenges.

The passage of both bills will truly promote the growth and development of the Internet:

Unfortunately, as the cable industry begins the deployment of cable modem services, a different model is being pursued. At the present time, there is no federal law restricting the ability of cable companies to package their transport services and their affiliated Internet access services and require that customers purchasing high speed transport also purchase the cable company’s affiliated Internet access service. The largest cable multiple system operators are, in fact, bundling transport with Internet access and requiring that the affiliated Internet access services be purchased by cable modem customers.

There are more than 2,000 Internet access providers nationwide. The vast majority of these ISPs are startup companies who have brought a new level of entrepreneurship to the telecommunications industry. Many of them will become the competitive local exchange carriers who will offer competition not only in the provision of Internet access, but in the offering of local telephone service and other telecommunications services as well. They will be important contributors to the competitive local exchange industry we envisioned when we wrote the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

But these ISPs are severely threatened by the deployment by cable television companies of broadband Internet transport connections which also bundle affiliated Internet access services. The broad bandwidth of these services will surely attract a large clientele, much of which will be the existing customer base of independent ISPs.

If the cable television companies are permitted to force their cable modem customers to purchase their affiliated Internet access services as a condition of subscribing to their high speed transport service, many independent ISPs will be foreclosed from a large portion of their existing customer base and from market growth opportunities. The legislation we are offering today assures that this anti-competitive practice will not occur and that all Internet transport platforms in the future will be open, much as telephone company transport platforms are open today.

I am pleased to be participating on a bi-partisan basis with Representative Goodlatte in offering this legislation, the enactment of which will assure that the Internet more rapidly achieves its potential to be the multi-media platform of choice for the delivery of voice, video and data.