Statement in Congressional Record by Sen. Brownback.
Re: Introduction of S 877, the Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act.

Date: April 26, 1999.
Source Congressional Record, page S4181.


Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act of 1999 on behalf of myself, Senator Nickles, and Senator Craig. This 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.

Mr. President, the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, conduct business, shop, and learn. The Internet presents us with the opportunity to remove distance as an obstacle to employment and education. But while tens of millions of Americans now log onto the Internet every day, narrowband connections to the Internet make using the Net a slow and cumbersome process.

Broadband connections, on the other hand, provide ultra-fast access to the Internet. With a broadband connection, users may download and upload data from and to the Internet at substantially greater speeds than with a narrowband connection. From downloading full-motion video to uploading an architect's plans, broadband permits consumers to utilize many more applications that will increase the value of the Internet as a communications medium.

The technology to provide broadband connections to the Internet is a reality. Cable companies are deploying hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks that will enable cable modems to provide high-speed Internet access. In addition, telephone companies have discovered a way to provide high-speed Internet access over their copper-based telephone loops. With the addition of a digital switch in a telephone company's central office, a digital modem at a customer's premises, and the conditioning of a copper loop, consumers may obtain access to the Internet at more than ten times the speed of narrowband connections.

The most promising technology employed by telephone companies for residential high-speed Internet access is digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. The family of DSL services, especially asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service, have the greatest potential to ensure that all consumers throughout the United States obtain high-speed Internet access. Cable service has penetration rates approaching telephone service in urban and densely-populated suburban areas. However, cable penetration is much lower in rural areas whereas the ubiquity of the telephone network makes telephone penetration rates close to one hundred percent even in rural areas. Thus, for many rural consumers, including those in Kansas, high-speed Internet access may only be available in the next several years through the telephone network.

As a result, Congress needs to ensure that high-speed Internet access is being made available over the public telephone network as rapidly as possible. While ADSL service is being rolled out in many urban and densely-populated suburban areas, most rural consumers do not have access to it.

I am introducing the Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act to ensure that high-speed Internet access is available to my rural constituents as soon as possible. To accomplish this goal, I am proposing to provide regulatory relief to telephone companies willing to deliver broadband connections to rural areas. My proposal has several components.

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.

Mr. President, the ubiquity of our nation's telephone network presents us with a tremendous opportunity to deliver high-speed Internet access to our rural constituents at a pace comparable with the rate at which urban and suburban consumers will be offered such service. But to realize this goal, we must remove unnecessary regulation that has impeded the rapid deployment of broadband networks. Advanced services should not be regulated in the same manner as basic telephone service. Broadband services are an entirely new market, one in which no company can exercise market power.

In the absence of market power, the incumbents should not have to resell their advanced services or provide competitors with access to unbundled advanced service elements. And pricing regulations applied to telephone service should not be applied to advanced services. In addition, a competitive local exchange carrier willing to deploy the facilities necessary to provide broadband services should not be forced to resell its service.

Mr. President, I am confident that we can ensure the rapid deployment of broadband networks to rural areas. But to do so, we must be willing to provide companies with an incentive to build out their broadband networks in rural areas. The Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act would provide companies with such incentives, and I hope that my colleagues will support this crucial legislation.