Statement of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI).
Re: Introduction of HR 2420 IH, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act.

Date: July 1, 1999.
Source: Commerce Committee Democrats.

We began to write the law that would become the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in 1993. At that time, the vast majority of the American people were scarcely aware of the Internetís existence and potential. In fact, itís amusing to recall that some of the people we today revere as visionaries -- including those in, say, Redmond, Washington -- initially failed to understand the importance of the World Wide Web.

Much has changed since then. The Internet is on the front page of every major daily newspaper, and every major daily newspaper is on the Internet. E-mail addresses are exchanged as freely as telephone numbers. And the effect on the nationís commerce has been staggering. But the most amazing thing about this technological revolution is that this is only the beginning.

That is why Chairman Tauzin and I are introducing the "Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act" today. We want the exponential growth of the Internet to continue unabated. We want to remove outdated remnants of regulation written when we needed to safeguard and promote a different world of telecommunications. Today, those rules do little more than slow down progress. Our legislation is designed to take the speed limits off the Information Superhighway once and for all.

First, the bill makes sure that Internet service will not become a de facto monopoly for any one provider. As technological convergence allows the cable and telephone wires in every home to deliver virtually the same services to the American people, it makes no sense to treat these wires differently under the law. It grossly distorts the operation of the market by giving one wire an artificial advantage over the other. Our bill protects consumers from a new monopoly in the business of Internet access and guarantees all Americans the freedom to choose the very best service at the lowest possible price.

Second, our bill protects consumers against the increasing concentration of market power in the Internet backbone business. The backbone of the Internet is virtually invisible to the average user, but itís arguably the most important communications link in the chain. It also has the potential of becoming the bottleneck of the 21st century. Virtually every bit and byte that travels over the Internet must cross one or more of these backbone networks to reach its destination. It is imperative that these networks remain competitive, and our bill will make sure that is so.

We are embarking on a technological journey that has already transformed our lives. The public is clamoring for new, high tech services, but they will be slow in coming and more expensive under current rules. Chairman Tauzin and I have put together a blueprint for change that we believe will bring tremendous benefits to American consumers and the nationís economy. We propose to leave behind any personal biases and battle scars from past telecom wars, and we look forward to an exciting and stimulating debate characterized, first and foremost, by open minds, fresh ideas, and a singular focus on whatís best for the American people.