Sen. Brownback Introduces Broadband Access Bill

(May 3, 1999) Sen. Sam Brownback introduced the Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act on Monday, April 26. Sen. Brownback stated that the "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."

Related Pages

S 877 IS.
Statement by Sen. Brownback, 4/26/99.
Summary of Broadband Access Bills.

Senate Bill 877 IS is titled the Broadband Internet Regulatory Relief Act of 1999. It is also being cosponsored by Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID). The gist of the bill is that it gives ILECs relief from the regulatory burdens of Section 251 when providing broadband ADSL service.

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.

brownback.gif (10876 bytes)

Sen. Sam

Sen. Sam Brownback, who represents Kansas, stated that his bill provides "regulatory relief to telephone companies willing to deliver broadband connections to rural areas." (See, Statement in Congressional Record.)

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."

What the Letters Mean

ADSL.  Acronym for "Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line." A set of developing technologies and equipment that can use existing unshielded twisted pair copper wires from the phone company's central office to the end user's home or business to transfer data at rates much faster than with the prevalent 28.8 and 56 Kbps computer modems. It utilizes ADSL modems at both the central office and at the subscriber's premises to send digital signals at high speeds, typically measured in Mbps. It is asymmetric in the sense that more data is sent in the downstream direction than upstream. It enables the local loop to be used for fast Internet access, including such services as video on demand, video conferencing, work at home access to corporate LANs, operation of small business web servers, multiparty games, remote medical diagnosis, and webcasting.
LEC.  Local Exchange Carrier. A local phone company, such as a BOC (Bell Operating Company) or an independent (such as GTE). Since deregulation in 1996, there have been two types of LECs: ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) and CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier).
FCC. Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is a federal regulatory agency which was created by the Communications Act of 1934, and now has vast authority to promulgate regulations, set prices, and/or fix technology standards with respect to many areas of interstate commerce, including broadcast radio and television, cable service, and wireline and wireless telephone services. The FCC was created as a "New Deal" era agency to regulate government sanctioned monopolies. It remains a large and slow moving bureaucracy incapable of keeping pace with the rapidly developing Internet technology. Also, despite judicial and legislative mandates for deregulation, it still often exhibits a preference top down government industrial planning.

The key provision of the bill 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 concluded that, "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."