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McCain Seeks to Build Regulation-Free Internet

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, this week introduced the Internet Regulatory Freedom Act of 1999.

McCain believes that congressional assurances of no Internet regulation will help promote the development and deployment of advanced telecommunication services nationwide.

"Advanced telecommunications is a critical component of our economic and social well-being. Information technology now accounts for over one-third of our economic growth."

McCain added that "Americans with access to high-speed Internet service will get the best of what the Internet has to offer in the way of on-line commerce, advanced interactive educational services, tele-medicine, tele-commuting, and video-on-demand. But what it also means is that Americans who don't have access to high-speed Internet service won't enjoy these same advantages.

The Arizona senator believes the "Information Age of telecommunications can serve as a great equalizer, eliminating the disadvantages of geographic isolation and socioeconomic status that have carried over from the Industrial Age."

According to McCain only 2 percent of all American homes are served by networks capable of providing high-speed data service and that of those U.S. homes, much of the broadband access is provided by cable services.

"If this situation is allowed to continue, many Americans who live in remote areas or who don't make a lot of money won't get high-speed Internet service anywhere near as fast as others will."

Seeking to eliminate the potential to create a U.S. Internet access strata of "haves" and "have nots," McCain's Internet Regulatory Freedom Act is designed to eliminate social inequalities of broadband Internet access.

McCain noted that local telephone company lines go to almost every home in America and that local telephone companies are ready and willing to upgrade existing copper lines to provide advanced high-speed data services.

The senator contents that telephone companies are not able to offer broadband services as quickly as cable companies are, because telephone companies operate under unnecessary legal and regulatory restrictions.

"The 1996 Telecommunications Act effectively nationalized telephone industry competition. The act has been a complete and utter failure insofar as most Americans are concerned. All the average consumer has gotten are higher prices for many existing services, with little or no new competitive offerings."

"We must not let this misguided law produce the same misbegotten results when it comes to making high-speed data services available and affordable to all Americans."

McCain said cable companies posses an advantage in deployment of advanced Internet services because they can roll out cable modem access quickly in a regulation-free environment, while federal regulation significantly impedes the ability of telephone companies to do the same.

"This is blatantly unfair to the telephone companies. The benefits of business development, employment, and economic growth will go where the advanced data networks go. If these benefits go to urbanized, high-income areas first, the resulting disparities may well be difficult, if not impossible, to equalize."

McCain believes that "unfettered competition, not federal regulatory micro-management, is the best way of making sure that high-speed data services will be widely available and affordable."

McCain emphatically stated unrestrained competition to deploy advanced telecommunications services is "what I want, what consumers deserve, and what this legislation will do."

After a career in the U.S. Navy and two terms as a congressman, John McCain is currently serving his third term in the U.S. Senate.