Hollings To Introduce Own Broadband Bill

Sen. Ernest Hollings, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee chairman, opened his
vision for broadband America with the introduction of the “Broadband
Telecommunications Act of 2002” Thursday evening.

In a departure from broadband bills of the past, the bill would help fund
service providers and carriers who find a way to get broadband to rural and
underserved areas, especially universities and towns.

Introducing his broadband bill to the Senate, Hollings said advances in
broadband are still in the building phase and will continue to be until
every house in America is passed by a high-speed line. In order to get to
that point, everyone must participate — Congress, incumbent and
competitive telephone companies, and service providers.

“Ultimately, if we decide as a nation that a broadband world must be
achieved, we must move beyond the rhetoric of parity and regulation versus
deregulation,” he said. “We must move forward and begin to deal with the
real issues that impact broadband deployment and use.”

Satellite and fixed wireless Internet service, long considered “niche”
technologies because of their slow start, get a nod from the Hollings’
bill. It calls for pilot projects in rural areas to further spur competition.

The bill also calls for various grants to educational institutions,
e-government initiatives, communities as well as money to support
broadband research and deployment.

Funds for the bill’s many giveaways from 2003 to 2007 come from the 3
percent every telephone user pays into the telephone excise tax, and are
broken down as follows:

  • $2 billion in loans to carriers who put broadband facilities in rural
  • $500 million loan facility to upgrade remote terminals (provided
    competitors have access to the RTs)
  • $750 million in grants to connect colleges, communities, libraries and
  • $1 billion in grants to local and state governments for broadband and
    e-government proposals

Charles Hoffman, Covad Communications president and chief executive
officer, congratulates the author of the bill for a plan that doesn’t
involve the incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) regaining their
monopoly status.

“Chairman Hollings has been one of the nation’s leading champions for true
broadband competition,” he said. “With this bill, he has addressed some of
the most fundamental problems in our industry in a way that creates winners
on every side of the table — the phone companies, competitors like Covad
and, most importantly, consumers and small businesses across America.”

The senator from South Carolina has long been an opponent of Baby
Bell-lobbied broadband bills, which free incumbent telephone companies from
regulations to make high-speed deployment more financially viable.

Hollings has cultivated a higher profile in the telecom industry these
days. He vowed to kill the Tauzin-Dingell Broadband Bill after it was signed off by
the House of Representatives in March. A month later he was criticized for
his wildly unpopular content security bill. Most recently, Hollings blasted
a piece of legislation called the Breaux-Nickels “Broadband Regulatory
Parity Act of 2002.”

In a letter to his peers, he decried the wording of the Bill.

“This legislation in the name of parity is nothing more than a Trojan Horse
to deregulate the Bells and extend their monopoly,” Hollings wrote in a
letter obtained by Washtech.com.

Two months ago, Hollings and four other senators introduced the “Consumer
Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act of 2002,” a bill designed to
spur high-speed growth throughout the country by ensuring the security of
trademarked content, such as movies and music. With content online, more
Americans would be inclined to buy broadband connections like digital
subscriber line (DSL) and cable modems.

Instead, the bill was picked apart and savaged by the media, computer
and manufacturers
alike for its requirement to add a piece of hardware to all existing and
future products to ensure digital content security.

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