Dorman driving for open local nets


AT&T President David Dorman is pushing Congress to force the regional
phone companies to open their local networks to competition.

"The Bells have resisted and challenged nearly every attempt to implement the provisions of the [Telecommunications Act of 1996]," Dorman said, in a speech to the conservative Progress and Freedom Foundation in Aspen, Colo., on Tuesday. "Their strategy of resistance, delay, and litigation has left them firmly in control of the local market. Meanwhile, dozens of their competitors are forced to scale back their plans, or liquidate their businesses."

Dorman's speech is another push in the renewed fight
between long-distance and local phone companies over how the government should
regulate broadband deployment.

AT&T Corp. is pushing for tax credits, and is the primary opponent of two bills-sponsored by Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) in the House, and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) in the Senate that would allow the regional phone companies to compete in the broadband market without first having to open up their local networks for competitors' use.

"[These bills] are about setting a national industrial policy to deploy broadband-on the Bell companies' terms and under their control," Dorman said. AT&T is endorsing a bill sponsored by Rep. Scott McInness (R-Colo.) that would grant tax credits to companies who build out their broadband networks and encourages telecommuting. "The State of Mississippi recently directed $90 million in universal service funds be spent in support of DSL deployment," Dorman said. "Similar initiatives in the form of subsidies, tax incentives, or low-interest loans could help bring broadband to places it might not otherwise reach."

Several Senators have introduced similar legislation, including John J. Rockefeller (W-Va.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

In general, Dorman sees a broad role for the government
in setting broadband policy.

"Apart from subsidies and tax incentives, however, government can and should
play a fundamental role. It needs to provide stability, marketplace certainty,
and a competitive industry structure," Dorman said.

- Paige Albiniak