House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.)-with the help of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.)-has succeeded in persuading a majority of House members to co-sponsor a bill that would allow regional phone companies to offer broadband Internet services across state lines.
Currently, the law forbids regional phone companies from offering any kind of long-distance service until the FCC certifies that their local markets are open to competition. But Tauzin's bill would let the phone companies offer broadband data services, known as digital subscriber line or DSL, while still forbidding them to offer voice services until their markets are open.
AT & T and others oppose the bill because there is no way to distinguish between digital voice and digital data traffic and because it would allow regional phone companies to skirt the law, they say. House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-Va.) also opposes the bill and has refused to allow Tauzin to hold a hearing.
"Having 218 co-sponsors on the bill is an implied mandate to move it since that shows there is a majority interest," says Ken Johnson, Tauzin's spokesman. Even if Tauzin gets a hearing, Johnson says, the bill is unlikely to pass this year.