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After the Bell

Will Congress land a big blow for fair competition?
August 1, 2001
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/42506

Despite quick passage in a House committee, legislation that would give the four former Regional Bell Operating Companies more Internet leverage seems destined to falter. The Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act (H.R. 1542) would eliminate a provision in the 1996 Telecommunications Act requiring that Bell South, Qwest, SBC and Verizon allow other phone companies to access their local phone facilities before the FCC will allow them to make long-distance Internet connections.

The Bell companies argue that the legislation offers them the same abilities cable companies have to provide Internet service without federal regulation, but critics say it would allow them to continue thwarting outside access to their phone lines.

And the bill appears to be falling into the hands of the critics. Because of antitrust implications, joint jurisdiction of the bill may go to the House Judiciary Committee, where two representatives have introduced a diametrically opposed bill. If the bill makes it to the Senate, it would land in the Commerce Committee, where four senior members have sent letters to the FCC complaining that the Bell companies use anticompetitive practices.

Battle of the Berets

The Army's decision not to use berets manufactured in China means the Defense Department will go back to square one in looking for U.S. small businesses to supply its black berets.

The contract was originally awarded to Chinese suppliers amid complaints from U.S. businesses that they couldn't meet the Army's tight deadlines and other technical requirements.


Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.