Telcos, Consumer Groups Battle Over Proposed Telecom Law Renewal - InformationWeek

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Telcos, Consumer Groups Battle Over Proposed Telecom Law Renewal

Legislation to renew the Telecommunications Act of 1996 draws praise from telcos--but Consumers Union warns, "Hold onto your wallets."

Legislation to renew the Telecommunications Act of 1996 introduced earlier this week by U. S. Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) drew quick responses from both sides of the issue with telecom industry firms generally supporting the legislation and consumer groups generally opposing it.

“The Ensign bill outlines a market-oriented focus that deserves thorough and thoughtful discussion,” said Roger Cochetti of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) in a statement. “We are particularly encouraged by its call to keep Internet applications and information services, such as VoIP, free from regulation…

“While the ’96 Act did much to update the nation’s telecommunications regulatory structure, it is timely and appropriate that we re-visit that landmark legislation.” Cochetti is group director of U.S. Public Policy for the CompTIA.

On the other side of the issue was Consumer Union’s senior policy analyst Jeannine Kenney who stated: “Consumers better hold on to their wallets if this bill becomes law. They can look forward to soaring cable and phone bills and even fewer choices for broadband as dominant cable and phone companies tighten their stranglehold on the limited competition in these markets.”

Ensign’s 72-page bill was hailed by the former Regional Bell Operating Companies, which were heartened by wording that would free them from having to obtain approval from local and regional agencies to offer television service. “The Ensign bill,” said a Verizon Communications spokesman, “puts consumers first by enabling people to choose from the expanding array of choices made possible by changes in technology and in the marketplace.”

CU’s Kenney said the legislation would prevent local and state agencies from preventing price gouging. The bill, she added, would enable providers to force consumers to purchase a cost package of services, some of which they don’t need or want.

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