Making the Grade
By Kim Sunderland
Federal telecom lawmakers received better grades in 1999 than they did in 1998. But
they still are not performing to their potential, says the United States Telecom
Association (USTA), which represents the local telephone companies.
The USTA’s (www.usta.org) legislative and regulatory
report card for 1999 graded the FCC (www.fcc.gov) and
Congress on promoting competition, reducing regulation, encouraging the rapid deployment
of new technologies and progressing universal service.
In promoting competition, the USTA gave the FCC a ‘C’ for taking "modest
steps" that included approving the merger of SBC Communications Inc. (www.sbc.com) and Ameritech Corp. (www.ameritech.com), and by putting the proposed merger
of US WEST Inc. (www.uswest.com) and Qwest
Communications International Inc. (www.qwest.com) on a
However, the SBC/Ameritech deal "took too long and there were far too many
concessions" made by the Bells to get this merger approved, USTA says.
The FCC also took steps that will impede competition, the group says. In addition, the
federal agency’s "hands off" approach to open cable access to broadband cable
networks, while continuing to regulate ILEC broadband facilities and services heavily, is
a major mistake.
USTA gave Congress a ‘C+/incomplete’ for promoting competition through pro-Bell
broadband legislation, but for going anywhere with it.
The FCC received a ‘D’ in encouraging rapid deployment of new technologies. The FCC’s
biggest failure of 1999 was its misapplication of different requirements and incentives
for competitors, the USTA says.
As an example, it says the FCC’s line-sharing order discourages investment in these
technologies by the ILECs and facilities-based carriers. In addition, the creation of
separate ILEC subsidiaries is "yet another hurdle to deploying new
technologies," USTA’s report says.
Congress got an ‘incomplete’ for more stalled legislation.