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Regulatory Rearview Mirror: 2006

Jan. 3

Deborah Taylor Tate is sworn in as the FCCs third commissioner. A Republican, Tate gives Chairman Kevin J. Martin an even hand in voting against the two Democrats.


January-February-March

The Senate Commerce Committee holds hearings on various aspects that would help shape new communications law. Some of the most controversial issues: net neutrality, video franchising and reformation of the Universal Service Fund (USF).


March 5

AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. announce their intent to merge. The deal brings together the two companies that own Cingular Wireless LLC and leaves only Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. as Bell competitors.


March 19

The FCC approves by inaction Verizons forbearance petition for regulatory relief on its DSL services, including frame relay and ATM, as well as non-TDM-based optical networking, optical hubbing and optical transmission services. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin takes the hot seat at the Spring 2006 COMPTEL PLUS Convention & Expo on March 20 and feels the fury from competitive carriers in the audience.

Earl Comstock, president and CEO of COMPTEL: “Will this distinction adversely impact access to the incumbents?” Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the FCC: “Yes.”

…On the FCCs March 19 approval of Verizons forbearance petition for relief from DSL regulation, during a Q&A at the Spring 2006 COMPTEL PLUS Convention & Expo


May

A federal judge agrees to review the AT&T-SBC and Verizon-MCI mergers using amendments to the 1974 Tunney Act as the cases foundation. Advocates for competition contend the transactions failed antitrust statutes.


June 1

Former COMPTEL lawyer Robert M. McDowell is sworn in as the FCCs third Republican commissioner. It is generally accepted that he will be recused from voting on the AT&T-BellSouth deal, given his work with competitive carrier association COMPTEL.


June 8

The U.S. House passes the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act without net neutrality provisions, setting the stage for backlash from the House Judiciary Committee, as well as Democrats and consumer advocates.

“Todays decision does not serve the interest of the nation, the consumers of today, or the Internet users of the future, and I am hopeful the mistake made here today can be undone before the full Senate.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, on the day the Senate Commerce Committee passes a sweeping telecom rewrite without protections for net neutrality. The bill has awaited a vote on the Senate floor ever since.


June 28

The Senate Commerce Committee approves Ted Stevens pet bill, the Communications, Consumers Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006. The bill is later combined with the House version and given a dual title: Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunities Reform Act and the Communications Act of 2006. Members shoot down a net neutrality provision while also voting to eliminate state oversight of consumer protections for wireless customers. The bill does not reach the full Senate floor by Novembers mid-term elections, essentially flatlining its chance for passage in 2006, if at all.


August

Congress goes on a month-long break. DSL providers stop contributing to the USF. VoIP providers start.


Oct. 13

The FCC delays a vote on the AT&T-BellSouth merger until early November. Democratic Commissioners Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps protest the lack of conditions imposed on the proposed transaction, as do a number of companies and associations. A flurry of emergency motions helps stall the deal. AT&T provides a list of concessions it is willing to meet, although most critics consider them too little too late.

Links
AT&T Inc. www.att.com
BellSouth Corp. www.bellsouth.com
Cingular Wireless LLC www.cingular.com
COMPTEL www.comptel.org
FCC www.fcc.gov
Qwest Communications International Inc. www.qwest.com
US LEC www.uslec.com
U.S. House www.house.gov
U.S. Senate www.senate.gov
Verizon Communications Inc. www.verizon.com

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