DSL Deregulation Effort Sparks Opposition
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A consumer group and an IT trade group are asking the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to reconsider an anticipated move toward deregulating DSL (digital subscriber line) broadband service.
The FCC could soon begin the process of removing requirements that the nation's four giant incumbent telecom carriers share their DSL lines with competing Internet service providers.
But an FCC decision to deregulate DSL could drive many ISPs out of business, says the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a trade group representing several Internet firms. The FCC would "condemn consumers to higher prices, fewer choices, lower service quality, and reduced innovation" if it removes the line-sharing rules, Harris Miller, ITAA president, said in a statement.
FCC chair Kevin Martin said last month he had pitched a proposal to the rest of the commission to ease DSL line-sharing requirements after the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision to uphold an earlier FCC decision to exempt cable TV providers from giving ISPs access to cable modem lines.
The four large incumbent telecom carriers--often called the regional Bells--have long argued that the FCC was treating them unfairly by requiring them to allow competitors to use their DSL lines, while cable companies offering similar broadband services were not required to allow competitors to use their lines. Representatives of Verizon Communications and SBC Communications, two of the regional Bells, did not immediately respond to a request for comment today, but the Bells have suggested that the line-sharing agreements discourage their investment in new services and features for their broadband products.
But Consumers Union, a national consumer group, says DSL deregulation could cause broadband prices to rise and give consumers fewer choices. With Martin's support, a move toward DSL deregulation is "regrettable and inevitable," says Kenneth DeGraff, policy analyst for Consumers Union. He is calling on the U.S. Congress to overrule the FCC when the commission moves forward with DSL deregulation.
"Now the FCC is applying the cable modem model of high prices, no competition, and spotty service to DSL," DeGraff says. "Congress needs to decide if they want deregulation or competition. Consumers benefit from competition, not deregulation of uncompetitive industries."
The ITAA is asking the FCC to avoid a "hasty" DSL decision, with Miller calling a vote in the next couple of months "premature and ill-considered."