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House puts off Tauzin-Dingell vote until March

Wed, 12/12/2001 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

The U.S. House of Representatives put off until March a vote on the Tauzin-Dingell bill, CEDaily has learned.

The decision comes after lengthy speculation that the House would vote favorably as early as tomorrow.

Covad President and CEO Charles Hoffman says the delay comes after House members received more details on the bill, including a suggestion that cable companies allow open access, and decided to scrutinize the bill more closely.

"March is a much better position for us," Hoffman says, who has testified in hearings on the bill. He says the company will remain active on the issue over the next several months.

As recently as this morning, tension was up regarding the bill's on-again, off-again vote, potentially this month. With just days to decide, conflicting stories were flying out of the House faster than representatives during an anthrax alert. The key point: Would there be a vote tomorrow or not?

According to news reports, House Majority leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) yesterday said HR 1542, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001,was tentatively scheduled for a Friday vote.

But a spokeswoman for Covad Communications, a DSL provider and active participant in the proceedings, said earlier today the bill was pulled from House floor consideration this week.

Covad Assistant General Counsel Jason Oxman said earlier today that a decision depends on "whether Congress will be here tomorrow. The status is it's scheduled for tomorrow."

Oxman noted House members haven't had a chance to see all of the bill's wording, since amendments are still due to the Rules Committee today.

Spokesmen for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce did not return calls. Committee Chair W.J. "Billy" Tauzin is a sponsor of the bill.

The bill has generated extensive coverage, particularly lately, as factions from both sides weigh in on its merits or lack of them. Observers expect the House to approve the bill, but it faces more opposition in the U.S. Senate, where Commerce Committee Chair Fritz Hollings is a key opponent.

With the bill, Baby Bells seek to eliminate linesharing provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires them to open their lines to competition. The Act also places bundling restrictions on the Bells that they say don't apply to cable, satellite and wireless. The bill is hotly contested by CLECs and other service providers who say halting linesharing would eliminate competition and re-establish the Bells' monopoly, in data now and in voice later.

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