Rural broadband bill hits Senate

Thu, 05/02/2002 - 8:00pm

The most vocal opponent of the Tauzin-Dingell bill, and the recently introduced Breaux-Nickels bill, Senator Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has thrown another broadband bill into the mix.

Hollings introduced the "Broadband Telecommunications Act of 2002," in the Senate yesterday. The goal of the bill is to foster "broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas through a program of loans and grants." Hollings suggests that a pool of federal dollars from existing telecommunications funding programs could be used to provide improved broadband connectivity. In specific dollar amounts, he is asking for $250 million for underserved communities, $50 million for educational institutions and $200 million in grants to digitize library and museum content collections.

Coming out in support of the bill, Covad Communications' head honcho Charles Hoffman said that "instead of allowing the phone companies to regain their monopoly status as proposed by other prominent broadband bills, Hollings' proposal would spur rural deployment in a way that would encourage fair competition among broadband providers and ensure choice for consumers."

The Senator has vowed to defeat the Tauzin-Dingell bill, dubbed the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act. The bill is designed to lift requirements that Baby Bells open their broadband networks to competitors. Earlier this week, Senators John Breaux (D-La.) and Don Nickels (R-Okla.) introduced a bill in the Senate to give more market freedom to Bell phone companies. The "Broadband Regulatory Parity Act of 2002" is designed to eliminate regulations on phone companies providing DSL services. Hollings has said these bills would extend the Baby Bells' monopoly.


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