Just as the Baby Bells are making the most of information services opened up to them by a court ruling last year, Washington legislators are considering putting an end to their fun. Texas Democrat Jack Brooks, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to introduce a bill to limit their involvement in the industry […]
Just as the Baby Bells are making the most of information services opened up to them by a court ruling last year, Washington legislators are considering putting an end to their fun. Texas Democrat Jack Brooks, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to introduce a bill to limit their involvement in the industry sector and reverse the ruling. The Wall Street Journal reports that the bill will be based on an anti-trust legislation, and also, it would stymie their entry into long distance transmission or equipment manufacturing markets. Other industry sectors don’t want the Bells to encroach on their markets, but Brooks is unlikely to get it all his own way. Michigan Democrat John Dingell, head of the Energy & Commerce committee, has prepared a number of draft bills that would let the Bells into the information services market, but additionally, into telecommunications equipment manufacturing, albeit with stringent controls. The debate has led to some strange bedfellows with AT&T Co in opposition and worried that the Bells would make serious inroads into its long distance markets and manufacturing. Ivan Seidenberg, vice-chairman of Nynex Corp, at a meeting of Brooks’ committee said that the restrictions of the 1982 consent decree breaking up the Bell System have outlived their usefulness. He claims that cellular phone and cable television are creating real competition in local phone service, so he has every right to seek greener pastures. Rubbing salt in the wound, Seidenberg went on to claim that unless the Bells were given more leeway, the US telecommunications infrastructure would fall behind that of other countries. This raised the hackles of AT&T chairman Robert Allen, who said the regionals have been gnawing at the restrictions, a piece here and a piece there, even while their local monopolies remain. He said AT&T will now support enforcing the 1982 restrictions so long as the regional Bell companies retain their local monopolies. Meanwhile, Newsbytes reports that Dan Bruns, head of General Videotex Inc, which runs the Delphi service and which recently acquired Bix, has taken the Bells’ side. He says they should be able to provide information services so long as the services aren’t subsidised by the regulated phone operations. The debate promises to be a long one and while the legislature argues the Bells are busy establishing themselves in the disputed territories.