FCC Chairman postponed a critical vote on telecom issues:
- FCC staffers, under direction from Powell, crafted a proposal last fall that would have effectively forced AT&T Corp., WorldCom Inc. and other companies to abandon their plans to enter the local telephone business by leasing lines from companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. In addition, the staff proposal would have rolled back the ability of fledgling competitors to provide high-speed Internet service over the local phone network.
But a rival proposal put forward by commissioner Kevin J. Martin derailed the staff recommendation after it attracted the support of the agency’s two Democratic commissioners, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein.
….Martin’s compromise proposal would give state regulators the power to write the rules governing how much of the local telephone network must be made available to competitors. It would also require that local telephone companies provide their rivals with the ability to deliver Internet service to their customers at speeds equivalent to 1.5 megabits per second — about 10 times as fast as a dial-up modem.
….lobbyists and lawyers who have spent the past several months petitioning the agency say there is little chance that Martin will be swayed, given the support he has from the White House. One source said the Bush administration views Martin as a moderating influence on Powell, who has been openly critical of rules that allowed competitors to sign up 10 million customers in the past three years. “My guess is that he represents the political interests of the White House,” the source said.
Tom Hazlett, a former chief economist for the FCC who supports Powell’s deregulatory efforts, said a decision to delay the vote is a sign that Powell is struggling in his role as chairman. “This does say something about Powell and his ability to overcome the natural political inertia that accompanies every big decision at the FCC,” he said. [Washington Post]