Proposed bill sparks DSL-cable battle

WASHINGTON: The telecom industry is embroiled in a PR battle over a

bill that would lift restrictions on local telephone companies that

provide high-speed Internet access, an arena currently dominated by

cable companies.



Both sides of the debate - long-distance companies and local providers -

have formed coalitions to rally support, some presenting themselves as

grassroots movements.



Local companies, including Verizon, Qwest and the four Baby Bells, have

formed ConnectUSA and Keep America Connected, and are also conducting

public affairs activities through their trade group, the US Telecom

Association.



Meanwhile, the cable companies, including AT&T, have created Voices for

Choices, which is using Virginia-based Creative Response Concepts to

help turn public sentiment against the bill.



Cable companies currently provide 70% of high-speed Internet access

lines to homes in America. DSL lines, provided by local telephone

companies, account for the other 30%.



Local service providers claim that they operate under restrictions that

provide cable and long-distance companies an unfair advantage in the

market.



Cable and long-distance companies counter that local providers have yet

to open their markets up to competition, as stipulated by the 1996

Telecommunications Act, and should not yet be allowed to compete in the

high-speed Internet access market.



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