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
Both sides of the debate - long-distance companies and local providers -
have formed coalitions to rally support, some presenting themselves as
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
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
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.