Here we go again. Last year, the 103rd Congress failed to pass the much-promised and highly touted telecommunications reform legislation aimed at bringing the antiquated Communications Act of 1934 into the 21st century. Now it's up to the 104th Congress, and both parties have draft legislation ready to go.
In February, Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD) (em chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (em introduced the "Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995," designed to accelerate deployment of advanced telecommunications and information technologies by opening markets to competition.
Two weeks later, the Democrats, led by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC), who chaired the Commerce Committee last year, released their 99-page reform proposal, "Universal Service Telecommunications Act of 1995."
According to Sen. Pressler, the Republican draft is a product of bipartisan teamwork, which makes him "confident" that Congress will enact a major deregulation bill during the first six months of the year, and perhaps as early as Easter. The draft proposes a three-year transition to the new competitive rules. In the first year, Phase I, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the states would:
s Remove barriers to entry
s Implement interconnection and opening requirements
s Establish separate subsidiary and safeguard requirements
s Establish a universal service support scheme.
They would also reform foreign ownership limits on a reciprocal basis. Where markets are competitive, the FCC and the states would be excused from regulating.
During Phase II, the second and third years, they would: