Executives from several Voice over Internet Protocol and broadband internet service providers urged the US House of Representatives on Tuesday to pass HR 3914, a bill that would make it harder for companies to avoid Federal Communications Commission anti-competitive practice rules. Under current rules, if a telecom company files a petition to be exempted from an FCC competition-related rule, the exemption is typically granted by default unless the FCC explicitly denies the request. The result, according to the broadband and VoIP companies, is that traditional phone companies can effectively obstruct competitors' access to consumers and maintain de-facto service monopolies. An identical bill is being considered by the Senate.
The testimony came before the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, chaired by Rep. Edward Markey. At the center of of the witnesses' complaints was the so-called "last mile" of service - local telephone poles and other systems that are owned by traditional phone companies and deliver internet, cable, and phone service directly to customers' homes. Despite rules that prohibit them from excluding competitors from utilizing these government-subsidized systems, non-traditional telecom companies say the so-called "Baby Bells" have disconnected copper phone lines they depend upon, and charge exorbitant rates for the addition of competing, non-cable broadband wires.