|The Ensign bill is a mess. It's what you get when lobbyists write a bill and try to obscure its details, or hide clauses that would not be popular if they were discussed much. |
It is full of silly definitional problems, like ">64 kbps = broadband". It puts a price cap on "local" basic residential telephone service but removes, under fuzzy circumstances, the equal access obligation for LD services, and does not cap those rates. So you might be able to call your next door neighbor for free but your monopoly LEC can charge a buck a minute to call the next town over. Your only recourse would be VoIP or, perhaps, overdialing Execunet-style, though even that might be blocked.
The bill regulates the contents of services provided by ISPs, again with wording that a Bell could adapt as it wanted. While equal access to legit LD providers is taken away, blocking access to VoIP providers is generally forbidden. That's the Official Alternative. And there could be loopholes to that requirement.
Interconnection between "narrowband" (POTS) providers is initiallly under a "uniform" rate structure, or commercial agreement, with no state involvement allowed. Transit among carriers (use of the ILEC tandem) is largely deregulated. Both are totally deregulated after five years, so an ILEC then has the right after five years to cut off access to all CLECs, full stop. There's no preservation of the PSTN. Wire is property, full stop.
Copper loop unbundling is preserved, but only for simon-pure copper home run loops, and that at "commercially reasonable", not cost-based, rates. All other UNEs are abolished. Resale at avoided cost remains. BUT both of those obligations (loops and resale) end in 2011. Wire is property, full stop. Absent mandated interconnection, investment in alternative plants would, of course, be hard to justify, even if it weren't a natural monopoly.
Video provider franchises are abolished, but a 5% local fee is allowed.
All told, this is basically the USTA's bill. It ends all local competition in five years, and cripples it in the meantime. The sole exception will be for cablecos whose market share is so great by then that the ILEC can't afford to disrupt its own ratepayers' service but cutting them off. ISPs are simply all abolished by fiat, right away; there's literally no place for them in this framework. IXCs are dealt out entirely too. One ILEC, one cableco, and maybe a wireless company -- the bill calls for intermodal competition, and abolishes intramodal competition.
I'm assuming we'll see a lot of different bills thrown on the table. I personally think that the pro-competitive forces should draft their own bill, via a friendly M.C., with the same level of specificity. (We old government majors can lend a hand.)