Tells Congress to Lift the Obstacles that Thwart Competition in the Internet Market and Unleash Competition
WASHINGTON - GTE Executive Vice President and General Counsel Bill Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee today and told members of the Committee to remove the obstacles in place today that constrain competition and support the bills introduced by Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) that promote competition.
At the hearing, Barr told the Committee that the Internet is not only becoming the most important communications medium in the country, but also a vital key to the nation's economic vitality and daily life. The Internet has thrived in an unregulated environment, however there are significant threats that could hinder competition and the open nature of the Internet. "The Internet market currently suffers, however, from severe constraints on competition caused by ad hoc and irrational government regulation that has been lifted from the telephone and cable television markets and haphazardly applied to the very different Internet market," Barr said.
Barr described two of the problems facing the Internet today. The first is that "existing law prevents one set of competitors - local telephone companies - from competing freely in the Internet market, thus insulating cable companies from full competition." The second is that cable companies are employing an age-old anti-competitive tactic of tying their services together enabling cable companies to leverage control from one market into others. Essentially, AT&T and the cable giants are requiring consumers who want broadband access transport to purchase the cable company's affiliated ISP, meaning those consumers who want to choose another ISP have to pay twice.
"It's stunning that the same two players - AT&T and the cable giants - who employed anti-competitive tactics in the past, are trying to do the same thing now: combine into one huge firm using these tactics to dominate the Internet, which is the telecommunications marketplace of the 21
"In the end, the fundamental issue is how to allow the consumer to communicate with and obtain information from anyone anywhere in the world. Will Congress side with AT&T and the cable giants and allow a replay of the 20
th century - this time with the Internet market rather than the telephone market? Or will Congress heed the lessons of history and ensure open access, freedom of choice, interconnection, and competition on the Internet? We believe the right decision is clear, that Congress should ensure open access and free and fair competition on the Internet."
With 1998 revenues of more than $25 billion, GTE is a leading telecommunications provider with one of the industry's broadest arrays of products and services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states and wireless service in 17 states, as well as nationwide long-distance, directory, and internetworking services ranging from dial-up Internet access for residential and small-business consumers to Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies. Outside the U.S., the company serves customers on five continents. More information about GTE can be found at www.gte.com.