NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 61 September 21, 2000
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


ACTION ALERT: Act Now to Keep Internet Access Affordable!
About NetAction Notes

Act Now to Keep Internet Access Affordable!

ACTION ALERT: September 21, 2000

Urge the House Commerce Committee to Vote "No" on HR 4445

Legislation that could significantly increase the cost of Internet access was quietly approved on September 18, 2000 by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection. H.R. 4445, a little-known bill sponsored by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) would end a telephone industry cost reimbursement arrangement that has helped keep Internet access charges affordable for consumers. With less then three weeks before the end of the current legislative session, Internet service providers and other opponents of the bill are concerned that the bill might slip through Congress as an attachment to a year-end appropriations bill. Lobbyists for the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) are working hard to get the bill approved before the session ends.

HR 4445, the Reciprocal Compensation Adjustment Act of 2000, is bad news for consumers. The full House Commerce Committee could consider HR 4445 as early as next Tuesday, September 26, 2000. Internet users should contact House Commerce Committee members immediately and urge them to oppose HR 4445.


Background On HR 4445:

HR 4445 would end a cost reimbursement system that local telephone companies use when different companies handle a single phone call. The system is known as reciprocal compensation. In its simplest terms, reciprocal compensation is an arrangement by which the caller's telephone company reimburses the call recipient's telephone company for costs associated with completing calls.

For example, an Internet user gets local phone service from Pacific Bell, and uses an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that gets service from Pac West, a competitor to Pacific Bell. When the Internet user dials in to her ISP, Pacific Bell must pay Pac West for the cost of completing the call.

Congress required competing local phone companies to negotiate these arrangements as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. When the terms were negotiated, the Bell companies demanded high fees because they assumed that they would be paid to complete calls that were started by competitive companies.

But their assumptions were wrong. Most consumers get phone service from the Bells, while many ISPs have switched to competitive companies. So the Bells have had to pay billions of dollars to the competitive companies that complete the millions of calls that consumers make to ISPs when they go online. But rather than pay up, the Bells are lobbying Congress to change the rules -- rules they willingly agreed to when they assumed they were going to benefit from them.

If Congress approves HR 4445 and ends the reciprocal compensation system, competitive phone companies will lose a significant source of cash flow and will be forced to charge ISPs more for phone service. If the ISPs pass those increases on to their customers, as expected, it poses a threat to affordable dial-up Internet service -- especially in rural and low-income areas.

Millions of Americans are using the Internet today because the cost of dial-up service is affordable. Price competition is so intense, in fact, that some ISPs offer service for free. This is an important factor in bringing technology to low income and rural communities, and bridging the digital divide.

What You Can Do:

HR 4445 may be considered by the full House Commerce Committee as soon as next Tuesday, September 26, 2000. A list of Commerce Committee members is included below. Please call fax a letter TODAY to one or more of the committee members, and urge a "no" vote on HR 4445.

What To Tell The House Commerce Committee:

Be brief. Here are some suggested talking points:

Who To Contact:

Committee Chair:
Tom Bliley, VA
Phone: 202-225-2815Fax: 202-225-0011
Michael Oxley, OHPhone: 202-225-2676Fax: N/A
Michael Bilirakis, FLPhone: 202-225-5755Fax: 202-225-4085
Joe Barton, TX Phone: 202-225-2002Fax: 202-225-3052
Fred Upton, MI Phone: 202-225-3761Fax: 202-225-4986
Cliff Stearns, FLPhone: 202-225-5744Fax: 202-225-3973
Paul Gillmor, OHPhone: 202-225-6405Fax: 202-225-1985
James Greenwood, PAPhone: 202-225-4276Fax: 202-225-9511
Christopher Cox, CAPhone: 202-225-5611Fax: 202-225-9177
Nathan Deal, GA Phone: 202-225-5211Fax: 202-225-8272
Steve Largent, OKPhone: 202-225-2211Fax: 202-225-9187
Richard Burr, NCPhone: 202-225-2071Fax: 202-225-2995
Brian Bilbray, CAPhone: 202-225-2040Fax: 202-225-2948
Ed Whitfield, KYPhone: 202-225-3115Fax: 202-225-3547
Greg Ganske, IA Phone: 202-225-4426Fax: 202-225-3193
Charles Norwood, GAPhone: 202-225-4101Fax: 202-225-0279
Tom Coburn, OK Phone: 202-225-2701Fax: 202-225-3038
Rick Lazio, NY Phone: 202-225-3335Fax: 202-225-4669
Barbara Cubin, WYPhone: 202-225-2311Fax: 202-225-3057
James Rogan, CA Phone: 202-225-4176Fax: 202-225-5828
John Shimkus, ILPhone: 202-225-5271Fax: 202-225-5880
Heather Wilson, NMPhone: 202-225-6316Fax: 202-225-4975
John Shadegg, AZPhone: 202-225-3361Fax: 202-225-3462
Chip Pickering, MSPhone: 202-225-5031Fax: 202-225-5797
Vito Fossella, NYPhone: 202-225-3371Fax: 202-226-1272
Roy Blunt, MO Phone: 202-225-6536Fax: 202-225-5604
Ed Bryant, TN Phone: 202-225-2811Fax: 202-225-2989
Robert Ehrlich, MIPhone: 202-225-3061Fax: 202-225-3094
Ranking Democrat:
John Dingell, MI
Phone: 202-225-4071Fax: 202-226-0371
Henry Waxman, CAPhone: 202-225-3976Fax: 202-225-4099
Edward Markey, MAPhone: 202-225-2836Fax: N/A
Ralph Hall, TX Phone: 202-225-6673Fax: 202-225-3332
Rick Boucher, VAPhone: 202-225-3861Fax: 202-225-0442
Edolphus Towns, NYPhone: 202-225-5936Fax: 202-225-1018
Frank Pallone, NJPhone: 202-225-4671Fax: 202-225-9665
Sherrod Brown, OHPhone: 202-225-3401Fax: 202-225-2266
Bart Gordon, TN Phone: 202-225-4231Fax: 202-225-6887
Peter Deutsch, FLPhone: 202-225-7931Fax: 202-225-8456
Bobby Rush, IL Phone: 202-225-4372Fax: 202-225-0333
Anna Eshoo, CA Phone: 202-225-8104Fax: 202-225-8890
Ron Klink, PA Phone: 202-225-2565Fax: 202-226-2274
Bart Stupak, MI Phone: 202-225-4735Fax: 202-225-4744
Eliot Engel, NY Phone: 202-225-2464Fax: 202-225-5513
Tom Sawyer, OH Phone: 202-225-5231Fax: 202-225-5278
Albert Wynn, MD Phone: 202-225-8699Fax: 202-225-8714
Gene Green, TX Phone: 202-225-1688Fax: 202-225-9903
Karen McCarthy, MOPhone: 202-225-4535Fax: 202-225-4403
Ted Strickland, OHPhone: 202-225-5705Fax: 202-225-5907
Diana DeGette, COPhone: 202-225-4431Fax: 202-225-5657
Tom Barrett, WI Phone: 202-225-3571Fax: 202-225-2185
Bill Luther, MN Phone: 202-225-2271Fax: 202-225-3368
Lois Capps, CA Phone: 202-225-3601Fax: 202-225-5632

For more background see "Lobbying could hike Net costs" at: (NOTE: this URL is no longer valid as of 05/23/2001).

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