On this fifth Anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996,
it is clear that the dream of its creators - to deliver lower prices
for local phone services, and speed up the deployment of advanced
networks - is still a mirage for the overwhelming majority of America's
phone customers. And recent events all point to a serious crisis
in telecommunications and broadband deployment.
The facts are clear - The Baby Bells are still monopolies, and
they are unfairly using their market dominance and control of the
local phone networks to close out DSL and local telecom competition.
Also, their longstanding promises to deploy advanced network services
and facilities remain unfulfilled, even though the Bells were able
to leverage these promises to hold onto high retail rates from the
inflationary '70s and '80s, resulting in massive Bell profits over
the last decade - and continuing today.
We believe the Bells' practices are harming America's economic
growth, not to mention phone and DSL customers. It is time to enforce
the Telecom Act - and amend it if need be - and not let the Bells
kill America's Broadband Future.
This document sets out the "Broadband Bill of Rights" - statements
of law and policy that are to some extent already inherent in state
and federal telecommunications law, but which seem to have been
lost in the shuffle of Bell mega-mergers and unceasing Bell efforts
to stonewall local competition. These rights should be reaffirmed
by state and federal legislators and regulators, and should be implemented
immediately. This statement of rights was created by Bruce Kushnick,
Executive Director of New Networks Institute, Joe Plotkin, Director
of Marketing/DSL, Bway.net, two respected Washington lawyers who
shall remain nameless, George Mason, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson
Telephone users - consumers and businesses - have the inalienable
and unencumbered right to broadband access via the local phone networks
to all areas of the public Internet, including the World Wide Web.
| 2. Choice
Telephone users have the right to a competitive environment which
gives them real choices as to the provider of broadband access and
the technical means used to provide such access, including:
- Choice of speed and product (SDSL, ADSL, T-1, etc.)
- Choice of vendor (Local ISP, National ISP, CLEC, Building-CLEC,
ILEC, Cable MSO, etc.)
- Choice of technology or platform (cable modem, DSL, wireless
| 3. Timeliness
||Telephone users have the right to a rapid, trouble
free installation of physical infrastructure for broadband access,
and the right to substantial monetary compensation from any provider
who imposes on the user's time and patience by failing to provide
such an installation
| 4. Availability
||Telephone users have the right to expect facilities
to be available for broadband access, even where the telephone company
has to build new wiring to meet their needs.
| 5. Accurate Information
Telephone users have the right to receive accurate and timely information
from their broadband supplier, including:
- A transparent system and user-friendly system to determine service
availability so consumer can make reasonable choices about what
services to order.
- Easy and user-friendly access to accurate information regarding
the state of the particular supplier's physical infrastructure
that will be used to provide servic
| 6. Reliability
||Every telephone user has the right to high-speed
connections with a 99% reliability rate. Barring extreme circumstances
such as floods or ice storms, broadband service outages should be
extremely rare, and extremely brief when they occur. Every telephone
user has the right to rely on broadband service for essential and
time-sensitive personal communications, 24x7x365.
| 7. Customer Services
||Every telephone user has the right to have broadband
services repaired in full no later than the day after the outage is
reported. Providers of broadband services have the obligation to have
enough people ready and able to make repairs that meet this requirement,
and the obligation to have the automated systems in place to rapidly
pinpoint problems so that repair people can be quickly and properly
deployed. Where a repair requires a visit to the customer's home or
business, the customer has a right to a firm commitment from the provider
that the repair people will arrive and complete their work within
an agreed four-hour window - seven days a week - and a right to real
monetary compensation from the provider if this obligation is not
| 8. Real Broadband
||Every telephone user has the right to receive the
broadband speed contracted for at least 95% of the time. "Network
congestion" is not an explanation for why contracted-for speeds are
not delivered: it is, and should always be treated as, an admission
by the provider that it has failed to meet its obligation to deploy
the facilities needed to deliver the services for which the customer
has paid and that the provider has agreed to deliver.
| 9. Enforcement and
||Every telephone user has a right to have all laws
and requirements on the telephone company actively enforced. The telephone
company should be required to make substantial monetary compensation
to the customer for failures to perform as promised; for provider
failures to arrive for installation or repair during the promised
4-hour window; and for any lack of network resources leading to customer
services below the promised levels.
| 10. Broadband True-Up
Telephone users collectively - the public - has the right to an
immediate review of all previous Bell promises to deliver an "upgraded,"
"high-speed," "advanced," or "digital" network over the last decade.
The public has a right to know why the Bells are still whining to
Congress and regulators about still more hand-outs and special benefits
they are demanding in exchange for providing "advanced" services
and networks that should have been provided years ago under special
regulatory and legislative deals struck in the late 1980s and 1990s.
These immediate review of Bell failures to deliver on past promises
must include an explanation of:
a. Why Bells have failed to deploy advanced networks in
a timely and reasonable fashion.
b. How many billions of dollars the Bells have collected under
"alternative regulation" and "incentive regulation" plans that
were implemented in reliance on unfulfilled Bell promises to deploy
optical fiber and offer high-speed services to consumers and small
c. Precisely how much money has been spent providing advanced
facilities such as optical fiber for schools, libraries, hospitals,
prisons, government agencies, residential customers, and business
customers; how many actual customers in those categories have
truly received any benefits from those expenditures; and how those
expenditures and plant placements have supposedly benefited those
d. The total network equipment write-offs the Bells have enjoyed
for their copper and other telecom plant; a strict accounting
of the tax benefits those write-offs have created; and an explanation
of how and whether those tax benefits have been flowed through
to the benefit of customers.
e. An detailed review of the Bells' actual plant in service and
a true-up of that review with the FCC's audits finding that billions
of dollars of plant - that for years was used to justify higher
rates to customers, higher rates that persist today in the guise
of "price regulation" based ultimately on inflated costs - simply
does not exist.
f. A strict accounting of the tax benefits that the Bells have
enjoyed by virtue of taking year of depreciation expenses on the
non-existent plant revealed in the FCC's audits.
g. A detailed accounting to assure that Bell DSL services are
not being cross-subsidized - to the detriment of entrepreneurial
competitors - with inflated revenues received from consumers of
| 11. Equal Access
to the Customer --- Marketing Parity
||Every telephone customer has the right to fair and
competitive options for DSL service from multiple ISPs and CLECs,
along with services from the ILEC. To secure this right, ILECs shall
not enter into discriminatory sweetheart DSL deals - whether hidden
behind "volume commitments," "preferential marketing arrangements,"
or otherwise - with affiliated ISPs or favored third parties.
| 12. Divestiture
||Telephone users have the right to prompt vindication
of all of the rights enumerated here. They have not been fully secured
even though it is five years from the passage of the Telecom Act of
1996. If these rights have not been fully secured one year from now
- whether by reason of Bell dithering, litigation, lobbying or otherwise
- then telephone users can fairly presume that monopoly control of
local loops cannot safely be in the same hands of a company offering
switching, long distance, or other services. Consequently, at that
time state and federal regulators should promptly force the Bells
to divest themselves of their local loop plant to a firm that should
be jointly owned by all providers of local telephone service and jointly
administered for the benefit of all customers, irrespective of their
chosen service provider.
| 13. Competitive
Broadband Bill of Rights
All of the above rights shall apply to residential and business
customers, as well as their suppliers including: any Competitive
Local phone companies (CLEC), Internet Service Providers, (ISPs)
Network resellers, or other competitors to the local phone companies.