- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

If all goes according to schedule, today the Republican majority in the House will bring a modern day Trojan horse onto the floor for a vote. HR 1542, Reps. Billy Tauzin and John Dingell's "Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act" is not a gift, and members of Congress should be not deceived.

The Trojan horse is an epic story:

For years, the Greeks battled the Trojans but could not overcome the impenetrable walls surrounding the city of Troy. So they built a giant horse as a peace offering and left it behind as the army sailed away from the scene of the battle. The citizens of Troy accepted the gift and brought it through the gates of the city. While they slept, the Greek soldiers that had been hiding in the hollow belly escaped, killed the Trojan sentries, and allowed the Greek army which had only pretended to leave the battle to enter the city. Troy had fallen.

Supporters of HR 1542 have asked their fellow representatives to believe that the legislation is a gift to their constituents that it will make broadband available to lots of Americans. The four giant Bell monopolies promise that, if Congress guts the 1996 Telecommunications Act and decimates the ability of the states to take action against the Bell monopolies' bad behavior, American consumers will benefit from services offered solely by their companies services carried by an infrastructure "gifted" to the Bells after the break-up of AT&T in 1984 that will no longer be shared with competitors. What the Republican leadership of the House fails to understand is that HR 1542 is a Trojan horse that would even impress the Greeks.

What's inside this hollow bill? In a recent alert from an AFL-CIO subsidiary the Communications Workers of America members of the union were urged to contact their members of Congress in support HR 1542. The reason? "Passage of the Tauzin-Dingell bill would give the Baby Bells an opportunity for their management expertise to enter the long distance field. These unionized companies could then expand and give job opportunities to our membership." This was followed by a legislative alert by the AFL-CIO urging its members to support Tauzin-Dingell. These are the same "members" who have given over 99 percent of their campaign contributions to Democratic candidates in an attempt to elect Al Gore and return the House and Senate to a Democratic majority.

And for the Bells, HR 1542 finally gets them through the only barrier that has prevented them from extending their monopoly business beyond local phone service and into Internet access and long distance. They will be free from regulators that have fined them nearly $2 billion in the last six years for anti-competitive business practices and poor service. With the codification of their monopoly status, the Bells will be unfettered from the mostly non-unionized pesky small and medium sized competitors that can offer the same services as the Bells, often at lower prices and with higher quality.

Just like the horse the Greeks built for the unsuspecting citizens of Troy, HR 1542 is nothing but a hollow promise that has been built by a partnership between big labor and monopoly businesses. With the American economy creating today's small high-tech businesses and hopefully tomorrow's tech success story, HR 1542 is a throwback to the past a time earlier in the last century when big labor and big monopolies dominated the American business landscape.

The irony of HR 1542 even being scheduled for a vote in a Republican Congress is too great to ignore; the legislation props up old-style industrial monopolies and a big labor constituency that would like nothing more than to see a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

Conservatives should beware of big labor and monopolies bearing gifts.

Malcolm Wallop served in the U.S. Senate for three terms, representing the state of Wyoming.

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