NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FCC Blocks Full Internet Access For Millions

May 15, 2000

President Clinton has recently highlighted the need to connect more Americans to the Internet, referring to the "digital divide," that is, the gap between Internet haves and have nots. However, critics say his plan for closing the gap -- asking corporations to donate computers and supplies, funding federal programs and paying "volunteers" to spread the Internet gospel -- falls short of the mark because it fails to address a fundamental cause of the digital divide. In this case, it's the one caused by federal regulations and the inaction of the Federal Communications Commission.

  • While millions of individuals and companies in large cities can perform complex, high-speed Internet operations, tens of millions of Americans in rural and less populated areas lack the necessary high-speed broadband connections.
  • The biggest cause of these roadblocks, critics say, is federal regulations prohibiting regional phone companies such as Bell Atlantic and BellSouth from transporting telephone calls and digital Internet traffic across state lines and arbitrary local access boundaries called LATA lines.
  • These regulations make the operation and expansion of broadband Internet links expensive and limit the number of communities those companies can connect.
  • As a result, other companies are unable or unwilling to keep up with the demand, and thousands of Americans lack the Internet access they desire.

With the barriers down, phone companies could increase the quality and speed of Internet connections for millions of Americans while decreasing costs. But critics charge the FCC has overstepped the intention of Congress by issuing the regulations. Moreover, they say, the agency continues to flout the law by failing to exercise properly a provision of the 1996 Telecommunications Act requiring it to remove such counterproductive regulations.

Source: Bob Goodlatte (U.S. Rep., Virginia), "Clinton Overlooks the Real Reason For Digital Divide: Growing Regulation," Investor's Business Daily, May 15, 2000.


Browse more articles on Government Issues