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Telecom Bill Prompts GOP Discord

The Telecommunications Reform Act of 1995 was hammered into final form Thursday, but some House Republicans are still grumbling about the bill's regulatory nature and probably won't finalize the proposal by next week as expected.

    WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Telecommunications Reform Act of 1995 was hammered into final form Thursday, but some House Republicans are still grumbling about the bill's regulatory nature and probably won't finalize the proposal by next week as expected.

    Vice President Al Gore's statement that the GOP had satisfied "every single one" of the White House's objections angered some Republicans, who said the implication was that the GOP had caved in.

    The bill, analysts say, is likely to translate into lower costs for consumers eventually.

    However, passage of the bill will also mean layoffs for many employees of telephone and cable companies, and a winnowed group of competitors after a new round of mergers and acquisitions.

    Overall, the bill's passage will have a positive effect, said one analyst. "This passage will open the market for different players, including the cable companies and telecommunication providers," said Rob Enderle, analyst at Giga Research, a market-research firm in San Jose, California.

    Cable companies will offer fast asymetrical network services for video-on-request at lower prices, predicts Enderle. From the phone companies, consumers should expect to see lower-priced videoconferencing with better resolution. According to Enderle, the complexity of the bill has caused a lot of confusion among consumers. "It will provide more choices for the consumer," he added.

    "Consumers will have a dizzying array of choices--not immediately--it will take a while. They will have more choices in terms of phone services but they'll get them from fewer companies," said Nate Zelnick, senior analyst with Jupiter Communications, a market research company in New York. Look for the lightning pace of mergers and acquisitions among companies to continue, said Zelnick. "It's inevitable and bad for people in the industry, but we're looking at monopolies that were founded on different technology bases many years ago," he noted.

    On the other hand, the bill may be good for business, but it's bad for consumers, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF officials claim the revised provisions included in the bill will not protect or promote public interest.