Summary: S.1822 — 103rd Congress (1993-1994)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate with amendment(s) (09/14/1994)


Title I: Protection and Advancement of Universal Service

Title II: Telecommunications Investment

Title III: Regulatory Reform

Title IV: Authorized Activities of Bell Operating


Subtitle A: Telecommunications Equipment Research and

Manufacturing Competition

Subtitle B: Regulation of Alarm Services and Electronic

Publishing by Bell Operating Companies

Subtitle C: Information Services and Payphone Services

Subtitle D: InterLATA Telecommunications Services

Title V: Regulatory Parity Among Providers of Cable Service

Title VI: Customer Control Over Information

Title VII: Media Diversity

Title VIII: Obscene, Harassing, and Wrongful Utilization of

Telecommunications Facilities

Title IX: Advanced Telecommunications Network Capability

Communications Act of 1994 - Title I: Protection and Advancement of Universal Service - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 (the Act) to set forth principles on which the Federal-State Joint Board and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shall base policies for the preservation and advancement of universal service.

(Sec. 102) Requires the FCC to establish a Universal Service Fund which shall have Federal and State mechanisms to provide sustainable support for maintaining and advancing universal service. Permits only telecommunications carriers designated as carriers of last resort to be eligible to receive payments from the Fund.

Directs the FCC to establish guidelines to be implemented by States to allow for rate adjustments by existing universal service providers necessary to implement the universal service rules.

Requires the FCC to ensure that the rates charged by interexchange telecommunications service providers to consumers in rural and high cost areas are maintained at levels no higher than those charged to consumers in urban areas.

Bars telecommunications carriers from subsidizing competitive services from revenues obtained from non-competitive services.

(Sec. 103) Requires the FCC to require owners and operators of telecommunications networks to reserve, for public uses, up to five percent of the capacity on such networks used for information services for use by eligible entities at incremental cost based rates for the delivery of such services to the public. Reserves such capacity in exchange for the use of public rights-of-way accorded telecommunications networks.

Makes the following entities eligible for access to such capacity: (1) specified elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education; (2) public telecommunications entities; (3) public and nonprofit libraries; and (4) nonprofit organizations that are formed for the purpose of providing nondiscriminatory public access to noncommercial educational, informational, cultural, civic, or charitable services.

(Sec. 104) Directs a telecommunications carrier designated as a carrier of last resort to provide universal service, upon request, to any public or non-profit elementary and secondary school, library, health care facility, museum, public broadcast station, and other public institutional telecommunications users that contribute to the public's quality of life. Provides for preferential rates for telecommunications and information services to public institutional telecommunications users. Prohibits users receiving universal services or services at a preferential rate from reselling such service or from aggregating such services.

Title II: Telecommunications Investment - Requires consumers in rural and noncompetitive markets to have access to high quality interoperable telecommunications network facilities and capabilities that are available at reasonable, nondiscriminatory rates. Provides FCC preemptive authority over conflicting State or local statutes or regulations in such regard. Encourages telecommunications carriers and equipment manufacturers to develop standards which ensure the interconnection, interoperability, and reliability of such networks.

(Sec. 201) Allows the FCC to develop such standards only if industry participants fail to reach agreement. Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations that: (1) permit joint network planning, design, and implementation among all telecommunications carriers, cable television companies, railroads, and electric, gas, water, and other utilities in the same geographic area; and (2) require specified local exchange carriers to share public switched network infrastructure, facilities, and functions with requesting carriers which lack the economies of scale or scope and provide universal service to all consumers without preference throughout the area for which such carriers have been designated carriers of last resort.

Requires telecommunications carriers to ensure that advances in network services are accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities unless the cost of accessibility would result in an undue burden or adverse competitive impact.

Directs the FCC to complete an inquiry into policies and regulations that address the access needs of individuals with speech disabilities for purposes of developing more effective ways to incorporate current specialized consumer product equipment devices into the nation's telecommunications infrastructure and to address the speech-to-speech translation needs of individuals with significant voice disabilities.

Requires the FCC to adopt regulations to allocate a local exchange carrier's cost of deploying broadband telecommunications facilities between local exchange service and competitive service.

Directs the FCC to ensure that access to telecommunications services is not denied to any group of potential subscribers because of race, gender, national origin, income, age, or residence in a rural or high-cost area.

Title III: Regulatory Reform - Bars any State or local statute, regulation, or legal requirement from prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide interstate or intrastate telecommunications services.

Prohibits local governments from imposing or collecting any fee as a condition for operating in the locality or for obtaining access to or crossing public rights-of-way from any telecommunications carrier that distinguishes between or among such carriers. Preempts any inconsistent State or local requirement.

(Sec. 302) Requires the telecommunications carriers to provide certain access and services to providers of telecommunications equipment or entities seeking to provide services at reasonable, nondiscriminatory rates.

Directs the FCC to ensure that consumers: (1) are given information to make informed choices among telecommunications alternatives; and (2) have the opportunity to select their local exchange carrier by means of a balloting and presubscription process.

Requires the FCC to ensure that telecommunications carriers compensate each other for termination of telecommunications services on each other's networks.

Provides the FCC flexibility in applying certain regulations in any geographic market if: (1) enforcement is not necessary to ensure that charges, practices, or regulations are reasonable and nondiscriminatory; (2) enforcement is not necessary for consumer protection; and (3) forbearance from applying a regulation is consistent with the public interest.

Grants telecommunication carriers pricing flexibility in competitive markets, provided that rates for universal service and other services that are noncompetitive remain reasonable and nondiscriminatory.

Prohibits owners or managers of multi-unit buildings from forbidding or restricting building occupants or lessees from receiving telecommunications services from a provider of their choice who is authorized by a State regulatory agency.

Requires entities seeking to provide telephone exchange service in an area served by a rural telephone company to first obtain approval from the appropriate State commission to ensure compliance with relevant State statutes or regulations. Directs the FCC to promulgate regulations to permit State oversight of rural markets. Authorizes the FCC to preempt inconsistent or discriminatory State regulations.

Prohibits a rural telephone company, unless authorized to provide video programming directly to subscribers under the Act, from providing such programming or obtaining a controlling interest in a cable operator providing service in the telephone company's service area unless: (1) the State has not imposed any conditions on an entity's ability to provide telephone exchange service in such service area; (2) the company successfully petitions the State to waive any conditions on its ability to provide such service; or (3) an entity unaffiliated with the company obtains approval from the State to provide such service in the service area.

Waives or modifies certain obligations of telecommunications carriers (including unbundling requirements) and presubscription and balloting rights of consumers for rural telephone companies and carriers that have fewer than two percent of the nation's subscriber lines installed if such requirements would result in unfair competition or otherwise not be in the public interest.

Amends the Public Utility Holding Company Act to exempt communications entities from all provisions of such Act.

Permits registered holding companies to acquire and hold the securities or business interests of such entities without Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval.

Provides that the issuance of securities by a registered holding company for purposes of financing the acquisition of a communications entity, the guarantee of securities of such an entity by a holding company, and the creation or maintenance of other relationships between such an entity and company shall remain subject to SEC jurisdiction.

Authorizes such companies to petition the FCC to market telecommunications services directly provided by associate companies which are communications entities upon a showing that a cable operator or other entity provides such services and markets such services jointly with video programming services in the geographic region covered by the petition.

Prohibits public utility companies that are associate companies of registered holding companies and that are subject to the jurisdiction of a State commission with respect to retail electric or gas rates from including in such rates, without the approval of the State commission, any cost associated with the: (1) issuance of securities for purposes of financing the acquisition, ownership, or operation of communications entities; (2) the assumption of any obligation or liability as guarantor or otherwise in respect of any security of an entity; or (3) pledge or encumbering of utility assets for the benefit of such entities.

Amends the Federal Power Act to grant the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the power to disallow prospectively, for purposes of determining a just and reasonable rate for consumers, certain costs associated with transactions of a public utility holding company and an affiliated company pursuant to contracts regulated by the SEC.

Provides that the Public Utility Holding Company Act does not preempt State utility commission jurisdiction regarding the recovery by a public utility in its retail rates of costs it incurred pursuant to a transaction authorized by the SEC between an associate company and the utility.

Prescribes guidelines for the allocation of costs by the SEC, FERC, and State utility commissions in cross-jurisdictional transactions.

Declares that this Act does not: (1) affect Docket No. FA89-28; and (2) apply to costs incurred or recovered pursuant to certain contracts for the sale of fuel from Windsor Coal Company or Central Ohio Coal Company.

(Sec. 303) Grants the FCC exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the provision of direct broadcast satellite services.

(Sec. 304) Authorizes States to require direct broadcast satellite service providers subject to the personal jurisdiction of the State to collect and remit a State or local sales tax, or both, with respect to such services if: (1) the destination of such services is in the State; and (2) in a State in which both taxes are imposed, the State requires the collection of local taxes with respect to such services and administers such taxes except in specified local taxing jurisdictions. Permits States to require such providers to collect and remit local taxes to local taxing jurisdictions under certain circumstances.

Establishes conditions under which such providers may be exempt from collecting and remitting local taxes.

(Sec. 305) Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations for ensuring that utilities charge reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates for pole attachments provided to telecommunications services providers. Makes such regulations inapplicable to a pole attachment used by a cable television system solely to provide cable services. Makes existing determinations of just and reasonable rates applicable to pole attachments used solely for such purposes.

(Sec. 306) Requires the FCC to designate a common carrier as a carrier of last resort for unserved communities that request universal or interexchange services.

Establishes conditions under which such carriers are eligible for universal service support payments.

Imposes penalties on carriers that refuse to provide such services.

(Sec. 307) Prohibits the FCC from waiving any requirement of the Act applicable to telecommunications carriers or affiliates in any service area in Alaska in which such carriers or affiliates seek to provide telephone exchange or telephone exchange access service and directs the FCC to apply any such requirement immediately, even if it would otherwise not apply, if the carrier or affiliate: (1) owns or controls more than two percent of the telephone exchange or cable access lines in the United States; or (2) controls more than 40 percent of the U.S. market for interexchange services.

Title IV: Authorized Activities of Bell Operating Companies - Subtitle A: Telecommunications Equipment Research and Manufacturing Competition - Telecommunications Equipment Research and Manufacturing Competition Act of 1994 - Authorizes a Bell operating company (BOC), through an affiliate, to manufacture and provide telecommunications equipment, except that no BOC may engage in such manufacturing with an unaffiliated BOC.

(Sec. 402) Allows such manufacturing or provision to be conducted only through an affiliate that is separate from any BOC. Requires a manufacturing affiliate to maintain separate accounts and records from its affiliated BOC and identify all transactions with the BOC. Prohibits a BOC and any of its non-manufacturing affiliates from performing sales, advertising, installation, production, or maintenance operations for a manufacturing affiliate. Directs manufacturing affiliates to conduct all manufacturing within the United States and to use component parts manufactured in the United States unless specified requirements regarding good faith efforts to obtain such component parts in the United States and costs are met.

Bars more than 90 percent of the equity of the manufacturing affiliate from being owned by the affiliate BOC. Prohibits a manufacturing affiliate from incurring debt that would permit a creditor to have recourse to the BOC's assets. Requires manufacturing affiliates to make available any telecommunications equipment manufactured by such affiliates to any purchasing carrier, so long as each such purchaser does not manufacture such equipment or agrees to make available to the BOC or any of its affiliates any telecommunications equipment manufactured by such purchasing carrier or its affiliates.

Prohibits a manufacturing affiliate from discontinuing or restricting sales of telecommunications equipment to other regulated local telephone exchange carriers as long as there is reasonable demand for the equipment by the carriers. Permits the discontinuation or restriction of such sales if the affiliate demonstrates that it is not making a profit under a marginal cost standard implemented by the FCC.

Requires BOCs to: (1) engage in joint network planning and design with other regulated local telephone exchange carriers operating in the same area of interest; and (2) provide timely information on the planned deployment of telecommunications equipment to such carriers.

Directs the FCC to require each BOC to maintain and file with the FCC complete information with respect to the protocols and technical requirements for connections with and use of its telephone exchange service facilities. Prohibits a BOC from disclosing any such information to its affiliates unless such information is immediately so filed.

Requires the FCC to ensure that manufacturers in competition with a BOC's manufacturing affiliate have ready and equal access to information required for such competition that the BOC makes available to its affiliate.

Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations to require any BOC which has a manufacturing affiliate to: (1) provide to other manufacturers of telecommunications and customer premises equipment opportunities to sell such equipment to such BOC which are comparable to opportunities the BOC provides to its affiliates; (2) not subsidize its manufacturing affiliate with revenues from its regulated telecommunications services; and (3) only purchase equipment from its manufacturing affiliate at the open market price.

Allows a BOC and its affiliates to engage in close collaboration with any manufacturer of customer premises or telecommunications equipment during the design and development of hardware and software relating to such equipment.

Directs BOCs or their manufacturing affiliates to ensure that telecommunications and customer premises equipment is accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities. Requires BOCs or affiliates to ensure that such equipment is compatible with existing equipment used by disabled individuals unless doing so would result in an undue burden or adverse competitive impact.

Subtitle B: Regulation of Alarm Services and Electronic Publishing by Bell Operating Companies - Prohibits a BOC or its affiliates from providing alarm monitoring services for the protection of life, safety, or property. Allows a BOC to transport alarm monitoring service signals, but on a common carrier basis only. Allows a BOC or its affiliate, after five and one half years after the enactment of this Act, to petition the FCC for permission to provide alarm monitoring services. Authorizes the FCC to grant such permission beginning six years from the enactment of this Act, after certain findings by the FCC and the Department of Justice. Requires FCC regulation of such services. Provides for expedited consideration of complaints arising from a BOC's provision of such services and remedies.

(Sec. 422) Prohibits a BOC or its affiliate from providing electronic publishing that is disseminated by means of the basic telephone service of the BOC or affiliate. Allows a separated affiliate or joint venture to engage in electronic publishing if certain requirements are met concerning the separate business aspect of the separated affiliate or joint venture. Outlines specified requirements of a BOC under common ownership or control with a separated affiliate or joint venture which ensure that any transactions between the BOC and the separated affiliate or joint venture involving the provision of personnel, facilities, or services to aid in electronic publishing are offered on an equal basis to all unaffiliated entities.

Requires annual compliance reviews. Prohibits a BOC or its affiliate from providing to any electronic publisher, including separated affiliates or joint ventures, customer proprietary network information for electronic publishing use that is disseminated by the basic telephone service of the BOC or its affiliate unless such information is made equally available to all electronic publishers. Outlines permissible joint activities between a BOC and its separated affiliate, joint venture, affiliate or unaffiliated publisher, including joint telemarketing, nondiscriminatory teaming or business arrangements, and electronic publishing joint ventures.

Requires a written contract, recorded in the books and auditable, for transactions related to the provision of electronic publishing between: (1) a BOC and any affiliate; and (2) a BOC affiliate and a separated affiliate. Prohibits a BOC from having officers, employees, property, or facilities in common with any entity whose principal business is electronic publishing. Requires a BOC to provide equally to all entities any facilities, services, or telephone information disseminated through the BOC's basic telephone service which is provided to an entity that engages in electronic publishing. Provides a private right of action for violations of such electronic publishing requirements.

Subtitle C: Information Services and Payphone Services - Requires BOCs to make any gateway service available under nondiscriminatory rates and terms.

(Sec. 431) Defines a "gateway service" as an information service that, at the request of the provider of an electronic publishing or other information service, provides a subscriber with access to such service, utilizing the following functions: data transmission, address translation, billing information, protocol conversion, and introductory information content.

Restricts State or local regulation of information services, except as provided in titles II and VI of the Act.

(Sec. 432) Prohibits any BOC that provides payphone or telemessaging services from: (1) subsidizing such services with revenue from telephone exchange or exchange access services; and (2) discriminating in favor of its payphone or telemessaging services.

Subtitle D: InterLATA Telecommunications Services - Authorizes a BOC to engage in the provision of inter local access and transport area (LATA) (as defined in United States v. Western Electric Company) telecommunications services subject to specified requirements and approval by the Attorney General and the FCC.

(Sec. 441) Requires BOCs to provide interLATA services only through separate subsidiaries, except for services authorized by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Establishes nondiscrimination standards for BOCs with respect to unaffiliated entities seeking exchange access service. Sets forth requirements for separate subsidiaries with regard to separate sales and marketing, recordkeeping, rates, use of facilities, and credit.

Directs the FCC to prescribe uniform equal access and long distance presubscription requirements for providers of all cellular and two-way wireless services.

Allows BOCs to provide certain incidental interLATA services, including certain audio and video programming, commercial mobile services and signaling information.

Title V: Regulatory Parity Among Providers of Cable Service - Revises provisions regarding ownership restrictions to authorize local exchange carriers or their affiliates to provide video programming directly to subscribers through a cable system or a common carrier video platform in their telephone service area only if: (1) no State or local requirement prohibits the ability of any entity to provide interstate or intrastate telecommunications services in the area in which such carriers seek to provide such programming; (2) the FCC has adopted universal service regulations or 21 months have elapsed from this Act's enactment, whichever is earlier; and (3) such carriers are in compliance with specified competition and nondiscrimination requirements under title II. (Current law prohibits common carriers from providing such programming directly to subscribers in their telephone service areas.)

(Sec. 501) Authorizes such carriers to provide programming directly if: (1) the State in which a carrier seeks to provide such programming has implemented competition and nondiscrimination requirements similar to those under title II and the carrier is in compliance with such requirements; or (2) there is no enforceable statutory prohibition against such carrier providing such programming directly to subscribers.

Requires carriers providing video programming through cable systems or common carrier video platforms to do so only through separate subsidiaries. Prohibits cable operators from providing telecommunications services in their franchise areas unless such services are provided through separate subsidiaries. Exempts carriers and cable operators from such requirement if the FCC finds such requirement is not necessary to protect consumers or the public interest.

Makes this section's requirements inapplicable to local exchange carriers or cable operators providing service in rural areas.

Prohibits a local exchange carrier or its affiliate from acquiring more than a ten percent financial interest or any management interest in any cable operator providing service within its telephone service area. Provides the same limitation with respect to cable operator acquisition of interests in such carriers. Prohibits carriers and operators in the same market from entering into joint ventures or partnerships to provide video programming or telecommunications services.

Permits such entities to obtain controlling interests in one another to the extent that the systems or facilities do not serve: (1) places with more than 50,000 inhabitants; or (2) any territory included in an urbanized area as defined by the Bureau of the Census.

Authorizes the waiver of acquisition and joint venture restrictions if the carrier's service area or the operator's franchise area do not include either: (1) any place with more than 100,000 inhabitants or any territory included in an urbanized area; (2) the operator or carrier would be subjected to undue economic distress by enforcement of such restrictions or the related system or facilities would not be economically viable; and (3) the local franchising authority or the State commission approves of such a waiver.

(Sec. 502) Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations applicable to providers of common carrier video platforms to ensure that commercial broadcast stations have an opportunity to choose between mandatory carriage and reimbursement for retransmission of the signal of such stations.

(Sec. 503) Provides that cable operators or affiliates engaged in the provision of telecommunication services shall not be required to obtain a franchise.

Deems local exchange carriers seeking a cable franchise to have met certain financial assurance requirements if they have a certificate of authority to provide exchange service in the area in which they seek to obtain such franchise.

Title VI: Customer Control Over Information - Prohibits a local exchange carrier, except upon the customer's request, from: (1) using customer proprietary network information in the identification or solicitation of potential customers for any service or product other than the service from which such information is derived; or (2) disclosing such information in any affiliate of, or any other person that is not an employee of, such carrier except to bill for requested service.

(Sec. 601) Requires the carrier to: (1) notify the FCC of the availability of aggregate customer proprietary information it provides to an affiliate, its personnel, or any other person; and (2) provide such aggregate information on nondiscriminatory terms to any other provider, upon reasonable request.

Requires a carrier to provide subscriber list information on a timely and unbundled basis, under nondiscriminatory and reasonable rates and terms and upon reasonable request.

Directs the FCC to adopt rules to govern the practices of other telecommunications carriers with respect to the disclosure of customer use information to unaffiliated parties.

Requires any telecommunications carrier or affiliate providing automatic number identification (ANI) services to any person to provide such services under a contract or tariff containing telephone subscriber information requirements that: (1) permit such person to use the information provided for billing and collection, completion of the customer's call or transaction, or for services directly related to the customer's call or transaction; (2) prohibit such person from reusing or disclosing the information provided without the customer's consent; and (3) prohibit such person from disclosing, without the customer's consent, any information derived from such service for any purpose other than performing the services or transactions that are the subject of the customer's call, ensuring network performance, security, and the effectiveness of call delivery, compiling, using, and disclosing aggregate information, and complying with a court order or applicable law.

Title VII: Media Diversity - Requires the FCC to complete a proceeding to: (1) modify or remove national and local ownership rules on radio and television broadcast stations to ensure that broadcasters are able to compete fairly with other media providers and that the public receives information from a diversity of media sources; (2) review a certain ownership restriction with respect to cable operators and report to the Congress on whether such restriction serves the public interest; and (3) consider the applicability of the FCC's rules regarding network non-duplication protection, syndicated exclusivity protection, and sports programming exclusivity to programmers whose programs are transmitted on common carrier video platforms.

(Sec. 702) Directs the FCC, it it determines to issue additional licenses for advanced television services, to permit eligible licensees to make use of the advanced television spectrum for ancillary and supplementary services so long as they provide at least one advanced television program service without charge to the public.

(Sec. 703) Requires the FCC to prescribe regulations to ensure that video programming is fully accessible through the provision of closed captions, with exceptions in cases where such requirement would result in an undue economic burden to the provider or would be inconsistent with existing contracts.

Authorizes the FCC to adopt regulations to promote the accessibility of video programming to persons with visual impairments.

Title VIII: Obscene, Harassing, and Wrongful Utilization of Telecommunications Facilities - Applies the existing prohibition on obscene or harassing telephone calls to all forms of telecommunications and increases the penalties for such violations.

(Sec. 802) Increases penalties for: (1) obscene programming on cable television; and (2) broadcasting obscene language on radio.

(Sec. 804) Applies the ban on interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications to digital communications.

(Sec. 806) Directs cable operators, in providing video programming unsuitable for children to any subscriber through a cable system, to fully scramble or block the video and audio portion of each channel carrying such programming so that non-subscribers do not receive it.

(Sec. 807) Authorizes cable operators to refuse to transmit any public or leased access program which contains obscenity, indecency, or nudity.

Title IX: Advanced Telecommunications Network Capability - Directs the FCC to promote to all Americans the deployment of switched, broadband telecommunications networks capable of enabling users to originate and receive affordable and accessible high quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications services. Requires the FCC, if it finds that such capabilities are not being deployed to all Americans in a timely fashion, to prescribe regulations using incentives to promote such availability.