FCC Boss Urged to Stop Collecting Internet Fees

Article excerpt

Congressional leaders from both houses yesterday urged Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard to cease FCC collections of fees to pay for Internet connections to schools and libraries.

The FCC "ignored" congressional priorities by establishing a fund that will cost consumers and businesses $20 billion over the next decade, the lawmakers said in a letter to Mr. Kennard.

The FCC should halt further adoption of rules concerning the schools and library fund and the collection of fees, which critics have dubbed the "Gore tax" after the technology-minded vice president, the leaders said.

"This is not what we intended when Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996," they said. "We believe it is too late for the commission to rescue itself merely by tinkering with a fundamentally flawed and legally suspect program."

The letter was signed by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and Commerce Committee chairman; Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat and Commerce ranking minority member; Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr., Virginia Republican and House Commerce Committee chairman; and Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat and Commerce ranking minority member.

Long-distance companies already collect fees from businesses to connect schools and libraries to the Internet. But next month they plan to start collecting fees from consumers, which is setting up a showdown between Congress and the FCC over this issue.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on the issue Monday. All five commissioners are expected to testify Wednesday at a Senate reauthorization hearing, which is expected to focus on the "Gore tax. …