Telecommunications:

Technological and Regulatory Factors Affecting Consumer Choice of Internet Providers

GAO-01-93: Published: Oct 12, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 19, 2000.

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The degree of consumer choice among Internet providers has emerged as a key public policy issue. Because laws and regulations governing these different networks were generally tailored to the specific services each network originally supported, different types of communications providers are held to different rules when providing physical transport to the Internet. As a result of both technology and regulation, consumers using the telephone network as a way to access the Internet may have a choice of transport provider and generally have significant choice of Internet service provider (ISP). Consumers generally have broad access to Internet portals, applications, and content, either from their ISP or directly from the Internet itself, regardless of the transport provider or ISP they have chosen.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress and the Federal Communications Commission are now directly looking to deal with the problem that similar services provided over different networks that receive different legal and regulatory treatment. Accordingly, this recommendation should be closed-not implemented.

    Matter: In light of the convergence occurring in the communications market and the disparate regulatory treatment of functionally equivalent services provided over different networks, Congress may wish to consider whether statutory or regulatory action is needed at this time. For example, Congress may wish to consider amending the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure that both existing and emerging services provided over different networks are regulated in a comparable manner, while also recognizing the historical, commercial, and regulatory structure of the respective communications network sectors, and each network's technological capabilities.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FCC currently has an open proceeding on open access, which is one of the issues that arises from the stovepiped nature of communications law. Both Congress and the Federal Communications Commission are now directly looking to deal with the problem that similar services provided over different networks that receive different legal and regulatory treatment. Accordingly, this recommendation should be closed-not implemented.

    Matter: In light of the convergence occurring in the communications market and the disparate regulatory treatment of functionally equivalent services provided over different networks, Congress may wish to consider whether statutory or regulatory action is needed at this time. For example, Congress may wish to consider directing the Federal Communications Commission to convene a public-private advisory committee or working group to develop recommendations on the appropriate regulation of existing and emerging services that are functionally similar but provided over different networks.

 

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