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50 Federal Communications Law Journal 53 (1997)


Prior to the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, policymakers sought funding and regulatory mechanisms capable of fulfilling the vision of an Information Superhighway. Vice President Gore, the Clinton Administration's point person on the issue, initially proposed assessing fees on other sectors of the telecommunications industry to fund construction. Meanwhile, conservatives asserted that deregulation of the industry would achieve the desired result. A compromise ultimately was reached: the 1996 Act requires local exchange carriers to unbundle their networks and provide access at a reasonable cost to competitors. The use of regulatory formulas in lieu of taxes to subsidize a national vision is not new, but must be recognized and restrained. Policymakers should estimate the budget for the entire proposal and then decide how to assess costs among targeted beneficiaries in an open and accountable fashion.