Originally created 01/31/98

FCC chief wants to untangle Internet congestion



WASHINGTON -- The nation's top telecommunications regulator wants to help ease the World Wide Wait on the Internet.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard doesn't have a plan yet but said Friday that he intends to start looking into ways to give companies incentives to provide more high-speed connections into homes. That would help ease congestion on the Internet.

"One issue that I'm particularly interested in is finding ways that we can foster more investment in high-capacity bandwidth. I believe that our nation will have an ever-increasing appetite for bandwidth -- for high capacity data transmission capabilities," he told reporters during a briefing on his top goals for the year.

Kennard also said the FCC should consider streamlining regulations to give companies incentives to build these networks.

On Tuesday, Bell Atlantic Corp. asked the FCC to stop states from regulating Internet services and sought permission to build high-speed networks to carry Internet traffic in its local phone region, which stretches from Maine to Virginia.

Kennard said the FCC would consider Bell Atlantic's proposal as part of a broader proceeding to ease Internet congestion. Kennard also said he wants to collect other ideas to solve the congestion problem.

"We have in this country already 40 million households that have home computers and most of those computers have more computing power than can be accommodated by the pipe into the home," Kennard said. "So we've got to find ways in this country to increase bandwidth capacity."

As Internet usage soars, so does congestion on the telecommunications networks that people use to tap into the Internet and for data communications.

While a voice phone call lasts on average three or four minutes, people are online an average of 28 minutes. To handle the flood of Internet and other data traffic, telephone companies say they need to upgrade their networks, which were originally designed to handle voice, not data.

Faster connections into the home could be achieved in several ways, including making high-speed digital telephone lines called ISDN more available and less expensive; using "ADSL" technology that has the potential to provide lightening-quick connections over regular phone lines; and using coaxial cable with special modems.