The growth of the Internet will be restricted unless the local telephone market is thrown open to full competition, according to the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In a speech to the IEEE Symposium at Stanford University, Reed Hundt warned that the existing telephone line infrstructure - which was designed to handle "three-minute phone calls" not hours of online access - was adding to the problem of network congestion.
Hundt - the chief US telecomms industry regulator - called on Congress to ensure the monopolies that control the local telephone networks are made to free up their lines for high speed digital communications.
As one of his final acts as outgoing regulator, Hundt last month put in motion an inquiry into the slow progress being made in deregulating the local telephone market and encouraging competition in the sector.
"Many major companies are delaying or cancelling plans to compete," he warned. "A year and a half after the opening of California's telephone markets, only about one per cent of consumers are taking phone service from anyone but the traditional monopolist."
"There's only one sure way to solve the congestion problem," he added. "Open and agressive and efficient competition."
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