Amends the Communications Act of 1934 (the Act) to establish a general duty of telecommunications carriers (carriers): (1) to interconnect directly or indirectly with the facilities and equipment of other carriers; and (2) not to install network features, functions, or capabilities that do not comply with specified guidelines and standards. Sets forth the obligations of local exchange carriers (LECs), including the duty: (1) not to prohibit resale of their services; (2) to provide number portability; (3) to provide dialing parity; (4) to afford access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way consistent with pole attachment provisions of the Act; and (5) to reestablish reciprocal compensation arrangements for the transport and termination of telecommunications. Imposes additional obligations on incumbent LECs (incumbent LEC requirements), including the duty to: (1) negotiate in good faith the terms and conditions of agreements; (2) provide interconnection at any technically feasible point of the same quality they provide to themselves, on just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions; (3) provide access to network elements on an unbundled basis; (4) offer resale of their telecommunications services at wholesale rates; (5) provide reasonable public notice of changes to their networks; and (6) provide physical collocation, or virtual collocation if physical collocation is impractical. Directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete, within six months, all actions necessary to establish regulations to implement such requirements. States that nothing precludes the enforcement of State regulations that are consistent with those requirements. Requires the FCC to create or designate one or more impartial entities to administer telecommunications numbering and to make such numbers available on an equitable basis. Directs that the cost of numbering administration and number portability be borne by all carriers on a competitively neutral basis. Exempts a rural telephone company from incumbent LEC requirements until such company has received a bona fide request from interconnection, services, or network elements and the State commission determines that such request is not unduly economically burdensome, is technically feasible, and is consistent with universal service provisions, except the public interest determination. Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) State termination of the exemption and the establishment of an implementation schedule; and (2) limits on the exemption. Authorizes an LEC with fewer than two percent of the subscriber lines installed in the aggregate nationwide to petition for a suspension or modification of specified requirements for the telephone exchange service facilities specified in the petition. Directs the State commission to grant such petition to the extent that it is necessary to avoid significant adverse economic impacts on users of telecommunications services or to avoid imposing an undue economic burden or a technically infeasible requirement, where such suspension or modification is in the public interest. Provides for the continued enforcement of exchange access and interconnection requirements. Authorizes an incumbent LEC to voluntarily negotiate and enter into a binding agreement with a requesting carrier without meeting incumbent LEC requirements. Directs that such agreement: (1) include a detailed schedule of itemized charges for interconnection and each service or network element included in the agreement; and (2) be submitted to the State commission. Permits any party negotiating such an agreement to ask a State commission to participate in the negotiation and to mediate any differences arising in the course of the negotiation. Authorizes the carrier or any other party to the negotiation, from the 135th through the 160th day after the date on which an incumbent LEC receives a request for negotiation, to petition a State commission to arbitrate any open issues. Sets forth provisions regarding the duty of the petitioner, opportunity to respond, action by the State commission, refusal to negotiate, standards for arbitration, and pricing standards. Requires any interconnection agreement adopted by negotiation or arbitration to be submitted for approval to the State commission. Sets forth provisions regarding grounds for rejection, preservation of authority by the State commission, the schedule for decision, failure of the State commission to act, and review of State commission actions. Authorizes a Bell operating company (BOC) to prepare and file with a State commission a statement of the terms and conditions that such company generally offers within that State to comply with incumbent LEC requirements and applicable regulations and standards. Sets forth provisions regarding State commission review, the schedule for review, and authority to continue review. Specifies that submission or approval of the statement shall not relieve a BOC of its duty to negotiate the terms and conditions of an agreement regarding interconnection. Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) consolidation of State proceedings; (2) a required filing by the State commission; and (3) availability of any interconnection, service, or network element provided under an approved agreement to which the LEC is a party to any other requesting carrier on the same terms and conditions as those provided in the agreement. Preempts any State and local statutes, regulations, or requirements that prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting any entity from providing interstate or intrastate telecommunications services. Preserves a State's authority to impose, on a competitively neutral basis and consistent with universal service provisions, requirements necessary to preserve and advance universal service, protect the public safety and welfare, ensure the continued quality of telecommunications services, and safeguard the rights of consumers. Authorizes a State, without violating the prohibition on barriers to entry, to require a competitor seeking to provide service in a rural market to meet the requirements for designation as an eligible carrier. Makes this provision inapplicable to: (1) a service area served by a rural telephone company that has obtained an exemption, suspension, or modification that effectively prevents a competitor from meeting such requirements; and (2) a provider of commercial mobile services. Requires: (1) the FCC to institute and refer to a Federal-State Joint Board a proceeding to recommend changes to any of its regulations to implement specified requirements, including the definition of the services that are supported by Federal universal service support mechanisms and a specific timetable for completion of such recommendations; (2) one member of the Board to be a State- appointed utility consumer advocate nominated by a national organization of State utility consumer advocates; and (3) the Board, after notice and opportunity for public comment, to make its recommendations to the FCC within nine months. Directs the Board and the FCC to base policies for the preservation and advancement of universal service on: (1) availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates; (2) access to advanced telecommunications and information services to all regions of the nation; (3) access and costs in rural and high cost areas that are reasonably comparable to that provided in urban areas; (4) equitable and nondiscriminatory contribution by all telecommunications services providers; (5) specific and predictable support mechanisms; (6) access to advanced telecommunications services for schools, health care, and libraries; and (7) such other principles as the Board and the FCC determine are in the public interest. Defines "universal service" as an evolving level of telecommunications services that the FCC shall establish periodically, taking into account advances in telecommunications and information technologies and services. Requires all carriers providing interstate telecommunications services to contribute to the preservation and advancement of universal service. Authorizes the FCC to exempt a carrier or class of carriers if their contribution would be "de minimis." Provides that only designated eligible carriers shall be eligible to receive specific Federal universal service support. Grants States authority to adopt regulations not inconsistent with the FCC's rules. Requires all providers of intrastate telecommunications to contribute to universal service within a State in an equitable and nondiscriminatory manner, as determined by the State. Permits a State to adopt additional requirements with respect to universal service in that State as long as such requirements do not rely upon or burden Federal universal service support mechanisms. Directs: (1) the FCC, within six months, to adopt rules to require that the rates charged by providers of interexchange telecommunications services to subscribers in rural and high cost areas shall be no higher than those charged by each such provider to its subscribers in urban areas; and (2) such rules to require that a provider of interstate interexchange telecommunications services provide such services to its subscribers in each State at rates no higher than those charged to its subscribers in any other State. Requires a carrier, upon receiving a bona fide request, to provide telecommunications services: (1) which are necessary for the provision of health care services in a State, including instruction relating to such services, to any public or nonprofit health care provider that serves persons who reside in rural areas in that State at rates that are reasonably comparable to those charged for similar services in urban areas in that State; and (2) for educational purposes included in the definition of universal service for elementary and secondary schools and libraries at rates that are less than the amounts charged for similar services to other parties, as necessary to ensure affordable access to and use of such services. Permits a carrier providing such service to have an amount equal to the amount of the discount treated as an offset to its obligation to contribute to the mechanisms, or receive reimbursement utilizing the support mechanisms, to preserve and advance universal service. Directs the FCC to establish competitively neutral rules to: (1) enhance access to advanced telecommunications and information services for all public and nonprofit elementary and secondary school classrooms, health care providers, and libraries; and (2) define the circumstances under which a carrier may be required to connect its network to such public institutional telecommunications users. Specifies that: (1) telecommunications services and network capacity provided to health care providers, schools, and libraries may not be resold or transferred for monetary gain; and (2) for-profit businesses, elementary and secondary schools with endowments of more than $50 million, and libraries that are not eligible to participate in State-based plans for funds under the Library Services and Construction Act are ineligible to receive discounted rates. Requires the FCC and the States to ensure that universal service is available at rates that are just, reasonable, and affordable. Prohibits a carrier from using services that are not competitive to subsidize those that are subject to competition. Requires the FCC, with respect to interstate services, and the States, for intrastate services, to establish any necessary cost allocation rules, accounting safeguards, and guidelines to ensure that services included in the definition of universal service bear no more than a reasonable share of the joint and common costs of facilities used to provide those services. Requires that: (1) if readily achievable, manufacturers of telecommunications and customer premises equipment ensure that equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be, and providers of telecommunications services ensure that service is, accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities; and (2) whenever such requirements are not readily achievable, such a manufacturer or provider shall ensure that the equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by such individuals to achieve access, if readily achievable. Directs the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board to develop guidelines for accessibility of telecommunications and customer premises equipment in conjunction with the FCC and to review and update the guidelines periodically. Requires the FCC to establish procedures for its oversight of coordinated network planning by carriers and other providers of telecommunications service for the effective and efficient interconnection of public telecommunications networks used to provide such service. Authorizes the FCC to participate in the development by industry standards-setting organizations of public telecommunications network interconnectivity standards that promote access to public telecommunications networks used to provide service, network capabilities and services by individuals with disabilities, and information services by subscribers of rural telephone companies. Directs the FCC to: (1) complete a proceeding for the purpose of identifying and eliminating market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the provision and ownership of telecommunications and information services, or in the provision of parts or services to providers of such services; (2) seek to promote the policies and purposes of the Act favoring diversity of media voices, vigorous economic competition, technological advancement, and promotion of the public interest; and (3) periodically review and report to the Congress on any regulations prescribed to eliminate such barriers and the statutory barriers that it recommends be eliminated, consistent with the public interest. Prohibits a carrier from submitting or executing a change in a subscriber's selection of a provider of telephone exchange service or telephone toll service except in accordance with such verification procedures as the FCC shall prescribe. Makes any carrier that violates such procedures and collects charges for such a service from a subscriber liable to the carrier previously selected by the subscriber in an amount equal to all charges paid by such subscriber after such violation. Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations that require incumbent LECs to share network facilities, technology, and information with qualifying carriers where the qualifying carrier requests such sharing for the purpose of providing telecommunications services or access to information services in areas where the carrier is designated as an essential carrier. Establishes the terms and conditions of such regulations. Requires LECs sharing infrastructure to provide information to sharing parties about deployment of services and equipment, including software. Prohibits any LEC subject to interconnection requirements under this Act from: (1) subsidizing its telemessaging service directly or indirectly from its telephone exchange service or its exchange access; and (2) preferring or discriminating in favor of its telemessaging service operations in its provision of telecommunications services. Directs the FCC to establish procedures or regulations thereunder for the expedited receipt and review of complaints alleging violations that result in material financial harm to providers of telemessaging services.
Specifies that a common carrier designated as an "eligible telecommunications carrier" shall: (1) be eligible to receive universal service support; and (2) throughout the service area for which the designation is received, offer the services that are supported by Federal universal service support mechanisms either using its own facilities or a combination of its own facilities and resale of another carrier's services, and advertise the availability of such services and the charges therefor using media of general distribution. Requires a State commission to designate such a carrier for the service area. Authorizes (in the case of an area served by a rural telephone company) or requires (in the case of all other areas) the State commission to designate more than one common carrier as an eligible carrier for a service area designated by the State commission, as long as each additional requesting carrier meets the requirements of this section and such designation is in the public interest. Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) designation of eligible carriers for unserved areas; and (2) relinquishment of universal service (in areas served by more than one eligible carrier).
Amends the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA) to allow registered holding companies to diversify into telecommunications, information, and related services and products where the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) determines that a registered holding company is providing telecommunications, information, and other related services through a single purpose subsidiary, designated an "exempt telecommunications company" (ETC). Requires prior State approval before any utility that is associated with a registered holding company may sell to an ETC any asset in the retail rates of that utility as of December 19, 1995. Specifies that the ownership of ETCs by registered holding companies shall not be subject to prior approval or other restriction by the SEC, but the relationship between an ETC and a registered holding company shall remain subject to SEC jurisdiction, with exceptions. Requires any registered holding company or subsidiary thereof that acquires or holds the securities, or an interest in the business, of an ETC to file with the SEC such information as the SEC may prescribe concerning: (1) investments and activities by the registered holding company, or any subsidiary thereof, with respect to ETCs; and (2) any activities of an ETC within the holding company system that are reasonably likely to have a material impact on the financial or operational condition of the holding company system. Prohibits public utility companies from assuming the liabilities of an ETC and from pledging or mortgaging the assets of a utility for the benefit of an ETC. Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) protection against abusive affiliate transactions; and (2) non-preemption of rate authority. Prohibits reciprocal arrangements to avoid the provisions of this section among companies that are not affiliates or associate companies of each other. Authorizes State commissions to: (1) examine the books and records of the ETC and any public utility company, associate company, or affiliate in the registered holding company system as they relate to the activities of the ETC; and (2) order an audit of a public utility company that is an associate of an ETC.
Amends the Act to specify that a purpose of the Act is to make available service to all the people of the United States without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.