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Tauzin to push long-distance data bill

After talking about it for months, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) finally plans to introduce legislation this week that would allow phone companies to offer long-distance data services even if the FCC hasn't yet allowed them to offer long-distance voice services.

Tauzin plans to move the bill quickly, holding a full committee hearing on the measure this Wednesday and a subcommittee vote Thursday. The witness list wasn't available at press time Monday, but sources say AT&T General Counsel Jim Cicconi is expected to testify as is Verizon's Tom Tauke.

The National Cable Television Association plans to stay neutral on the legislation and will not be represented at the hearing.

Tauzin and committee ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced almost exactly the same bill last Congress, gathering support from more than 225 cosponsors. But former House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-Va.)-known for being one of AT&T's champions-did not support the measure, and he let it languish in committee. Tauzin and Dingell, on the other hand, both tend to support the regional phone companies. - Paige Albiniak