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Tauzin touts telco dereg

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) thinks a potential merger between Comcast Corp. and AT&T Broadband showcases why Congress should deregulate incumbent phone companies' high-speed data offerings.

"Frankly, the Baby Bells would be about the only ones with the resources and infrastructure necessary to battle the remaining cable giants," says Ken Johnson, Tauzin's spokesman.

Key House staffers are pushing to get the bill to the House floor after campaign finance reform and before the coming August recess. With Congress leaving town for a month and coming back only a month or two before adjournment, the last two weeks in July might prove to be the bill's last chance for a floor vote this year.

"Billy remains confident that the bill will not only reach the House floor but that it will be approved by a wide margin," Johnson predicts. That said, the bill still appears dead-on-arrival in the Senate, where it has stiff opposition from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and other key committee members. "This is a political war and we're advancing one foxhole at a time. We'll deal with the Senate once we get it through the House," Johnson says. - Paige Albiniak