Eshoo runs into high Internet access fees

Smaller companies say they are forced to pay exorbitant rates to the big phone companies, which control most of the country’s high-capacity fiber lines. AT&T and Verizon say their rates are competitive and fair.

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Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), whose district includes many tech companies in Silicon Valley, had heard the complaints about the high rates, but had never personally dealt with the issue until her office considered signing up for a high-bandwidth system to communicate with West Coast constituents.

Eshoo’s office wanted to set up Cisco’s “telepresence” system, a video conferencing product that would beam high-quality video feeds between Eshoo’s Palo Alto and Washington offices. She thought it would be a great way to meet virtually with companies and constituents during the week, when she is on Capitol Hill.

But her staff soon found out that connecting the product to an AT&T line, the sole provider in her district, would cost upwards of $10,000 a month.

Needless to say, those plans are on hold for the time being. But the experience also got Eshoo, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on technology and Internet issues, more interested in the special access problem. Expect her to be more vocal on the issue in the future.