Innovative, small service providers thrived after the Acts’ passage, yet the large incumbent Bell companies made it very difficult for Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and other newcomers to compete in their geographical footprints. The classic battle between these rebels and “The (monopolistic) Empire” played out for six years without further regulatory interference. Then the Empire struck back with the Tauzin-Dingell bill, HR1542.
In my book, I cite the Advanced TelCom Group story , a compelling narrative of a new service provider that repeated itself over and over across the United States. Like New Edge Networks, ATG’s target markets were communities with populations less than 250,000 people, ones that the larger incumbent telcos ignored, either because there was not enough money to be had in the smaller markets or because they were too busy fighting off the larger CLECs challenging them in the bigger metropolitan areas.
During 1999, ATG was opening up two or three new service markets every quarter. The company, founded in 1998, boasted how it would bring advanced telephone services and higher speed Internet connectivity to mid-sized markets that had been ignored by the Bell Operating Companies, such as Pacific Bell’s slow roll out of enhanced services in Santa Rosa .
I wrote, “It seemed that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was having the desired effect. New markets were being opened to competition and new players were satisfying the needs of a larger swath of the telecom-buying public.”
By 2002, the Bell companies’ intense lobbying efforts in Congress were making headway to put a lid on innovation and attempt to control this new thing called the Internet. “The Bells want to use HR 1542 to reverse the 1996 Telecommunications Act, paving the way for re-monopolizing the local phone and Internet markets,” said Cbeyond Communications CEO Jim Geiger, in 2002 . “Gone would be competitive choices for a local phone provider, and local phone service and high-speed Internet connection prices will rise. This could be devastating to very small businesses (1–5 lines of local service) that finally have been able to acquire and afford communication services they need to run their businesses in today’s market.”
Geiger continued, “Most importantly there will be little incentive for the Bell companies to provide the innovative products and services that competitive companies like mine have delivered since passage of the 1996 Act.”
And Dan Moffat pointed out the insincere motivation of the Bell companies, “There was nothing to prevent large incumbent carriers from deploying broadband facilities before the 1996 Act and there’s nothing to stop them today.”
One lesson learned from the late 1990s was the importance of eliminating stifling regulation in order to stimulate innovation in new services and new products for greater availability to the public. The talented and nimble fighters for good – the jedi of startup service providers – could benefit consumers.
It seems that the return of the “jedi” in the 2010s, for wireless access, in particular, could once again make telecom services for the average consumer more affordable, just as it did during the early 2000s for Internet access.
 Fiber Optics News, Bells, Opponents Spar on Controversial Tauzin-Dingell Bill, March 4, 2002, p.7.
 Advanced TelCom Group (ATG), a CLEC born of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, was on solid financial footing at the outset of the new millennium, having secured more than $440 million in venture capital funding and debt financing. This financial backing fueled their market penetration and customer growth, while Cerent’s next generation optical transport provided both local and regional connectivity, which further enhanced ATG’s business case.
 We produced the proposal for ATG in October 1998 and secured this business by April 1999, culminating in an agreement with Lucent regarding interoperability of the Cerent 454 with Lucent’s 5ESS digital switch. At the outset, we were so short of sales people that I (Rob Koslowsky) assumed the temporary role of salesman until Dave Cesca arrived on the scene in early 1999.