• Kyodo

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A group of seven U.S. lawmakers has urged the government to consider blocking a plan by a subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to acquire a U.S. Internet company, according to their letter to U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, released Thursday.

In the letter, dated May 25, Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana and six other Republican congressmen said that as long as Japan’s telecom market is closed to competition, “NTT’s proposed acquisition of a major U.S. Internet backbone cannot stand.”

They urged the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to join the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission in prying open Japan’s telecom market.

“We look forward to working with you to ensure that this proposed combination will not result in a competitive disadvantage to U.S. carriers and that such combination will not result in higher prices for Internet services for U.S. consumers,” the letter said.

The congressmen were putting pressure on Japan to compromise in the ongoing dispute with Washington over the interconnection fees NTT charges.

“The failure of the government of Japan to live up to its commitments under the World Trade Organization basic telecom accord has resulted in patently anticompetitive behavior by NTT, the dominant Japanese telephone carrier,” the congressmen’s letter said.

In early May, NTT Communications Corp. unveiled a plan to buy Verio Inc., a Colorado-based Web site manager.

In bilateral deregulation talks, Japan proposed a 22.5 percent reduction in the NTT access charges over four years, but Washington is demanding a deeper cut over a shorter period.

U.S. Trade Representative Barshefsky has said the United States will file the issue with the WTO unless Japan offers a compromise plan by July 28.

“When the United States committed to open our market to foreign carriers, it was with the expectation that U.S. carriers would be afforded comparable treatment in the foreign carriers’ home market,” the congressmen said.