US House Passes Telecom Bill

riffjim4069

riffjim4069

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:up Net neutrality goes down to defeat as phone companies gain national pay-TV franchise.:up

The U.S. House of Representatives has handed the supporters of Net neutrality a stinging defeat by passing a bill that gives the phone companies almost everything they lobbied for but remains almost mum on the highly charged issue of Internet tolls.

The controversial Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE), which preserves responsibility for decisions on Net neutrality in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, was passed late Thursday by a vote of 321 to 101.

The bill, which got high-level support from the White House after its passage, also gives the phone companies national entrée into the pay-TV business. To date AT&T and Verizon Communications have been required to negotiate franchise rights with each municipality.

It is a time-consuming and expensive requirement for which the Bells have lobbied the federal government to remove and replace with a blanket, nationwide franchise. Under COPE, each municipality will be able to collect a 5 percent fee from pay-TV providers.

Even so, while crucial to the phone companies, franchising was the subplot of the telecommunications regulations drama that has occupied politicians and lobbyists for much of the past year.

Net Neutrality Drama

Net neutrality, the concept of an Internet where there are no tolls or special tiers, has been the story that has attracted the most attention, and its defeat in the House met with immediate and vociferous reaction from supporters.

“Special-interest advocates from telephone and cable companies have flooded Congress with misinformation delivered by an army of lobbyists to undermine the decades-long federal practice of prohibiting network owners from discriminating against competitors to shut out competition,” said Jeannine Kenney, policy analyst at Consumers Union.

Even this week’s visit to Capitol Hill by Google co-founder Sergey Brin failed to rescue Net neutrality in the House. Google, along with other high-tech companies, have long supported the Net neutrality forces (see Google's Net Freedom Ride).

But Mark Cooper, director of research for Consumer Federation of America, downplays Google’s level of exposure in the Net neutrality fight.

“This is not Google vs. AT&T,” he said. “CFA has been battling to keep the phone companies from putting tollbooths on the Internet since the early 1980s, but now every business and every consumer that uses the Internet has a dog in the fight for Internet freedom.”

With the House fight over, the Net neutrality forces plan to regroup and focus on the U.S. Senate as it too takes up the issue of telecommunications regulation.

“Unless the Senate steps in, [the House] vote marks the beginning of the end of the Internet as an engine of new competition, entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Ms. Kenney.
 
riffjim4069

riffjim4069

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SatelliteGuys Master
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Apr 7, 2004
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SatelliteGuystonfieldville, U.S.A.
What a great day it is for the American Consumer! As the Citizen Member co-chair for the Cable Choice Now! Coalition, we were the driving force behind updating antiquated cable TV laws here in Virginia in order to bring Commonwealth residents real cable choices. After our qualified success at the state level, I was once again asked to lend my voice in support of bringing about cable TV choice at the national level. I was more than happy to represent the overwhelming majority of Virginians in favor of this legislation.

Although one voice may appear to be insignificant, joined together our resounding chorus in favor cable TV reform couldn't be stopped!

Bravo Zulu!
 

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