thoughts on telecom legislation debate

The discussions – in the house will involve *House Energy and Commerce* *Chairman Joe Barton,* R-Texas, *Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell*, D-Mich., and *Reps. Fred Upton*, R-Mich., *Edward Markey*, D-Mass., and *Charles (Chip) Pickering*, R-Miss

if a subcommittee markup occurs next week, a full committee markup session could be scheduled in February or March, with action on the legislation coming in the full House during the spring of 2006.

The Senate Energy and commerce committee is far behind the house and discussed the bill on November 9 but it was dissolved mainly because it lacked Democrats support

Among the major points of contention was language in the bill related to the ability of cable or telecommunications companies to block high-speed Internet traffic. Could this be seen as data discrimination?

Companies that rely on the Internet to distribute their services – such as Google — want language in the bill to ensure “network neutrality.” This involves a requirement that cable or telecom companies cannot impede data flowing over the Internet. Think of it like electricity. When you plug in your TV set to the wall the electric company doesn’t care who made your TV and won’t place any extra static on the line based on it – also known as common carriage.

Legislators (well their aides anyway) in the Senate committee are working on a third version – but we don’t know yet if it will address the issue of “ network neutrality”

The big issue right now is infrastructure. The phone companies want to make sure that the cable companies have to play by the same rules (paying into universal access) and both industries want to be able to offer competitive services. SBC, Verizon and the other bells need to stay competitive with Comcast and the other cable companies both in terms of access and content distribution.

the interesting thing about this debate is that it is still being thought of as two separate industries and the language of the legislation will most likely reflect that. in my opinion this is about IP (Internet protocol) infrastructure and regulating franchise. the industries are overlapping and within a couple of years it will be difficult to separate them. phone/video/music – it’s all going to go through the air, over the phone lines,over fiber-optic, over cable .

This also goes into the PEG world (public, education, government) of cable channels. It is very likely that new legislation will remove any control that cities and local communities have over the contracts with cable companies. The idea being that the customer should have the control (consumer choice act). This could have a negative effect areof removing the existence of the smaller PEG channels altogether. It’s likely that many large channels will take a hit but remain functional