Thursday, September 15, 2005

U.S. Broadband Bill Would Ensure Network Neutrality, Common Framework for IP Services

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee released a 77-page, bipartisan staff discussion draft legislation document aimed at updating the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by addressing broadband, VoIP, IPTV franchising, port blocking and 911 regulations. Highlights of the draft legislation include:

  • Creates common regulatory definition for broadband Internet transmission services (BITS) which includes DSL, cable modems, and other broadband services.

  • Ensures network neutrality to prevent broadband providers from blocking subscriber access to lawful content.

  • Provides a uniform, federal regulatory framework for broadband providers, VoIP, and broadband video providers, except in some areas where state or local rules still apply, such as rights-of-way.

  • Authorizes the FCC to determine that VoIP can be required to contribute to the Universal Service Fund.

  • Develops a streamlined franchising process for broadband video providers.

  • Applies many current cable video requirements to broadband video providers.

  • Allows municipalities to develop and deploy BITS, VoIP and broadband video services. However, municipalities can't provide preferential treatment for these services and must comply with all regulations governing private-sector providers.

  • Ensures that VoIP subscribers have access to 911.

"The Telecommunications Act of 1996 spurred the development of telephone competition, but no one could have foreseen the magnitude of the challenges and opportunities that the Internet age has presented. New services shouldn't be hamstrung by old thinking and outdated regulations," said Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas. "We need a fresh new approach that will encourage Internet providers to expand and improve broadband networks, spur growth in the technology sector and develop cutting-edge services for consumers. Updating the 1996 law is one of my top priorities for this fall and this bipartisan discussion draft represents a solid first step."

The 77-page document is online.


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