Thursday, June 8, 2006

U.S. House Approves COPE Telecom Reform Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006" (H.R. 5252) by a vote of 321- 101. The final bill provides for national video franchises and did not include a Net Neutrality provision.

Key provisions of the bill include.

  • Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for a national franchise to provide cable service in lieu of any other authority under federal, state, or local law. Obtaining the franchise requires: the filing of a franchise certification with the FCC; and cable operators with a national franchise must provide a specified minimum of channel capacity for public, educational, and governmental use, and to meet certain other requirements. The bill gives makes the FCC responsible for enforcement of franchising requirements.

  • Requires an annual FCC report on the deployment of cable service, including deployment by new cable operators.

  • Empowers the FCC to enforce its broadband policy statement and principles. Requires an FCC study regarding whether such statement and principles are being achieved.

  • Requires VOIP service providers to ensure that 911 and E-911 services are provided to subscribers of VOIP services. The bill outlines rights and obligations of VOIP service providers.

  • Allows the municipal provision of cable services, requiring competition neutrality among all providers in an area.

  • Prohibits a broadband service provider from requiring a subscriber, as a condition for such service, to purchase any cable, telecommunications, or VOIP service offered by the provider.

  • Directs the FCC to further the development of seamless mobility, requiring a study identifying barriers to achieving seamless mobility.

The issue of telecom reform is now expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate.

Some industry reaction:

Verizon: "The strong vote against regulation of the Internet suggests the Congress won't go down the road of legislating solutions to problems that don't exist. As the White House said in its policy statement, 'the FCC currently has sufficient authority to address potential abuses in the marketplace. Creating a new legislative framework for regulation in this area is premature." Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice president for federal government relations

BellSouth: "Completion of video franchise legislation will allow faster rollout of a video service that can provide another competitive alternative to cable, offering the kind of customer service and quality that customers demand. Given the amount of debate over so called 'net neutrality' during consideration of this bill, let me again assure consumers that BellSouth will not block or degrade access to any legal content on the internet. Net neutrality is a phony issue and it ought to be laid to rest by today's vote," Herschel Abbott, BellSouth

Pulver: "Under the guise of advancing IP technology, the US House of Representatives perpetrated a monumental disservice to the Internet and passed the COPE Bill, with several 11th hour amendments that reveal a remarkable misunderstanding of what the Internet could be." Jeff Pulver

The Telecommunications Industry Association: "TIA believes that this legislation will spur long awaited deployment of advanced networks and will allow market forces to drive down the price of video service for consumers. This competition would stimulate billions of dollars in investment in our nation's broadband network, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. This legislation provides a new framework that will allow for greater consumer choice into the video service market in a manner that will quickly lead to lower prices for all consumers across the country," TIA President, Matthew Flanigan.

Consumer Electronics Association: "Americans have been introduced to the world of Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled video networks. To realize the networks' full potential, consumers must be able to choose from the exciting array of innovative new devices being developed by consumer electronics manufacturers. We are pleased this legislation includes language that secures this attachment ability," CEA's Vice President of Government Affairs Michael Petricone

See also