Telecommunications Legislative Update

Telecommunications Legislative Update

  • Posted on: 28 December 2005
  • By: Susan

Good news and bad came from Capitol Hill in December. The Good: the House Energy and Commerce Committee postponed its plan to push for a vote on telecom reform before the end of the year. The Bad: Senator Jim DeMint introduced an anti-franchising bill, the Digital Age Communications Act, or DACA.

What started as a bi-partisan effort to re-write the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has quickly broken down along party lines, with Democrats in the House of Representatives accusing the Republican committee leadership of ignoring Democrats’ concerns and suggestions. A hearing in November on the second version of the House bill featured criticism from the Alliance for Community Media, the Consumers Union, and NATOA (the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors), as well as from many committee members. Various versions of bills are being discussed, all intended to ease the rapid deployment of broadband services.

DACA is very straightfoward: in the Senator’s words, it identifies the existing regulatory structure as “nonsensical barriers to investment, job growth, and free enterprise....... DACA replaces the vague ‘public interest standard’ -- which serves to promote regulation -- with an ‘unfair competition standard’. “ This plain language clearly indicates the desire of many elected officials to place the concerns of the corporations above the public interest.

The concerns shared by the public access community and other public interest advocates include:
• One-size fits all national franchising: instead of being required to reach agreements with inividual municipalities, broadband providers would be able to make a contract at the federal level that would have to be recognized at the local level. For example, instead of having to negotiate with the City of Cambridge to deliver services, Verizon could file paperwork in Washington and begin using our public rights of way to do business. Cambridge would not be in a position to require anything of Verizon that would fit the particular needs of our community. This could trigger the ‘level-playing-field’ clause in our franchise with Comcast, whereby Comcast would not be required to provide any service that is not required of its competitors.

• Network Neutrality: the large telecommunications companies, led by Verizon, are trying to push through regulation whereby they can give preference, through greater broadband capacity, to their own ventures. So, for example, if they roll out video services on the internet, they would provide faster download speed for their service than for that of a compeitor.

• Redlining: providers might not be required to roll out their services in all areas, and therefore they might discriminate against economically disenfranchised communities or neighborhoods less likely to purchase their services.

CCTV will continue to keep our members informed as these issues are debated in Washington. In the meantime, make sure that your Senators and Representatives are aware of how much you value CCTV and local control over our public rights of way.

Comments

I tried.
During the October "Brownout" I typed out copies of CCTV's form letter (with my personal comments favoring free access TV)opposing amendments to the Telecommunication Cable Act of l984, '92' 96. Then I sent them to Mass. senators and congressmen, as well as to Senators McCain and Rockefeller and Congresswoman Marsha Burns. Sad to say, none responded. I had hoped someone would have so that I could have sent it (them) to you, as you requested back in October.Well, as you wrote, even as a backburner issue, it's still good news. Better than not on the stove at all.
Maurice Anderson