House Votes to Ease Access Rules

Phone companies will have an easier time getting franchises to deliver video.

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that will allow phone companies to deliver video services to their customers quickly and easily.

The bill would allow those companies to begin delivering video services 30 days after filing a franchise request with the Federal Communications Commission.

If the bill becomes law, phone companies would no longer be required to negotiate a franchise with every locality in which they want to do business.

The bill passed June 8 by an overwhelming margin of 321 to 101.

"Net neutrality" advocates had criticized the bill, fearing that it would give phone companies the ability to control the content they carried.

A net neutrality amendment that Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., attempted to add to the bill failed, also by a large margin. The next step for the bill is the U.S. Senate, where hearings are scheduled for June 13.

"Were obviously very happy that weve taken a big step forward to give consumers a choice for their video service," said Gregg Morton, vice president for Legislative Affairs for BellSouth.

Morton discounted the fears of the net neutrality advocates, saying that his company would never restrict access to the Internet.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about legislators actions on net neutrality.

"We think consumers should have access to whatever content they wish, and attach any device they want to the Internet," Morton said. "We dont need to go beyond that and have the government regulate the Interment."

Morton also said that he thinks the Markey amendment, and similar amendments that are likely to be offered to the Senate version of the bill, was fundamentally flawed.

"It would chill broadband deployment and put the U.S. further behind in bringing broadband to the marketplace," Morton said.

"These bills dont just regulate the broadband network providers, they regulate all of the networks that connect to form the Internet backbone," he said.

Morton contended that the amendment that was presented would give the government the power to regulate a home network, if it was connected to the Internet.

Morton said that he believes the current free market is working fine, and that trying to change that would be pursuing a "dangerous path."

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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...