Franchise Bill Falls Short, Says Public Knowledge


Public Knowledge, which advocates for an open Internet and fair-use rights for digital content, says the just-released House Commerce Committee bill that would establish an automatically renewing 10-year national video franchise falls short of protecting the Internet.

Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn said the group was happy that there was language recognizing the importance of an open Internet. "However," she said, "we do not believe that the draft bill goes far enough."

"The provisions will not stop the cable and telephone companies from degrading Internet traffic, and they do not contain strong enough penalties to discourage misbehavior. Without stronger legislation, the cable and telephone companies will have the power to change the fundamental nature of the Internet."

The bill essentially puts some teeth in the FCC's broadband policy statement, which it issued in tandem with its ruling that cable and telcos do not have to open their networks to independent Internet service providers. The statement advocated so-called "network neutrality," or nondiscrimination in the provision of Internet access. But it was guidance rather than regulation, with no enforcement behind it. The bill would allow consumers to file a complaint for noncompliance with that policy statement, and the FCC to force compliance.