Dubbing the issue "universal service," some top Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats have told their colleagues they plan to introduce an amendment establishing build-out requirements in the House video franchise reform bill, scheduled for a floor vote this Friday, June 9.
It will be up to the rules committee, however, to determine what, if any amendments, can be added on the floor. The committee meets Wednesday, June 7.
Ranking minority members Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), joined by Diane Watson and Hilda Solis, both of of California, sent a letter to their House colleagues informing them of the amendment to the COPE act (HR 5252).
While cable operators have had build-out requirements in their local franchise agreements to make sure that they extend service to an entire area, the House's national franchise scheme has no similar requirements, meaning telcos and other new entrants could cherrypick areas that were more profitable while leaving "low-income and other disadvantaged communities at risk of inferior services, higher cable rates, or even the loss of cable service," they argue.
Markey and Dingell spearheaded an effort to add similar build-out requirements in the original House bill, but they were ultimately unsuccessful.
The proposed floor amendment would mandate a "phased-in, market-based buildout of service."