Senate Commerce Adjusts Franchise-Plus Bill

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The Senate Commerce Committee released its second draft on a video franchising bill-plus on Monday, with the key differences being extending the shot clock for granting a video franchise from 30 to 90 days and including home shopping commissions in the calculation of the video franchise fee new franchisees must pay.

Not changed was the section on network neutrality, which still only requires the FCC to study the issue but gives it no authority to write rules expressly preventing discrimination in the provision of Internet service.

But that provision could change, according to staffers with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

The committee plans to release another draft after a hearing on the bill Tuesday, and staffers have said the net neutrality wording may be different.

At the hearing, the senators will hear from a laundry list of witnesses including Kyle McSlarrow of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association,; Walter McCormick from the U.S. Telecom Association, Steve Largent of the Wireless Telecommunications Association; academics; public-interest group Representatives; and transportation and National Guard officials (public-safety communications is part of the bill).

The "plus" in the Senate bill includes the broadcast flag, approving unlicensed wireless devices in the broadcast band, DTV transition-related issues including TV-set labeling, child pornography and more.

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