Sensenbrenner Tries, Tries Again - Broadcasting & Cable

Sensenbrenner Tries, Tries Again

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Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is still trying to get tougher network-neutrality language into the House video franchise bill.

According to a top committee staffer, he is still planning to introduce his bill, which passed his own committee 20-13, as an amendment on the House floor when the bill is voted on, which is planned for sometime later this week.

Sensenbrenner attempted to assert jurisdiction over the bill, arguing that questions about network control over the Internet raise antitrust concerns that are in his committee's wheelhouse. That effort failed, and his amendment is not likely to survive, either, even if it survives rules committee vetting on germaneness.

Now it looks like a vote on the House bill won't happen until Friday, June 8, according to a committee minority staffer, with a rules committee meeting Wednesday on what amendments can be offered.

A number of Republicans voted for the amendment in committee to support their leader on the jurisdiction issue, not necessarily on the merits of the issue.

Currently, the House bill simply echoes FCC guidelines on network neutrality, which essentially consist of telling networks not to discriminate in the provision of Internet service, but do not give the FCC authority to make rules proscribing the various practices outlines. Sensenbrenner's bill would give the FCC that power.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, joined by cable and telco companies and some high-profile Internet vets as well, argues that giving the FCC statutory authority is premature, given that few can even agree on a definition of "network neutrality."

Ed Markey would also like to offer a network-neutrality amendment on the floor, but a staffer said they wouldn't know until after the rules committee meeting whether they could or not.
His amendment was voted down in committee 34-22. Markey warned that, without tougher net-neutrality language, "it could be the end of the Internet as we know it."

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