Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) says he is still hoping to get a telecom-reform bill passed this year, not wanting to have to start all over in 2007.
A House version is expected to be marked up in the next two weeks, according to National Cable & Telecommuniations Association President Kyle McSlarrow, though time is running out on the legislative calendar.
"In an election year, Congress doesn't get a lot done," McSlarrow told a crowd of cable marketers in Washington. He said that reforming the 1996 Telecommunications Act was not exactly a burning electoral issue, adding, "The citizenry is not rushing Capitol Hill with pitchforks demanding 'Telecom Now!'"
Following a speech to the Comptel annual convention in San Diego Monday, though, Stevens said, "This is the second year of the Congress. If we don’t get something finished this year, we’ll have to start all over again in ’07.
"We’re going to try very hard to get this finished this year. Bills like this take about a year to get to the point where we are now. You have to have hearings. You have to have meetings. You have to have discussions with almost everyone involved, and under the circumstances, we’re at the place now where we should be able to get the bill out of our Committee before the middle of April.
"And I hope we’ll be able to get it passed and to the House before June, and get it passed in July."
The bill has been the subject of a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign by telcos who are seeking video-franchise reform. The cable industry does not oppose reform either, so long as the dereg applies equitably to both the incumbent broadband providers the government is encouraging and the incumbent cable companies who invested $100 billion to build out their systems.