Stevens Still Pushing on Franchise Reform


Senator Ted Stevens says he is still pushing for passage of his franchise reform bill , though he says is impeded by the network neutrality lobby, which he says has made the issue a "fetish." He hopes to have a floor vote scheduled for the lame duck session.

Stevens told a Progress and Freedom Foundation luncheon crowd in Washington Thursday that he had just made a floor statement urging that the Senate consider the bill and said he was pleased to hear that John McCain had also said he would push to try to get the bill done.

He conceded it would not make it to a floor vote before the Senate breaks Oct. 29 or 30 for the elections. "Obviously, it can't be done before the recess," he said, "but I do hope we can find some way to schedule it so that it can be part of the plan when we come back into session, probably on Nov. 13.

It won't make it to the floor at all if Stevens does not have the 60 votes he needs to overcome a threatened filibuster. Majority Leader Bill Frist has said he would not schedule the floor time without those 60 votes, which Stevens does not have. The key issue holding up passage is network neutrality, which has frustrated Stevens.

Of the network neutrality issue, Stevens did not mince words: "There is no way you can appease the people that say there is a net neutrality problem," he said, "It’s a fetish. It’s really something that doesn’t exist."

"But they want to stop this bill because it might exist.What they want is to make sure that consumers pay for all the additions to this system that are not there to serve consumers but are there to serve the large companies that want access to enormous volumes and higher speed on the Internet.

"Now that is not the way it has worked in the past. Our bill preserves the situation that has existed till now and those demands have been accommodated. I think they will continue to be accommodated by competition within the system.We do not need a net neutrality provision. "

While passage is possible, it is more likely the bill will have to be tackled again in the next Congress, though it could look a lot different if the Democrats take over the Senate.