Video Franchise Not on Senate Schedule


According to the Senate Cloak Room, which keeps tabs on floor schedules rather than cloaks, the bill is not scheduled for this week, and odds lengthen that it will be considered before the post-election lame duck session, if at all.

The principal sticking point is network neutrality, part of the bill's central portion streamlining the video franchising process so that telephone companies will be able to provide price and service competition, including broadband service, to cable.

Ever since the FCC ruled last year that broadband was an information service and not subject to mandatory-access requirements, big computer companies like Google and Yahoo!, and open access backers like Free Press and Consumers Union, have been concerned that networks will use that power to discriminate in the provision of Internet access for business or political reasons. They say they must have the freedom to manage their networks, including bandwidth and security.

Millions have been spent to influence the policy, and both sides see it as a potential political issue.

If the bill does not pass, Republicans can argue that Democrats are impeding the rollout of Internet service to all Americans. If the bill passes without strong network neutrality guarantees--it currently has only guidelines--Democrats could argue that it was a blow to Internet freedom.