http://www.tvtechnology.com/dailynews/one.php?id=3D3821 Date posted: 2006-03-31 House Leaders Push TelcoTV Bill Sans Retrans Reform Joe Barton, chairman of the House Commerce=20 Committee, laid odds of 2-to-1 that the president=20 will sign a telecom reform bill this year. He=20 didn't say which telecom bill, but he did say=20 that an amendment to reform retransmission=20 consent wouldn't be a part of it. "There's a vote-getting problem," Barton said.=20 "It won't pass in full committee. I think that=20 amendment would have real tough sledding." Retrans consent has come under renewed attack=20 recently in Washington, with Rep. Nathan Deal=20 (R-Ga.) emerging as a point man for reform. Deal=20 reportedly planned to tack an amendment onto the=20 telecom bill prohibiting broadcasters from=20 negotiating carriage for their cable networks=20 under retrans consent. Organizations representing=20 broadcasters in 37 states responded with decided=20 opposition in a letter to the committee. "We urge you to reject Congressman Deal's=20 proposal, which would gut Congress' intent in the=20 Cable Act, turning back the clock to the bad old=20 days when cable operators simply took=20 broadcasters' signals and profited from them=20 without ever compensating broadcasters," it said. The drive to unbundle carriage for=20 broadcast-owned cable nets from retrans may=20 dwindle as more broadcasters go after cash deals.=20 CBS, now divorced from Viacom, no longer has to=20 push the latest version of MTV in retrans=20 negations. The network just cut a=20 cash-for-content deal with Verizon on the telco's=20 budding FiOS network. The most recent draft telecom bill would allow=20 Verizon and the rest of the Bells to obtain=20 sweeping national franchise agreements rather=20 than having to deal individually with some 40,000=20 municipalities. It would also give incumbent=20 cable operators the same deal instead of making=20 them wait until telcos penetrate 15 percent of a=20 given market. The 15-percent proposal was=20 floating around the House before the draft bill=20 hit daylight, and cable lobby chief Kyle=20 McSlarrow went after it tooth and nail. He also=20 successfully averted a proposal that would have=20 left cable at a pricing disadvantage to telcos. McSlarrow said the released draft "represented=20 considerable progress," but that he'd also like=20 to see telephony included in the bill, and 'Net=20 neutrality bumped out of it. We continue to believe that the better course is=20 for the government to resist injecting itself=20 into a thriving, dynamic market where investment=20 and innovation are flourishing," McSlarrow said=20 in a statement. The 'Net neutrality clause in the bill purports=20 to give the FCC the power to enforce its own=20 definition of the concept, but it also implicitly=20 prohibits the commission from doing a rulemaking. "Once they define what 'Net neutrality is... and=20 they haven't done that yet, we give them the=20 authority to adjudicate on a case-by-case basis=20 on whatever Net neutrality is. Before we get too=20 far down the road, I want to let the market sort=20 itself out. I know there are congressmen who=20 don't know what the term is," Barton said. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) criticized the draft for=20 limiting FCC authority on 'Net neutrality, and=20 for not preventing telcos from building out in=20 only the wealthiest neighborhoods. The draft does=20 has a provision that prohibits denial of access=20 to service based on income, but Markey and others=20 were not convinced of its efficacy. "By failing to include a build-out provision to=20 ensure service area parity between a Bell company=20 entering a franchise area and the incumbent cable=20 operator, it allows a national franchisee to use=20 public rights-of-way in a community but serve=20 only select neighborhoods within the community,"=20 Markey said. Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez, president of the=20 Hispanic Federation, said "any franchising reform=20 legislation must contain provisions that=20 guarantee us a reasonable and equitable=20 deployment in Hispanic communities."=20 Rodriguez-Lopez was one of several witnesses who=20 testified before the House Internet subcommittee=20 during a hearing on the draft bill. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) expressed likewise=20 concern over potential redlining, as did a=20 representative who testified on behalf of several=20 consumer groups. "Rather than provide for meaningful protections=20 to ensure that large cable and telecommunications=20 companies don't use their network ownership to=20 impede competition, the bill strips the Federal=20 Communications Commission of its authority to=20 establish meaningful rules to protect consumers=20 from these discriminatory practices," said=20 Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst for=20 Consumers Union, who testified on behalf of=20 Consumer Federation of America and Free Press. =A92006 IMAS Publishing Group. All rights reserved.=20 Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or=20 medium without express written permission of IMAS=20 Publishing Group is prohibited. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.