Senator Delays Battle Over Telephone-TV Bill

Jun 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said a bill that would ease the way for phone companies to get into the pay-TV business may be in danger if unrelated provisions on Internet regulation are attached.

Senator Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Thursday postponed until Tuesday a committee battle over the bill that would help phone companies enter the TV business by loosening franchise restrictions.

After delaying consideration of that bill, Mr. Stevens said Republicans would oppose any legislation containing so-called net neutrality language that seeks to keep phone and Internet providers from charging Web-content companies different rates for different levels of service.

“I fervently believe we have done what we need to do about net neutrality,” Mr. Stevens said. “We have consumer protections and we have the FCC able to raise the flag anytime they see anything.”

Mr. Stevens’s comments represent another hurdle for Web content providers and search engines such as Google Inc. that are trying to prevent phone companies and other Internet providers from giving preferential service to some customers. The House of Representatives last week rejected net neutrality legislation.

“If the net neutrality goes into this bill, all this side is going voting against it,” Mr. Stevens said of the phone-company franchising legislation. Mr. Stevens said the bill could get to the floor with the net neutrality provisions included, but he questioned whether he could rally the 60 votes needed to close debate on the matter and take a vote on the bill.

Mr. Stevens comments came as the Commerce Committee began considering amendments to the legislation. The committee legislation started as an effort to set up a national pay-TV franchise system and avoid the need for phone companies to go city by city for cable franchises. It has grown as a variety of broadcast measures affecting voice internet phone services are added on.