June 8, 2006
Bass Authored Broadband Deployment Amendment Included
Washington , D.C. - Congressman Charles Bass (R-NH02) today applauded House passage of H.R. 5252, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act. This legislation would increase competition between cable television companies, telephone companies, and Internet access providers to provide more choices and reduce the cost for consumers.
"Time and time again competition between technology companies has led to lower costs, better service, and more innovation for all consumers," said Bass. "This milestone legislation would remove the antiquated barriers between competitors and eliminate the unnecessary red tape andoutdated regulations that have protected providers at the expense of all Americans."
As Vice-Chairman of the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, Congressman Bass was successful in amending the bill to ensure that the widest range of broadband service providers may operate and offer service to consumers in every community. This section, Title 4 of the bill, ensures that municipalities can continue to meet the needs of their communities by providing affordable broadband services.
"Municipal broadband networks can provide a critical access link for communities across America, particularly rural areas like much of my district in New Hampshire," added Bass. "Communities looking to push the technology envelope through the deployment of a wireless wide area system, seeking to bring access service as a provider of last resort, or using a public / private partnership to drive economic and community growth would be guaranteed protection from various state laws and regulations that have had the effect of limiting these deployments. I was pleased to work with communities in New Hampshire and municipal representatives from across the nation on this section and am grateful that our prevailed."
Among other things, the COPE Act would:
Create a national approval process, known as a "franchise," for telephone carriers and cable providers that offer subscription television service.
Improve competition between VoIP Internet-based telephone services and local telephone services.
Require cable and telephone companies to offer broadband services without requiring consumers take telephone, television or other services the provider offers.
Preserve municipalities' right to collect up to a six percent fee from pay-TV providers. Part of this fee will go towards ensuring local communities can continue to offer public, educational and governmental (PEG) stations.
Establish penalties of up to $500,000 for broadband providers that block lawful content. The Federal Communications Commissionwould have, for the first time, explicit power to go after companies that violate network neutrality principles.
Require Internet-based telephone services to offer 9-1-1 capabilities while ensuring Internet telephone providers have access to all necessary 9-1-1 infrastructure and technology. This will help ensure that VoIPservice can be a safe and effective competitor to standard telephone service.
Allow localities to retain control of their rights-of-way and ensure local jurisdictions still receive the franchise fees they collected under the current system. Additionally, the FCC will be authorized to step in if a locality tries to unfairly use its rights-of-way authority to block new competitors from entering the local market.
Require broadband operators take additional steps to ensure their networks aren't used to transmit child pornography.
Strong anti-discrimination provisions that include fines of up to $500,000 a day and even revocation of franchises.
"The nation's telecommunications laws have not been updated in a decade and it shows," concluded Bass. "I have advocated for policies that bring more services and lower prices, and it has also been critical to me that the citizens of Washington, NH have the same advanced technology options and opportunities as citizens in Washington, DC."