H. R. 5252 Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006

Summary: 

This bill, now H.R. 5252, would create of national cable franchises, provides the FCC with authority to ensure Net Neutrality, set rules for emergency 911 services on Internet telephone (VoIP) services and govern municipal broadband networks.

House Report 109-470 includes this analysis of the bill

Read full summary from Benton Foundation.

From Commerce Committee press release, the bill would:

* Create a nationwide approval process for pay-TV services. By streamlining this system, these companies will be able to offer new TV services in many areas while protecting local interests. Cable providers will also be eligible to participate in this streamlined system once they face local competition.

* 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.

* Clarify the FCC authority to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or degrading any content or applications delivered over the public Internet.

* Preserve municipalities' right to collect up to a five percent fee from pay-TV providers.

* Allow cities and towns to develop their own broadband networks.

  • * On August 1, Broadcasting&Cable reported that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has not scheduled a floor vote for the Senate video franchise bill, and is "highly unlikely to" before the August recess given the already crowded schedule. See http://www.benton.org/node/3124

    * On June 8, the House passed HR 5252 on a 321-101 vote. See http://www.benton.org/node/2619

    * On Friday June 2, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) has released the agenda for this week and it includes time for consideration of HR 5252 on Wednesday June 7.

    * On May 25, the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation aimed at preventing high-speed Internet network providers from discriminating against unaffiliated services, content and applications. The measure, approved by a vote of 20-13, would amend U.S. antitrust law. See http://www.benton.org/node/2500

    * On May 18, House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced a bill Thursday that would apply antitrust sanctions against cable and other broadband-access providers that discriminate against Web-based providers of content, services and applications. The bill would amend the Clayton Act to require broadband-access providers to interconnect their facilities on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; to operate their networks in a nondiscriminatory manner so that unaffiliated content, service and applications have an equal opportunity to reach consumers; and to refrain from interfering with consumer access to lawful content, services and applications. Under the Clayton Act, passed in 1914, injured parties may sue in federal court to obtain an injunction, recover treble damages and collect attorneys’ fees. The bill is co-sponsored by John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA). See http://www.benton.org/node/2418

    * On May 17, Congressional Quarterly reported that the House Judiciary Committee appears unlikely to get a chance to mark up telecommunications legislation approved by the Commerce Committee late last month. The House parliamentarian is likely to deny Judiciary's request for a referral of the bill soon. See http://www.benton.org/node/2384

    * On Monday May 15, House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) sent a letter to every House member seeking support for his bill. The one-page letter was co-signed by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL). See http://www.benton.org/node/2340

    * The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the House and Senate are preparing to vote on telecommunications legislation that could affect every American who surfs the Internet, watches cable TV or uses a phone. But consumers shouldn't waste much time watching the floor debates on C-SPAN. The lawmakers admit their goal is not to pass definitive legislation in public in the coming weeks. Instead, they want the House and Senate to pass separate bills, regardless of how different they may be. The final version would be negotiated, largely in private, by about a dozen senators and representatives on a conference committee. The Senate just needs to pass "anything to get us into conference," where the real decisions will be made, House telecommunications subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said Tuesday at a telecom forum hosted by National Journal's Technology Daily. "It's not supposed to work like this," said Celia Wexler, vice president for advocacy for Common Cause, a government watchdog group. "It's appalling that you can hear a member (of Congress) say that in public." Watchdog groups say that while most conference negotiations are closed to public view, lobbyists continue to influence the members and their staffers, sometimes even supplying language that ends up as the law of the land.

    * On May 2, House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said "the prospects are actually very good" that the House and Senate will agree on a telecom bill this year and send it to President Bush for his signature. Senate staffers echoed his confidence. But Banc of America analyst Douglas Shapiro, for one, sees a tougher time reconciling the differences in the two bills. He sees the Senate draft as favorable to incumbents, in part because "the scope of the bill and the divergence from the video franchise bill... reduce the likelihood of any legislation passing this year." Also on May 2, Rep Ed Markey introduced the Network Neutrality Act of 2006 which he hopes to attach to COPE. (See a summary of the Markey bill.)

    * On May 2, National Journal reported that the bill would not be on the House floor during the first week of May. The House Judiciary Committee has sought a referral of the bill, particularly for its "network neutrality" language -- and Republican leaders are worried that voting against a network neutrality amendment -- one that would keep dominant Bell and cable companies from charging competitors more to transmit high-speed Internet content -- could be a political liability.

    * The National Journal reported that the bill is likely headed for a House floor vote May 4. The vote would put the bill before the Rules Committee on Wednesday. The timetable presumes that House parliamentarians will rule against an expected effort by the House Judiciary Committee to seek referral of the bill. Granting a referral to Judiciary likely would delay a vote, but most congressional and industry sources say Judiciary will not get a chance to consider the bill. Rep Barton has been cautious in rejecting amendments and drafting text to avoid Judiciary jurisdiction. If Judiciary is denied a referral, the key question for the Rules Committee is whether it allows a vote on the contentious issue of "network neutrality," said various industry, nonprofit and congressional sources.

    * Broadcasting&Cable reports: The House Commerce Committee, by an overwhelming vote of 42 to 12, has paved the way for the creation of national video franchises, though the bill itself still has a ways to travel before it becomes law. The goal, say the bill's proponents including Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), is to increase price and service competition to cable, while speeding the rollout of high-speed Internet service. Opponents, almost all of whom concede some video franchise reform is needed, say this bill will, instead, pave the way for telcos to cherry pick service while discriminating in the provision of Internet access, "fundamentally and detrimentally" changing the character of the Internet. Not included in the bill are voted-down amendments that would have held national video franchisees to a build-out schedule and toughened prohibitions on red-lining--building out more attractive parts of a franchise and bypassing ones with less potential return on investment or, as Ed Markey (D-MA) puts it, "the other side of the tracks." Still the bill as passed has language that requires telephone companies getting into video service to eventually serve all of a franchise, rather than allowing them to choose which parts of an area to offer service to, as the bill passed out of the Telecommunications Subcommittee allowed. That anti-redlining addition sat well with the cable industry, which had been pushing for it, but was not enough for Rep Markey and others who wanted build-out requirements as well. Also pleasing the cable industry was an amendment that was adopted that will allow cable companies to seek national franchises immediately if they currently have competition from an overbuilder. The committee voted 34-22 not to adopt an amendment toughening "network neutrality" provisions in the bill, an issue that has gained major traction and could resurface on the House floor and will almost certainly do so in the Senate version. Rep Markey, who spearheaded the amendment, had argued that without the amendment, the bill would spell the "end of the Internet as we know it," allowing telephone companies to discriminate in Internet service and fundamentally change the character of the Internet. He and others warned during mark-up of the bill Wednesday that there would be backlash from constituents. Chairman Barton strongly opposed the amendment, saying the bill already contained sufficient protections for Internet access -- through FCC adjudicatory powers -- and that anything more specific would be unnecessarily preemptive. The bill must still pass the full House, where amendments can be reintroduced, then be reconciled with a Senate bill that will contain a lot more elements.
    See http://www.benton.org/node/2130 for more info.

    * House Commerce Committee mark-up of Chairman Barton's Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006. Opening comments will be afternoon of April 25 with consideration of amendments and votes on April 26. Press reports say a floor vot could come as early as the second week in May. (See http://www.benton.org/node/2058)

    * The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet adopted a number of amendments to the bill before passing it on April 5, 2005 (See summary for these changes). The full House Commerce Committee will consider the bill after the Easter Break.

    * The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet will meet to mark up this bill on April 4th and 5th, 2006. (see http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Markups/04042006markup1834.htm)

    * At the March 30, 2006 hearing, legislators and witnesses generally agreed that some video-franchise reform was needed to spur new video services and the rollout out of high-speed Internet service. But that was where the meeting of the minds ended Wednesday at a marathon House Commerce Committee Hearing on national video franchising legislation spearheaded by House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX). The bill is meant as an update to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed the telcos to enter the video market. The bill, in its fourth draft, would grant both new entrants, like telcos, and incumbent cable operators, a 10-year, automatically renewing national franchise to deliver video and bundled services, subject to conditions, like franchise fees and public access channel requirements. The goal is to make it easier for new video competitors to launch service than it is under the locality-by-locality franchise process under which cable was required to build its systems. A good deal of debate on Thursday was over Net Neutrality. Without it, critics of the proposed legislation argued, the "garage entrepreneurs" who build companies like Google and Netscape might never make it out of the garage.

    * The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet will hold a hearing to consider this bill on Thursday, March 30, 2006 at 10:00 AM
    2123 Rayburn House Office Building

Resources: 
Supporters: 

House Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX)-- sponsor

Cosponsors (49):
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-1] - 5/1/2006 Rep Upton, Fred [MI-6] - 5/1/2006
Rep Pickering, Charles W. (Chip) [MS-3] - 5/1/2006 Rep Stearns, Cliff [FL-6] - 5/1/2006
Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] - 5/1/2006 Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] - 5/1/2006
Rep Gillmor, Paul E. [OH-5] - 5/1/2006 Rep Shadegg, John B. [AZ-3] - 5/1/2006
Rep Radanovich, George [CA-19] - 5/1/2006 Rep Rogers, Mike (MI) [MI-8] - 5/1/2006
Rep Ferguson, Mike [NJ-7] - 5/1/2006 Rep Norwood, Charlie [GA-9] - 5/1/2006
Rep Whitfield, Ed [KY-1] - 5/1/2006 Rep Shimkus, John [IL-19] - 5/1/2006
Rep Myrick, Sue [NC-9] - 5/1/2006 Rep Burgess, Michael C. [TX-26] - 5/1/2006
Rep Bass, Charles F. [NH-2] - 5/2/2006 Rep Fossella, Vito [NY-13] - 5/2/2006
Rep Bono, Mary [CA-45] - 5/2/2006 Rep Hall, Ralph M. [TX-4] - 5/2/2006
Rep Wynn, Albert Russell [MD-4] - 5/2/2006 Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] - 5/2/2006
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2] - 5/2/2006 Rep Butterfield, G. K. [NC-1] - 5/2/2006
Rep Scott, David [GA-13] - 5/3/2006 Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] - 5/9/2006
Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-7] - 5/9/2006 Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] - 5/9/2006
Rep Baker, Richard H. [LA-6] - 5/9/2006 Rep Oxley, Michael G. [OH-4] - 5/9/2006
Rep Boyd, Allen [FL-2] - 5/9/2006 Rep Lewis, Ron [KY-2] - 5/9/2006
Rep Jefferson, William J. [LA-2] - 5/9/2006 Rep Alexander, Rodney [LA-5] - 5/9/2006
Rep Clyburn, James E. [SC-6] - 5/9/2006 Rep Diaz-Balart, Lincoln [FL-21] - 5/9/2006
Rep Bonner, Jo [AL-1] - 5/9/2006 Rep Spratt, John M., Jr. [SC-5] - 5/11/2006
Rep Everett, Terry [AL-2] - 5/11/2006 Rep Brown, Henry E., Jr. [SC-1] - 5/11/2006
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] - 5/11/2006 Rep Foley, Mark [FL-16] - 5/11/2006
Rep Meek, Kendrick B. [FL-17] - 5/11/2006 Rep Miller, Jeff [FL-1] - 5/11/2006
Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] - 5/11/2006 Rep Wicker, Roger F. [MS-1] - 5/11/2006
Rep Diaz-Balart, Mario [FL-25] - 5/11/2006 Rep Feeney, Tom [FL-24] - 5/11/2006
Rep Rogers, Mike D. (AL) [AL-3] - 5/11/2006

* US TELECOM
"This draft legislation will eliminate outdated barriers to entry in the video market and will help spur real competition. We applaud Chairmen Barton and Upton for their efforts to bring meaningful video choice to consumers and we will continue to work with both the House and Senate to update our telecom laws, including stabilizing universal service."
http://www.ustelecom.org/news_releases.php?urh=home.news.nr2006_0327

* CEA COMMENDS DRAFT HOUSE TELECOM LEGISLATION
"CEA commends Chairman Barton for introducing draft legislation to provide consumers with more choice in video services. Under this bill, the necessary steps have been taken to remove barriers for new entrants in to the video marketplace. Society will benefit from more competition and real choices in broadband. We are pleased that the bill recognizes the importance of ensuring key broadband policy principles. Specifically we are committed to working with Congress, service providers and other affected parties to ensure that a regulatory regime is established allowing for the advancement of new IP-enabled services, while including a commitment to open and unfettered consumer access to content, services and applications and protecting a consumer's ability to connect devices of their choice. More importantly, we need to work to promote and protect the commercial availability of devices that attach to broadband video services. Preserving the retail marketplace for 'edge network' technologies and devices is vital to the success of innovation in this evolving broadband era."
http://www.ce.org/Press/CurrentNews/press_release_detail.asp?id=10982

* Telecommunications Industry Association
TIA believes the passage of this legislation will lead to renewed investment in broadband networks and bring long-overdue competition to the video marketplace, delivering lower prices and better service to consumers.
See http://www.tiaonline.org/business/media/press_releases/2006/PR06-40.cfm

Detractors: 

* May 31: In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Commerce Committee, the National Governors Association (NGA) wants the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act (H.R. 5252) changed to give states the option to take control of the cable-franchising process from the Federal Communications Commission. See http://www.benton.org/index.php?q=node/2539

* Rep Ed Markey (D-MA): *This bill ought to embrace open networks, competition in all markets, and a broadband vision which benefits everyone in the country. Instead, it does the opposite. In short, it favors the communications Colossi at the expense of the public interest. For those fighting for a broadband vision for America which is inclusive, innovative, and openly competitive, this bill represents a giant step backwards."

* Amazon.com, eBay, Google, InterActiveCorp, Microsoft and Yahoo!
"We are extremely concerned that legislation before your committee would fail to protect the Internet from discrimination and would deny consumers unfettered access to the tremendous scope of content, applications and services that are available today on the Internet and will be developed in the future."

* Public Knowledge, which advocates for an open Internet and fair-use rights for digital content, says the just-released House Commerce Committee bill falls short of protecting the Internet. President Gigi Sohn said the group was happy that there was language recognizing the importance of an open Internet. "However," she said, "we do not believe that the draft bill goes far enough. The provisions will not stop the cable and telephone companies from degrading Internet traffic, and they do not contain strong enough penalties to discourage misbehavior. Without stronger legislation, the cable and telephone companies will have the power to change the fundamental nature of the Internet."

* Save Access Coalition
"As Congress puts a new telecommunications law on the fast track, public outcry is growing against the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006 -­ H.R. 5252 ('COPE'). Contending that the bill is fatally flawed, a growing coalition of public interest, municipal and grassroots media organizations launched a new web site to send a message to Congress: www.SaveAccess.org. Supporting organizations include the Center for Digital Democracy, Association for Community Networking, Action Coalition for Media Education, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, Chicago Media Action, Media Alliance, Media Tank, CCTV-Cambridge and the Center for Media & Democracy. The SaveAccess.org Coalition is working to 1) preserve local control of video franchises, 2) make sure all services are available in all areas by promoting anti-redlining, 3) supporting Network Neutrality, and 4) advancing public, educational and governmental (PEG) access channels for local use."
http://saveaccess.org/faq

Legislation Date: 
March 27, 2006