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May 3, 2006

Senate Draft Bill on Telecommunication Law Reform Now Available

Most of the news with the likely rewrite of the nation's telecommunication laws have focused on the net neutrality issue.  The House committee considering telecommunication issues soundly defeated an amendment to proposed laws that would have mandated that network operators not favor themselves or disfavor competitors by manipulating broadband speeds.  Telecoms would like to charge web sites such as Google, Amazon, and potential media on demand sites for better bandwidth performance.  The House committee vote is but one salvo on the issue which will take some time to resolve.  Telecommunication reform is not a fast process historically.  The fact that this is an election year gives all the major players a chance to buy their positions in congress, um, make their voices heard in a fair hearing one the issues by congress.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has now released a draft telecommunications bill that addresses a variety of reforms beyond net neutrality.  As to that topic, there are no provisions in the bill addressing net neutrality beyond having the FCC compile an annual report on telecom practices.  Other provisions of the draft bill will do the following:

  • ban digital receivers capable of recording over-the-air or satellite transmissions without recognizing an audio broadcast flag.
  • will allow homes to share broadcast TV over home networks, and distribute short excerpts over the Internet consistent with a video broadcast flag.
  • allow the use of copyrighted materials in classroom and other educational settings under some circumstances.
  • allow municipalities to set up city-wide broadband service with some restrictions involving partnerships with private companies.
  • extend the Universal Service Fund charges to online phone companies and broadband services.

There are more provisions lurking in the 135 page draft bill.  One of the more curious non-legal elements of the draft is a path to a local server listed at the top of the document.  It implies that the text was composed on XY Write.  Does that even still exist?  If that's the software the Senate Commerce Committee is using, it is writing sweeping new telecom laws with an ancient word processor.  The irony!

Commentary and reporting on the draft is available at CNET, Ars Technica, the New York Times, the Washington Post, MacWorld, and the Hollywood Reporter.

May 3, 2006 | Permalink


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