House passes nationwide video franchise system

June 9, 2006 Arlington, VA -- The U.S. House of Representatives last night passed H.R. 5252, the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006," by a vote of 321- 101, prompting commendations from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), United States Telecom Association (USTelecom), and the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council, among others.

June 9, 2006 Arlington, VA -- The U.S. House of Representatives last night passed H.R. 5252, the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006," by a vote of 321- 101, prompting commendations from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), United States Telecom Association (USTelecom), and the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council, among others.

Among other things, the COPE Act removes regulatory barriers for video service providers to enter the market. Additionally, the legislation allows municipalities to deploy broadband and provide video services on a transparent and nondiscriminatory basis, thereby removing barriers for another competitor's entry intro the marketplace.

The legislation also includes language that states the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the authority to enforce its policy statement on "net neutrality" -- an approach that the TIA says is generally consistent with its deregulatory, market-driven Broadband Internet Access Connectivity Principles released earlier this spring. Stronger net neutrality rules were proposed and defeated during debate on the House floor. According to TIA's principles, the promulgations of rules could lead to unintended consequences, such as dissuading companies from expanding and enhancing broadband networks.

"The U.S. House of Representatives has, in an extremely bi-partisan manner, taken a tremendous step today towards providing the necessary framework to encourage service providers to build high-speed, next-generation networks," notes TIA president Matthew Flanigan. "Passage of the COPE Act is a significant sign that members of Congress want the U.S. to be the world leader in broadband deployment, and passage of this legislation is a very positive step towards that universal goal," he adds. "It is our hope that the Senate will follow the House's lead and act quickly on this legislation."

Walter B. McCormick, president and CEO of USTelecom also weighed in on the vote, arguing that it "brings our nation one critical step closer to TV freedom, where consumers enjoy the benefits of real choice and competition for their video service. Consumers win when companies are free to invest and compete head-to-head by offering innovative products at attractive prices."

"Chairman Barton, Congressman Rush and Chairman Upton deserve credit for demonstrating real leadership in advancing strong bipartisan legislation that will save consumers an estimated $8 billion in just the first year alone," McCormick adds. "We applaud the House for giving consumers a real choice to cable TV and for resisting calls to regulate the Internet. Now it's up to the Senate to keep this important momentum going to ensure that all Americans benefit from TV freedom."

The FTTH Council also applauds what it calls an "historic vote," particularly as it pertains to municipal broadband deployments. "The House victory moves us one step closer to removal of outmoded barriers to broadband deployment," contends FTTH Council president Joe Savage. "Municipalities will be free to chart their own broadband future and video franchise reform legislation will speed rollout of next-generation broadband networks," he asserts.

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