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House Republicans want to ease telco entry into video business

Republicans on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said last week they would press ahead with draft legislation that would ease the path for telephone companies to enter the video business.

Republicans said their revised legislation is a way to foster competition for video and Internet services as well as to promote innovation and boost the economy, Reuters reported. The draft will likely be revised.

Telephone and cable companies are battling to offer consumers a bundle of services that include traditional telephone service as well as high-speed Internet access and VoIP. Phone carriers rolling out video, such as SBC Communications, have urged Congress to approve a measure easing requirements that they seek permission from thousands of local cities to offer video service to compete with cable. They argue it could take years to get the necessary authority.

The latest draft would simplify that process, permitting local authorities to collect from video providers 5 percent of gross revenues and set regulations for Internet phone service and high-speed Internet service.

Democrats said the bill could hurt competition and consumers by permitting a single company to own cable and telephone networks in the same market. They also said it fails to set clear rules for consumer access to the Internet.

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