No telecom action until after the election

Congressional action on major telecom legislation has been delayed until after the November elections and is likely to be rewritten should the Democratic Party take control of Congress.

Sens. Ted Stevens, R-AK, and John McCain, R-AZ, now say that the massive package of legislation — including issues affecting TV broadcasting — will not be voted on before the Senate breaks for the elections at the end of September.

“Obviously, it can’t be done before the recess,” Stevens said in a speech last week, “but I do hope we can find some way to schedule it so that it can be part of the plan when we come back into session, probably on Nov. 13.”

McCain, in a separate speech, contended the legislative package is not dead and could see Senate floor action in a lame-duck session.

That is, if Republicans retain control of Congress after the election. A Democratic win in November would encourage supporters of net neutrality who have opposed the current telco-friendly version of the bill.

Stevens admitted as much last week, saying that the net neutrality lobby has successfully stalled the bill. “There is no way you can appease the people that say there is a net neutrality problem. It’s a fetish. It’s really something that doesn’t exist. But they want to stop this bill because it might exist,” he said.

Stevens has opposed net neutrality, a provision that would prevent Internet service providers from charging content owners more for guaranteed access and quality of service.

Even if Republicans retain control of Congress after the election, there’s no guarantee the bill will get a vote during the lame-duck session. If Stevens doesn’t muster the 60 votes he needs to overcome a threatened filibuster, Majority Leader Bill Frist has said he will not schedule a vote.