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U.S. House panel moves on telco TV

Telco TV is getting a push on Capitol Hill. Legislation designed to create national video franchising to help Verizon Communications and AT&T got the approval of a key House panel last week.

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet voted 27-4 to allow telcos to apply for a nationwide license to offer video service, instead of the current process in which they must negotiate with thousands of cities for individual franchises, Reuters reported.

The two largest U.S. telephone carriers are rapidly moving into pay television services and have complained that with current laws it will take them years to get the necessary licenses, making it harder to compete against cable companies.

Reuters said the future of the legislation is unclear because of the short legislative session this year, as well as because of divisions among lawmakers, network providers and Internet content companies.

Democrats offered numerous amendments, including provisions aimed at preventing Internet service providers from favoring certain content over others and requiring new video providers to build out their service to ensure poor areas are not left out.

The Republicans who have a majority on the panel, including the Internet neutrality amendment, defeated most. But lawmakers approved by voice vote a provision requiring high-speed Internet providers to sell the service without tying it with voice or other products.

The bill would also empower the FCC to enforce its principles that call on Internet service providers to permit consumers' unfettered Internet access and allow them to run any Internet-based applications.

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