House approves bill establishing national franchising

The House of Representatives approved the next generation in telecommunications legislation June 8 and in so doing set up a national licensing procedure for telecommunications companies to begin offering IPTV services to compete with cable.

The national franchise has been widely regarded in the telecommunications industry as the preferred method of the gaining regulatory approval as opposed to gaining separate go-aheads from the thousands of municipal governments across the nation holding the power to grant local cable TV franchises. The legislation allows the negotiation of local franchise agreements, but also offers an alternative national franchise process.

The House approved the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006 (H.R. 5252) by a 321-101 vote. Before the vote, an amendment offered by Edward Markey (D-MA) giving the FCC sweeping powers to regulate network neutrality failed. Without network neutrality, opponents said, the Internet will turn into a two-tier service where the highest speeds are reserved for content from broadband providers and those willing to pay for the fastest speeds.

The Senate has yet to complete its version of the legislation.