Senate Commerce Committee approves communications reform

The Senate Commerce Committee approved a comprehensive communications reform bill June 28 that will, according to proponents, speed the deployment of broadband services and stimulate competition in the delivery of video services.

By a 15 to 7 vote, the committee approved the Advanced Telecommunication and Opportunity Reform Act (formerly the Communications, Consumer Choice and Broadband Deployment Act).

The measure streamlines the process telephone companies must undertake when seeking to offer video services to consumers. If enacted, telephone companies would no longer have to negotiate with more than 10,000 franchising authorities operating in the United States. The bill reduces the amount of time needed to complete the franchising process from several years to not more than three months.

An amendment to add strong net neutrality language, which would have prevented telcos and cable companies from accepting payment for providing priority service for delivery of Internet traffic via their broadband service, failed on a tie vote.

The House of Representatives has already approved a similar measure. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.