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The Telecom Bill

LegislationCongressTechnologyI’ll preface this by saying, yet again, that these are my thoughts and not an official position of my employer.

With the Senate version of telecom reform moving out of the Commerce Committee, now the fun begins. If you know anything about the Senate, it’s probably the fact that they move slower than a dead rat caught in an ice floe. They call it being measured, but the rest of the world calls it being hopelessly deadlocked on damn near everything.

In addition, the Senate has become the focal point of much partisanship, so everything they do is done along party lines. On the rare occasion that they actually pass something, it has become so watered down that it’s inoffensive to just about everyone, and just about as effective.

Stevens has said he needs 60 votes to get this to the floor. He doesn’t have them. That means he has to start the retail politicking of trying to get people behind this.

The Democrats won’t buy in because the bill lacks sufficient consumer protections that will prevent the telephone companies from discriminating against the poor neighborhoods. They’ll also want to tack on a Net Neutrality amendment. That removes the only pool of supporters that can jump ship and push this through.

Even if, by some quirk of the universe, the bill passes, it faces a brutal conference because the Senate version and the House version are radically different. The House version was originally going to be comprehensive, but was streamlined for speed. The Senate version is more of an actual rewrite than tweaks. It was built to actually make a difference.

If you think of the House and Senate bills as a race car and a dump truck respectively, the conference gets to take these two vastly different machines, mash them up, and try to make a functional automobile out of them. That’s no small task.

The likelihood of seeing a telecom reform bill this year is slim to none, and slim may have just left town.

(Disclaimer: While I work for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, this post should in no way be construed as an official position of the Association. Thoughts in this space are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.)

Written by Michael Turk