The following are key points from Friday's city-county reps telecommunications rewrite briefing.

 

BITS II

 

  • Reports are circulating that a new draft, BITS III, will be released shortly.
  • Further, reports are that the House Energy & Commerce minority staff continue to work with majority on BITS III.
  • We understand that Energy & Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (TX) is determined to have a BITS bill marked up in full committee, skipping the subcommittee, by the end of February and on the House floor by Spring recess.  Of concern is that by skipping the subcommittee, this very technical issue is on the fast track to the House floor where it will be more difficult to amend the bill.
  • National Associations staff (USCM, NLC, NACo, and NATOA) is scheduled to meet with committee staff tomorrow (Wednesday) and will have additional information on the BITS agenda after that meeting.

 

In the meantime, if you have not done so, have your mayor call their member(s) both on and off the committee and express strong opposition to legislative efforts, including the Internet Broadband measure (BITS II) that would:

 

  • Preempt local government's franchise authority of traditional telephone providers entering the local video market by having the FCC, not cities, grant franchises to phone companies to provide cable like service;
  • Preempt local government's longstanding authority to collect rent for use of public rights-of-way by significantly decreasing cable franchise fees by excluding advertising and other non-subscriber revenues from franchise fees;
  • Not provide recovery over the 5% franchise fee for public access channels or institutional networks;
  • Not require buildout of video/cable services to all citizens, regardless of race, age, income or location within a reasonable timeframe; and
  • Prohibit all regulation (federal, state and local) of Internet-based phone companies that are not expressly allowed by the bill.

 

While expressing opposition to the issues listed, it is important that your elected officials express that:

 

  • They stand ready to welcome video competition in their cities from traditional telephone providers as fast and as much as the market will sustain; and
  • Local government associations, including The U.S. Conference of Mayors, stand ready to continue to negotiate on appropriate Broadband legislation.

 

 

Senate Hearing Schedule

 

The local government coalition is urging the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee to include a local government witnessed on the following key hearings:

 

  • 01/31/05 Video Franchising Full Committee Hearing
  • 02/14/05 State and Local Issues and Municipal Networks Full Committee Hearing

 

Please contact your member on the Senate Commerce Committee and urge them as well to include local representation. 

 

 

Schedule of Upcoming Senate Commerce Committee Hearings - Mark Your  Calendars!

 

  • Full Committee Hearing   Thursday, January 19 10:00 AM

 

Decency

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1698   

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram.  

 

  • Full Committee Hearing   Thursday, January 19 2:30 PM

 

Internet Pornography

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1699 

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram. 

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, January 24 10:00 AM

 

Broadcast and Audio Flag

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1704

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram.

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Thursday, January 26 10:00 AM

 

Competition and Convergence

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1703

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, January 31 10:00 AM

 

Video Franchising

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1700

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, January 31 2:30 PM

 

Video Content

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1701

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, February 7 10:00 AM

 

Net Neutrality

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1705

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, February 14 10:00 AM

 

State and Local Issues and Municipal Networks

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1706

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing   Wednesday, February 15 10:00 AM

 

FCC Activities and Policy

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1717

LIVE WEBCAST:  http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, February 28 10:00 AM

 

USF Contributions

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1707

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, February 28 2:30 PM

 

USF Distributions

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1708

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Thursday, March 2 10:00 AM

 

Wireless Issues/Spectrum Reform

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1709

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing    Tuesday, March 7 10:00 AM

 

Rural Telecommunications

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1710

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing   Tuesday, March 14 10:00 AM

 

Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1711

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

  • Full Committee Hearing   Tuesday, March 14 2:30 PM

 

Wall Street's Perspective on Telecommunications

http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=1712

LIVE WEBCAST: http://commerce.senate.gov/live.ram

 

Congressional 2005 Wrap of Key Bills

 

 

Broadband Internet Transmission Services (BITS)

 

While not formally introduced, Representatives Barton (TX) and Upton (MI) have circulated two drafts of the BITS bill.  BITS I showed some promise towards the goal of keeping local governments whole and protecting the consumers.  BITS II, however, did away with that effort.  The House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet has twice held hearings to discuss the staff draft and a mark up is expected early in 2006.

 

Digital Age Communications Act of 2005

 

Introduced on December 15, 2005 by Senator Jim DeMint (SC).  Its stated purpose is "[t]o promote the widespread availability of communications services and the integrity of communications facilities, and to encourage investment in communication networks."  Since it was introduced, the bill has not yet gained momentum, but there is still some cause for concern regarding a number of provisions in the bill.

 

Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act

 

Introduced in July, 2005 by Senator John Ensign (NV), this bill will serve to pre-empt most state and local governments and take away their power to regulate broadband voice services.  It states that no video service provider shall be required to obtain a state or local franchise agreement, nor be required to build out.  Current local cable franchising authority is eliminated and all existing cable franchises are terminated as of the date of enactment. Though PEG is not eliminated, capacity is limited to no more than 4 channels.

 

Video Choice Act of 2005

 

Senator Gordon Smith (OR) with Senator Rockefeller (WV) introduced a Senate version of the bill in late June 2005.  Rep. Wynn (MD) and Rep. Blackburn (TN) introduced a House bill the same day. The Senate bill states that no competitive video services provider may be required to obtain a franchise in order to "provide any video programming, interactive on-demand services" in any area that the provider already has "any right, permission, or authority to access public rights-of-way independent of any cable franchise[.]"   Additionally, all existing franchise agreements entered into before the enactment of the Act would be exempt from the provisions and would stay in place.  Both bills eliminate local government's right to collect fees, require PEG channels and manage their ROW.  Additionally, both bills remove local enforcement because all local franchising authority is prohibited and full authority is vested to the FCC.  Both bills preempt local government's right to require build out - which is currently granted under the Cable Act.

 

The Blackburn/Wynn bill continues to gain supporters and could be a real problem for local governments, in particular on the franchise issue. Reports are that if a comprehensive telecom reform effort fails in the House, the Blackburn/Wynn measure could be the vehicle to nationalize franchising this year.  For a comparison of the House and Senate Video bills, go to our Washington Update Transportation and Communications Policy/Advocacy page on our website, www.usmayors.org

http://www.usmayors.org <http://www.usmayors.org.

 

FCC NPRM on Franchising

 

The FCC NPRM is loaded on the Conference's Washington Update Transportation and Communications Policy/Advocacy page of our website, www.usmayors.org http://www.usmayors.org/ <http://www.usmayors.org/ , for those who want to review it.  The Conference urges all cities to file comments in the FCC proceeding.  USCM, NLC, and NATOA have chosen the firm of Spiegel and McDiarmid to prepare comments in response to the policy and legal issues raised.  

 

eGrassroots Advocacy

 

Representing League of California Cities, Eve O'Toole and Dustin McDonald summarized their grassroots lobbying effort to protect local telecom authority.  We urge you to organize similar state and local level efforts.  With the Bells lobbying at the state level for state-wide franchising and also at the national level for a national franchise platform, grassroots lobbying is critical to protecting local authority.

 

The League of California Cities grassroots advocacy campaign includes:

  • Talking points to use with internal and external stakeholders;
  • Internal advocacy efforts will focus on local government officials (mayors, city council members, city managers, budget/finance officials, fire/police/emergency responders and public works officials);
  • External advocacy w/constituency groups will focus on education groups, chambers of commerce, minority and consumer protection groups;
  • External advocacy w/political interests will focus on the Governor's office, CA State Assoc of Counties, etc.; and
  • A CA Congressional delegation target list has been developed to focus efforts.

 

For additional information on the League of California Cities grassroots lobbying effort, call Eve or Dustin at 202-833-0007.

 

        

Call or email with questions. 

Ron Thaniel

 

Assistant Executive Director

The United States Conference of Mayors

Telephone (202) 861-6711

Fax (202) 293-2352

EMAIL: rthaniel@usmayors.org

Website: http://www.usmayors.org