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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Telcom Bill May be Dead

Good news for net neutrality.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said on Thursday he was still unable to muster enough votes for his telecommunications bill, which could die if Republicans lose power in the November elections.

The bill would make it easier for telephone companies like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications to get licenses to offer television service to compete with cable companies. It also would address a myriad of other issues but consumer groups oppose it because it does not guarantee "Net neutrality."

"I still think we're a few votes short," Stevens, an Alaska Republican, told reporters after addressing the Progress & Freedom Foundation think tank.

Senate Republican leaders have told Stevens he must have 60 votes in hand before they will bring the measure to the floor for debate. That would enable leaders to cut off debate and avoid the bill being talked to death, known as filibustering.

But Stevens has been unable to get 60 supporters mainly because of a fight over the issue known as Net neutrality. His bill does not include language sought by consumer groups to prevent Internet providers from charging content companies more for guaranteed access and quality of service.

The bad news is that if dems win big in November, it won't be the end of a GOP controlled congress. Republicans finding themselves voted out of office could discover that there's no compelling reason for them to worry about public opinion and pass the bill in a lame duck session.

Still, there's nothing they could do that couldn't be undone.


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