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Dorgan Has À La Carte Rerservations

Senator Byron (D-N.D.) who voted against the passage of the Senate communications Reform bill in the Commerce Committee this week, doesn't think much of the communications acumen on the House side of the Hill and has reservations about à la carte, though he thinks it may eventually come in some form.

Dorgan, who says he feel some communications reform is needed, voted against the bill because he feels it lacks protections against nondiscrimination in the provision of Internet service, specifically a net neutrality--he calls it Internet freedom--he co-sponsored that narrowly failed to pass.

When the interviewer, in segment for C-SPAN's Communicators series, pointed out that the House version of communications reform also does not include strong anti-discrimination language--a similar amendment was defeated handily--Dorgan shot back:

"The House of Representatives are living in the 1860's on these things. Enough said about that. You would not expect anything that represents progress from the House of Representatives. I'm sorry. I don't mean to suggest everything they do is without merit," he qualified, but said that most of what comes from the House has "the stamp of big business."

Dorgan expressed some reservations about requiring cable to provide channels a la carte, which was in an amendment soundly defeated by the committee. "On its face, I think a la carte makes some sense, but the more I have studied the issue the more convinced I am that buying cable channels individually will mean you are paying more for than as a group." He said that he thought that "at some point we will find some way to do something about à la carte."

Dorgan said he thought that the bill would be a tough one to get through the Senate. Stevens wants to have a floor vote by September, but as Dorgan points out, the bill is an authorization bill and other amendments could be added--the Senate accepts non-germane amendments--that could endanger passage.

He also said, and certainly hopes is the case, that it probably wouldn't pass without stronger network neutrality language and "back[ing] away some" from preemptions of consumer protections.

It could also face a filibuster, which could keep the leadership from bringing it to the floor.