Skip to main content

No Floor Vote Scheduled for Franchise Bill

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has not scheduled a floor vote this week for the video franchise bill, and is "highly unlikely to" given the already crowded schedule, according to a source close to the Leader's  office.

That likely means a September vote at the earliest, depending on whether bill backers can get the votes.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens is still lining up the 60 he needs to defeat a threatened filibuster of the bill over its absence of strong network neutrality provisions. Frist has made it clear that he won't schedule a vote until he can be assured it won't take up floor time only to be mooted by a filibuster.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), for one, has pledged to block the bill.

A franchise reform bill without mandated network neutrality provision passed the House, and the Senate Commerce Committee--though a network neutrality amendment was narrowly defeated in the latter--but faces an uphill battle against time and Democratic senators. Some of them are convinced that the Internet will be turned into an innovation-curbing toll road unless telco and cable companies are prevented by law from using their power over the pipes to favor content that makes them more money or speech they prefer.

The companies argue that there is no evidence they are doing that, don't plan to do that, and have FCC guidelines in place telling them not to do that, or else. But they also say they must be free to manage their networks to keep the growing information and entertainment demands from clogging the pipes and free to provide the extra security and capacity necessary for high-bandwidth services like streaming video.