McCain Introduces Consumer Broadband Bill

August 1, 2002. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 2863 [17 pages in PDF], the "Consumer Broadband Deregulation Act". The bill would add a new title to the Communications Act of 1934, titled "Consumer Broadband Services". It would provide that "neither the Commission, nor any State, shall have authority to regulate the rates, charges, terms, or conditions for the retail offering of consumer broadband service."

However, the McCain bill would leave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state and local governments free to regulate non consumer broadband services. It provides that "Nothing in this section precludes the Commission, or a State or local government, from regulating the provision of any service other than consumer broadband service, even if that service is provided over the same facilities as are used to provide consumer broadband service."

Sen. John
McCain
(R-AZ)

The McCain bill would further provide that "Except as provided in subsection (b), neither the Commission nor any State or political subdivision thereof shall have authority to require a consumer broadband service provider to afford an Internet service provider access to its facilities or services for the purpose of offering a consumer broadband service." Subsection (b) applies to entities that are required by the FCC "to afford an Internet service provider access to its facilities or services for the purpose of providing consumer broadband service on the date of enactment of the Consumer Broadband Deregulation Act".

The McCain bill also contains language pertaining to rights of way based obstacles to broadband deployment. For example, it provides that "A State or local government may not require compensation from consumer broadband service providers for access to, or use of, public rights of way that exceeds the direct and actual costs reasonably allocable to the administration of access to, or use of, public rights of way."

The McCain bill also would amend 47 U.S.C. 251 regarding unbundled access and collocation requirements.

The McCain bill defines "consumer broadband services" as "interstate residential high speed Internet access services." It further provides that "high speed" means whatever the FCC, by rule, says it means.

The bill also defines "Internet access service" as "a service that combines computer processing, information storage, protocol conversion, and routing with telecommunications to enable users to access Internet content and services."

Other Broadband Bills. There are already numerous other different proposals in the Senate relating to promoting broadband deployment. For example, Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), and others, introduced S 2430, the Broadband Regulatory Parity Act of 2002, on April 30, 2002. It would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promulgated "regulations to ensure that ... all broadband services, and all broadband access services, are subject to the same regulatory requirements, or no regulatory requirements".

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced S 88, the Broadband Internet Access Act of 2001, on January 22, 2001. This bill would offer a 10% tax credit per year for five years to companies that deploy "current generation broadband" telecom technologies to both residents and businesses in rural or underserved urban areas, and offer a 20% tax credit per year for five years to companies that invest in "next generation broadband" services to all residential customers.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced S 1126, the Broadband Deployment and Competition Enhancement Act of 2001, and S 1127, the Rural Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, on June 28, 2001.

Walter McCormick, P/CEO of the U.S. Telecom Association, and a former Senate Commerce Committee staff member, stated in a release that "It has become increasingly clear that there is an extreme regulatory disparity that has delayed the deployment of broadband across the nation and consumers, telecom workers and the economy are all feeling the negative effects. USTA supports legislative efforts to speed deployment for both residential and business customers and urges the Senate to take action as soon as possible to ensure stability in the telecom sector and to help bolster the nation's economy."