ALERT ON Tomorrow's Mark Up of Internet Bill (COPE)

Most folks reading this will have heard about the Communications Opportunity and Enhancements Act of 2006, aka COPE. I shall blog more thoroughly on this presently. For now, I want to focus on a narrow issue that may get lost in the shuffle: the efforts of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) to accomplish for his telco masters what AT&T could not accomplish in his home state — killing muni broadband.

You can read about all the bad stuff relating to network neutrality from my friends at the coalition (of which my employer, Media Access Project, is a member).

But the bill contains other provisions. The folks at Common Cause have posted this good section-by-section analysis. If you look, you will find a rare nugget of gold in the muck. The bill contains a provision overturning state prohibition on public broadband.

Needless to say, the usual suspects have gathered to stamp out this one little ray of sunshine. Tomorrow (April 26), the House Commerce Committee will hold a “mark up” on COPE and vote whether to report the bill out of Committee. (For those who unfamiliar with Congress, bills goes first to the committee (sometimes subcommittee) with jursidiction over the subject matter. The committee holds a mark up to consider amendments, then votes on whether to report the (amended) bill to the full House (or Senate) for a vote.)

I am informed that Representative Steve Buyer from the state of Indiana will introduce an amendment tomorrow seeking to eliminate the good language on muni broadband with language similar to that in the Ensign Telecom rewrite bill that requires local governments to get permission from private industry before building a network (aka the “Pennsylvania Plan”).

Why would Mr. Buyer do such a thing, you ask? Especially when his own great state of Indiana has rejected such a proposal in 2005 and then rejected the same proposal again in 2006? Good question, one which I hope Mr. Buyer’s constituents will ask him when he campaigns for reelection later in the year.

I have lots of problems with COPE generally, but I fear that with all the focus network neutrality and local franchising, that people will lose track of one of the few good things in the bill and let it slip away.

Common Cause has set up this page on COPE. It will also help you send an email or make a phone call to the relevant Representatives.

We won in Indiana, and elsewhere, because people reminded their elected representatives that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how big your war chest is — you work for us. If Representatives hear only silence, they listen to the lobbyists and vote accordingly. If they hear lots and lots of angry people, they listen to those people and vote accordingly.

What will the members of the Commerce Committee hear tomorrow about COPE? Will they hear that people care about muni broadband? Or will they hear only silence — and take that as permission to do favors for powerful friends?

Stay tuned . . . .


  1. There hasn’t been much to cheer about in the Commerce markup today, but there is this: A victory for muni-broadband! The bad Buyer amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

    Thanks for raising this, Harold. Your blog is a great read, always a fresh perspective.

  2. Actually, as I shall blog anon, it ain’t all bad. As we wade ankle deep into the sausage factory, it gets messy. But we can still make it work.

  3. If we had put all the money that we have been spending in Iraq towards Ethanol production, I wonder how far along we’d be right now in ridding ourselves of our "oil problem".
    I wonder why they did not think about this? Maybe because Bush, whom I voted for twice, is an oil man? I think so.
    If we could get it for Iraq, we should have been able to get it for something REALLY productive. I swear they perge our population ON PURPOSE.

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