COPE Passes House With Big Bi-Partisan Support
In an evening session Thursday the House of Representatives voted 321-101 to approve the Communications Opportunity and Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE), a video franchise reform bill that promises to expand cable TV competition and choice to consumers nationwide. Nearly all House Republicans lined up behind the measure, plus 92 Democrats. In addition, Rep. Edward Markey's network neutrality amendment, which had become a focal point for opponents of the bill, was defeated in an earlier voice vote and left out of the bill, a major victory for those who wish to see an unregulated Internet. The bill creates a national franchising process for wireline service providers–largely telephone companies–who wish to use their local exchange networks to offer cable TV and cable-like video services. Until now the competitive entry has been slowed the need to negotiate franchise agreements with individual cities and towns, although several states have legislated statewide franchise rules. Studies show that cable rates are an average 15 percent lower where there is competition. COPE's likely counterpart in the Senate is Communications, Consumer Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act (S. 2686), a sweeping telecom reform measure that is still in committee hearings. Final tally on COPE is here. An opposition web site, saveaccess.org, followed the legislation throughout the day here.