The House Judiciary Committee is sending an amended version of the Tauzin-Dingell bill, or the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, to the Committee on Rules with a negative referral. The Rules Committee will vote whether or not the bill will go to the House floor.
The negative referral means the committee amended the bill and still determined it "didn't have the power to change the bill as much as it needed to," says Covad Senior Counsel Jason Oxman. Covad has been a vocal opponent of the bill.
Dubbed the Sensenbrenner Amendment after Judiciary Committee Chair F. James Sensenbrenner, the amended version has two key changes: that if the bill passes, the Bells would need to apply to the Department of Justice, rather than the FCC, for approval of any relief from Inter-LATA provisions of the '96 Telecom Act. The second contradicts a U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision on last summer's Goldwasser case, a federal class-action lawsuit against Ameritech, alleging the company impeded competition. A district court dismissed the case and the appeals court agreed. Oxman says the amendment says the Bells are liable after all for antitrust provisions "if they refuse to open their markets."
The bill should go to the Rules Committee in a week, he says.