Barton vs. Stevens: How the Bills Compare

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Cable Franchising:

New rules take effect immediately.

National cable franchise granted by the Federal Communications Commission within 30 days of applying.

National franchise lasts 10 years, with automatic renewal.

Incumbent cable operators may obtain a national franchise outside of their existing franchise areas immediately.

An incumbent cable operator may immediately apply for a national franchise if a second cable provider with a local or national franchise is competing in the same franchise area.

Local franchising authorities are barred from reviewing the sale or transfer of cable systems.

Any cable-service provider may opt to use the state or local franchising process in lieu of the national franchise regime.

Network Neutrality:

The FCC is authorized to enforce broadband principles established in August 2005 but not to adopt rules. The FCC may adjudicate complaints and impose a fine of up to $500,000 per violation.

The FCC is to file a report with Congress within 180 days on whether objectives of principles are being achieved.

Buildout Requirements and Red-Lining:

No explicit buildout requirement for national franchisees.

Requires a national franchisee to designate an entire franchise area as the location in which it intends to offer service.

A national franchisee may not deny service to any group of residential subscribers in a local authority because of the income of that group.

Based on the receipt of a red-lining compliant from an LFA, the FCC may order a national franchisee to extend service within a reasonable period of time.

The FCC may impose per-day fines up to $500,000, payable to the LFA.

Municipal Broadband:

Local governments may offer cable, information or telecommunications service without the approval of state government.


Cable and other Internet-protocol-enabled voice providers have the same interconnection rights as competitive local-exchange carriers have today.

Child Pornography:

The FCC has to draft regulations within 180 days to ensure that a national cable franchisee prevents the distribution of child pornography over its network.


Voice-over-Internet-protocol service providers have to provide 911 and E-911 service to their VoIP subscribers.

Stand-Alone Broadband:

Consumers must be allowed to purchase high-speed Internet access unbundled from any cable, telecommunications or VoIP service. No language on FCC authority to regulate the price of unbundled broadband access.

Various Provisions:

Silent on all.


Cable Franchising:

New rules take effect in 180 days.

Retains local franchising, except that local franchisers generally must approve a franchise application within 30 days.

FCC creates standardized application form that applicants and LFA must utilize.

Franchise length is no less than five years and no more than 15 years.

A cable operator is ineligible to use new franchising system within its LFA until its franchise has expired or until it has received notice that a new cable company has applied to compete in the same franchise area.

Basic-cable-rate regulation is suspended for a cable incumbent that becomes eligible to use the newly established franchising system.

Local authorities are barred from reviewing the sale or transfer of cable systems.

Network Neutrality:

The FCC is to file a report every year for five years on developments in Internet-traffic processing, routing, peering, transport and interconnection, and on business relationships between broadband-service providers and creators of online applications and services.

The FCC, if needed, shall make recommendations to Congress on ensuring consumer access to lawful Internet content and applications.

Buildout Requirements and Red-Lining:

No explicit buildout requirement.

A video-service provider may not deny access to any group of potential residential subscribers because of income, race or religion of that group.

A resident in the franchise area may file a complaint with the FCC.

The FCC can require provision of service and impose fines based on civil penalties under state law.

Municipal Broadband:

Local governments may provide advanced communications service but commercial enterprises have the right to bid for a project. If no private entity submits a bid to provide equivalent service within 30 days, the local government may proceed.


Same as Barton.

Child Pornography:

The FCC has 180 days to draft regulations to prevent a video service from distributing child pornography over its network.



Stand-Alone Broadband:


Universal Service Fund:

Allows FCC to seek USF funding from cable-modem revenue.

Allows FCC for the first time to use USF funds to subsidize broadband in rural America.

Allows FCC to deny USF funds to recipients that have failed to deploy broadband within five years.

Sports Programming:

Bans any pay TV distributor from having exclusive rights to live sports programming, even if the distributor is unaffiliated with the program provider and the programming is distributed terrestrially.

Depending on interpretation of the grandfathering provisions, Comcast Corp. could lose exclusivity of SportsNet Philadelphia and DirecTV Inc. of NFL Sunday Ticket when contracts expire, if not immediately.

Local cable news channels distributed terrestrially would likely be exempt from the exclusivity ban, provided they do not offer live sporting events.

Digital-TV Transition/Must-Carry:

If a TV station is transmitting solely in digital and elects mandatory cable carriage, the local cable operator is required to provide the digital signal in the digital format provided by the broadcaster without degradation.

A cable operator may offer the same must-carry digital-TV signal in any digital or analog format without degradation.

A cable operator must include any digital or analog local TV signal on the basic tier once a TV station has ceased analog transmission.

Under Transition Rules Ending Feb. 17, 2014:

A cable operator must provide a must-carry digital-TV signal in a format necessary for viewing on digital and analog TV sets.

A cable operator may convert a must-carry TV station’s HD signal to standard-definition.

A cable operator may convert digital signals at the headend or in the home.

A cable operator with less than 550-megahertz capacity must offer a must-carry digital-TV signal in analog and may also provide that digital signal in any digital format.

Signal conversion by itself is not treated as signal degradation.

Source: HR 5252, S. 2686, Multichannel News research.