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The Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006(COPE)is regulatory legislation recently (June 2006) passed by the US House of Representatives. It is part of a major overhaul of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and will address cable franchising regulation and network neutrality among other issues. The COPE Act is sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas), Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Charles Pickering (R-Miss.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

The current version of the COPE Act (HR 5252) includes network neutrality provisions defined by the Federal Communications Commission. An amendment offered by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) would have supplemented these with a prohibition against service tiering (the consumer's choice to pay more to get more.) The COPE Act was passed by the full House on June 8, 2006; the Markey Amendment failed [1], leaving the final bill without a provision to define and enforce network neutrality as a legal standard.

The legislation is now in front of the US Senate where Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) are expected to introduce a bipartisan amendment supporting Net Neutrality when the Senate takes up its own rewrite of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 later this year. (Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has also introduced the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006, a piece of legislation favorable to those who want an enforceable Net Neutrality standard.)


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