Broadband Bill May Go Bust<@VM>No Cybersquats, but Cheaper Patents<@VM>E-Signatures Bill Awaits Resolution
Rep. W.J. Billy Tauzin
By Anne Gallagher
A group of House members plan to push a bill through the Commerce Committee that would allow the Baby Bells to carry broadband traffic.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. W.J. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and John Dingell, D-Mich., would do away with regulations that now prevent the regional Bell companies from building ultrafast Internet networks.
But the chances of the bill clearing the committee may be slim. Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley, R-Va., the biggest opponent, successfully blocked a vote on it and does not seem willing to budget time on moving it through his committee, congressional aides said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy
The Senate and House passed a package of intellectual property bills, including one banning cybersquatting, the unauthorized use of trademark names on the Internet, another reducing patent fees and a third allowing satellite companies to provide local broadcasting.
All three bills were included in the omnibus budget bill passed by the two chambers before adjournment.
Under the patent provision, inventors could save up to $30 million a year, said Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who pushed for passage of the package. The patent bill also directs the federal Patent and Trademark Office to rule on a patent application within three years.
Before passage of the satellite package, senators removed a provision that prohibited Internet service providers from obtaining licenses for transmission of broadcasts.
The Senate and House will face difficult discussions on electronic signature legislation in 2000.
The Senate passed the Third Millennium Digital Commerce Act (S. 761) Nov. 19, establishing national standards for e-signatures and allowing Internet transactions with digital signatures.
The House version (H.R. 1714) is much broader and allows for more electronic records to be provided over the Internet. A conference on the issue is expected early next year. Opponents of the House version are concerned it would encourage businesses to use e-mail to contact consumers about business matters, and that not all consumers may be familiar with e-mail use and could miss essential information.
"The purpose of this legislation is to facilitate electronic commerce over the Internet," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in a Nov. 19 floor speech. "It is not intended that this legislation be the basis for unfair or deceptive attempts by some to avoid providing mandated information."