In contrast, DeMint's bill would phase out cable television franchises over four years, clearing the way for companies like Verizon to compete with cable operators. It does not include the so-called net neutrality protections that would allow Internet users to access any legal content or services.
DeMint, in a statement, said it's time that communications carriers face the same limited regulation as most other businesses. Congress should "take the shackles off of America's most exciting industry," DeMint said.
PFF's May said he's optimistic the bill will be considered seriously in Congress, even though consumer groups have expressed concern about a lack of choice. Telecom giants SBC Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp. merged in November and Verizon is likely to close its acquisition of MCI Inc. by early next year.
DeMint's bill would also:
-- Require the FCC and the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service to overhaul the Universal Service Fund (USF) program, which provides carriers subsidies to offer telephone and Internet service to schools, libraries, and poor and rural areas. The bill would set a limit on USF payments each year.
-- Defines communications networks as services to be regulated largely at the federal level, with the FCC having "exclusive jurisdiction" in most cases. The bill does allow the FCC to give state governments authority to enforce some federal rules and take some actions to protect consumers.