Yesterday the House of Representatives gave the big telecoms a big chunk of what they’ve paid big campaign contributions to get.

The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill making it easier for phone companies to offer video programming, bringing consumers a step closer to having more choices for their cable TV service.

The bill, which passed by a 321 to 101 vote, would allow companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. to get television franchises by applying to the Federal Communications Commission rather than by negotiating them one by one with thousands of municipalities.

There’s nothing wrong with the basic idea of this proposal, what the industry propaganda ads are called “TV freedom” (although some of the details are rather fishy). It really doesn’t make much sense for any distributor of television service to have to go town by town for approval to offer their services.

The problem is that the telecoms are trying to lump television and internet services into the same basket. They would like nothing better than to charge consumers for increasingly expensive internet packages, the same way they now do for TV channels.

However, the worst part of their business plan is on the other end of the pipe. The telecoms want to charge internet content providers for priority access to their customers, as cable television currently charges networks for premium placement on their rosters.

That’s why lobbyists for big telecoms are running a parallel advertising campaign fighting the concept of “net neutrality”, which their ominous-sounding announcer declares will result in government regulation of the internet.

And it seems to be working. Their pet Congress critters stripped a net neutrality amendment from the bill, with one of the supporters offering this little piece of crap.

During the debate, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, said the bill sought to “strike the right balance between ensuring that the public Internet remains an open, vibrant marketplace and ensuring that Congress does not hand the FCC a blank check to regulate Internet services.

“We don’t need anybody to be the first secretary of the Internet,” he added.

No one is asking for the FCC to regulate the internet. All we want is…

Wes makes some very good points on the subject in his entry from this morning and also offers links to some excellent additional reading.

As always, keep an eye on the pages of Public Knowledge and the EFF. Both organizations are fighting for a level playing field on the web.

net neutrality, congress, big telecom