Washington Watch: Online Gambling and Broadband Expansion

House Committee Approves Net Gambling Bill
Today the House Financial Services Committee approved the “Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act” (H.R. 2267) that would lift the US ban on internet gambling. The bill was introduced by Committee Chairman Barney Frank who hopes to move the bill in tandem with H.R.4976 — Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act of 2010 which would tax online gambling operations.
This movement occurs as online gambling has gained steam in the EU with France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Denmark and others all in the process of liberalizing their laws. At the same time, British Columbia has approved the first legal online casino in North America, but excessive demand and hackers brought the site down on its first day. Ontario may launch online casinos as well.

FCC Report Triggers Acceleration of Broadband Deployment
In its annual report to Congress on whether broadband is being “deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,” the Obama FCC cited the fact that 14-24 million Americans lack access to high-speed lines “who, despite years of waiting, still have little prospect of getting broadband deployed to their homes,” in finding this standard is not being met. The Telecommunications Act provides that “[i]f the Commission’s determination is negative, it shall take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market.” The finding has garnered praise from consumer and reform groups, but strong criticism from Republican Commission members and he telecom industry. The report coincides with a study that found Comcast to have the quickest average internet speed in the US, but it is only half as fast as South Korea which is three times as fast as the average US speed.

On a related note, Senate Republicans have introduced legislation that would strip the FCC’s authority to impose net neutrality regulations. Over 70 House Democrats have expressed their opposition to the FCC’s Net Neutrality proposal. More Info: FCC Report; FCC Report Finds Broadband Deployment Lacking, FreePress, FCC Report: U.S. Not Making ‘Reasonable’ Broadband Progress, National Journal; Comcast fastest fish in shallow US broadband pond, Ars Technica; GOP senators move to block FCC on Net neutrality, Cnet