The bill, HR 3888, is the House's version of the so-called "anti-slamming" bill passed by the Senate last month. The bill prohibits telecommunications companies from switching a customer's long distance service without permission.
But an amendment added at the last minute contains provisions intended to limit the use of spam, another name for junk e-mail.
The anti-anti-spam bill?
But many in the anti-spam community believe it is already having the opposite effect. They argue that the provisions are so weak that most types of junk e-mail would be exempted.
"Many junk mailers are starting to advertise that 'this e-mail is in compliance with the federal statute.' And in many cases they actually are," said Ray Everett Church, Congressional liaison to the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (CAUCE), which opposes the amendment. CAUCE and the Forum for Responsible and Ethical E-mail (FREE), a California-based anti-spam organization, are charging that the hearings for the House bill have excluded them and other parties critical to the amendment's language.
Church did testify for brief hearings for the Senate bill, but they were held after the bill had been passed.
Anti-spammers back competing bill
The spam amendment to the Senate bill was jointly sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Robert Toricelli (D-N.J.). The House bill, which is virtually identical to the final Senate bill, is sponsored by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.).
CAUCE and FREE, which between them have wide support among the anti-spam community on the Internet, both support a competing bill, known as the Netizens Protection Act (HR 1748), which would include junk e-mail under a ban similar to the ban on junk faxes.