Senators Introduce Bill on Cable Franchising Issue

Jul 27, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In a boon to the telephone industry, Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and John McCain, R-Ariz., on Wednesday introduced legislation that would allow phone companies and incumbent cable TV operators alike to offer TV services without having to get local or state cable franchises. The phone companies have complained that local franchising obligations have stymied their efforts to compete with incumbent cable TV operators.

If the legislation becomes law, local franchising obligations would be scrapped for everyone, with all players on the same playing field. Under the bill, cable TV operators and phone companies would still be required to pay fees of up to 5 percent of their revenues to local governments. All players would also have to meet a variety of other obligations cable TV operators currently face, including a requirement that they carry the signals of local TV stations.

In a statement, Kyle McSlarrow, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president and CEO, said cable operators want to work with lawmakers on some provisions in the bill. “We commend Sen. Ensign for crafting legislation that seeks to promote competition and innovation and treats like services alike,” Mr. McSlarrow said. However, “Consumers benefit when market forces are allowed to work and all providers, regardless of technology, can compete in the marketplace without government policies that pick winners and losers.” Said Tim McKone, SBC Communications senior VP, federal relations: “SBC is pleased that Sen. Ensign today introduced federal legislation that catches up with today’s marketplace realities, so that consumers can fully enjoy the benefits of meaningful competitive choice in all communications services, including video.”