Draft Legislation Would Allow Telcos to Bypass Local Cable Franchises

Sep 15, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Bipartisan discussion draft legislation released Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would clear the way for telephone companies to offer video services over their broadband networks without having to get local cable TV franchises.

Under the measure, phone companies would still be obliged to pay franchise fees to local governments and meet many of the other regulatory obligations that cable TV operators face, including must-carry regulations. But the phone companies would essentially be free to begin offering video to their customers after putting the Federal Communications Commission on notice of their intentions.

In a statement, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the committee’s chairman, said: “New services shouldn’t be hamstrung by old thinking and outdated regulations.” Added Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the committee’s ranking minority member: “Updating the 1996 [Telecommunications Act] is one of my top priorities for the fall, and this bipartisan discussion draft represents a solid first step.”

Tim McKone, SBC Communications senior VP for federal relations, said: “We are pleased that the House is moving to bring consumers meaningful video choice. Although we have not fully reviewed the substance of the staff draft, we look forward to working with Chairman Barton and the entire committee to pass legislation that accomplishes this goal.”

Said Paul Rodriguez, a spokesman for National Cable & Telecommunications Association: “It’s a very complex bill, so we’re going to take some time to examine it. But we look forward to working with Chairman Barton on these issues.”