Virginia Governor Signs Bill to Simplify Video Franchise License Approval

Mar 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine signed into law Friday a bill designed to simplify the process of obtaining a video franchise license by ensuring local governments approve franchise applications more quickly.

The new law mandates that local governments in the state approve video franchise applications within 75 days and is designed to discourage municipal governments from prolonging the approval process.

While telephone companies such as AT&T and Verizon Communications have been pressing state legislatures to pass bills that allow for statewide video franchises, such a move in Virginia would have required a change in the Virginia Constitution, which gives local governments control of right-of-way issues.

Texas already has a law allowing for statewide video franchise licensing, and a similar bill is awaiting signature on the Indiana governor’s desk. Other states taking up the statewide franchising issue include Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina and California.

“We congratulate Virginia legislators and the governor for enacting a law that streamlines government regulation of video franchising while providing an opportunity for all providers to compete fairly,” said National Cable Television Association President Kyle McSlarrow in a statement. “Virginia has set the bar for federal and state legislators as they too ponder changes in telecommunications law to ensure fair and robust competition and create a more dynamic telecommunications marketplace.”

AT&T and Verizon are betting big on video services as a way to counteract the decline in wire-line and long-distance businesses. The companies have spent billions of dollars in the past few years upgrading their telephone networks with fiber-optic technology that enables the delivery of video and high-speed data to residential customers.

However, the process has been slowed by current video franchising rules, which require the telcos to negotiate with each municipality where they want to offer their video service, a long and arduous process that most analysts agree would likely delay the telcos’ ability to recoup their fiber investment.

To help speed that process, AT&T and Verizon each have been lobbying hard in various states and in Congress to change the franchise rules, often meeting with stiff resistance from the cable industry.