Upton Announces Bipartisan Package of Legislation on Video Franchises

Apr 4, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., late Tuesday said a bipartisan package of amendments would be offered tomorrow to beef up key enforcement provisions in legislation to make it easier for phone companies to roll out pay TV services.

The legislation, which is up for a vote by the House telecommunications subcommittee starting Wednesday morning, would clear the way for phone companies to roll out video operations through a national franchising process-one that would allow them to bypass the local franchising process that incumbent cable TV operators had to go through to launch the nation’s existing cable systems.

The measure would allow cable TV operators to switch from local to national franchises after a phone company launches video services on their turf or when the cable company’s local franchise expires. One of the provisions in Rep. Upton’s amendment package would give the Federal Communications Commission or a franchising authority the right to audit the books of national video franchise providers once a year to ensure that they aren’t cheating on a requirement to pay local authorities up to 6 percent of their revenues. Another amendment in Rep. Upton’s package would give the FCC the right to issue fines of up to $500,000 to telephone or cable companies that use their power over their broadband networks to discriminate against rival content providers. The amendment would also require the agency to resolve discrimination complaints within 90 days.