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rockymtnhigh
05-01-2007, 08:46 AM
From IceTurkee: The Daytona Beach News Journal (http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Business/Headlines/bizBIZ01050107.htm) reports the following in today's paper:


Cable TV battles to heat up

Lawmakers OK bill that will widen franchise options
By JIM SAUNDERS
Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE -- With supporters saying more competition will drive down prices for consumers, Florida lawmakers passed a plan Monday that will help telephone companies get into the cable-television business.

The measure, which set off a lobbying war in the Capitol, will allow companies to get statewide cable franchises and avoid having to negotiate agreements with individual cities and counties.

Phone companies hope that will clear the way for them to compete with cable companies, which have entered local franchise agreements in the past and dominated markets.

The phone and cable industries fought about the issue for more than a year. But the bill passed Monday reflects a compromise that allows cable companies --- along with phone companies --- to get statewide franchises.

Officials of both industries said the bill is part of a major shift in which phone and cable companies will compete to sell "bundled" packages that include home-phone, cable, high-speed Internet and cell-phone services.

"We're entering an era of the battle of the bundles," said Steve Wilkerson, president of the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, a cable-industry group.

But local governments were disappointed in the bill, which passed the House by a 117-2 vote Monday after clearing the Senate last week.

Under current franchise agreements, cities and counties typically get benefits such as public-access channels. While phone and cable companies still would have to provide those channels, a lobbyist for cities said the requirement has loopholes.

"The cable guys kind of came to the conclusion phone (companies) would win, so they cut a deal and cut it without us," said John W. Smith of the Florida League of Cities.

Phone companies, such as AT&T, Embarq and Verizon, have been working in various parts of the country to get into the cable business. They contend that offering more choices to consumers will bring down cable prices.

One of the biggest parts of the legislative debate, however, centered on whether phone companies would target only affluent areas -- effectively discriminating against low-income people -- as they moved into the cable business.

In the past, cable companies often have been required to develop their systems to serve wide-ranging franchise areas, a concept known as "build out."

But lawmakers tried to solve that issue by giving power to the attorney general to take legal action if a company discriminates based on race or income levels.

What It Means

Phone and cable companies will be able to get statewide franchises to provide television service, so they won't have to negotiate agreements with individual cities and counties. The phone companies argued the move was needed so they could afford to roll out service and compete with the cable companies.

The phone companies argue the increased competition will hold down prices for consumers.

bidger`
05-01-2007, 11:22 AM
The phone companies argue the increased competition will hold down prices for consumers.

Makes sense to me. I say, "Everyone into the pool!".

Reigster at SatelliteGuys