Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shut Down the Plan to End Local Control of Cable Franchises

I'm encouraging all readers of this page and residents statewide to voice a loud opposition to a bill before the legislature which drains funds away from cities and counties, removes local control over cable franchise rights, and essentially hands the telephone companies both an unfair advantage and reduces existing standards of service.

It's worth noting that for the first time, federal taxpayers have a chance to get a small refund from from the telecoms for a tax first added to telephone service in the 1800s, money they've collected for decades and are only refunding now after the government intervened.

It's also worth noting that in the early days of Internet usage, the vast majority of users had to use a dial-up service and pay a per-minute fee for access. Thankfully, technology made such high prices outmoded.

And if the state does approve the end of locally created franchise agreements, the cities and counties will be looking for new ways to replace that lost income - more taxation.

The bills under review are currently headed into committees for debate in early April, but the time to speak out is now, before it's too late.

Taking a cue from this post at KnoxViews, simply send an email to your representative and senator, such as the one below, mentioned at KV. A link to the Senate directory is here. A link to the House directory is here.

Dear Rep. ____________
Dear Sen. ____________

I urge you to vote against and actively oppose SB1933/HB1421, which eliminates local control of cable franchises, regulates local franchise fees, restricts or eliminates customer service and quality standards, provides state regulation of local public right of way for the benefit of cable companies, restricts or eliminates local build-out requirements, and allows cable companies to create statewide franchises.

Contrary to claims of the lobbyists who wrote it, this legislation is not good for consumers or for local governments who know best what is needed in their communities and which areas are undeserved. Local governments have a duty to maintain infrastructure rights of way for the benefit of all citizens and taxpayers in their communities.

I urge you to vote for and actively support the following three bills that would help expand broadband access in Tennessee. Broadband access, and particularly rural broadband access, is vital to our economy in terms of availability for businesses relocating here and maintaining a qualified workforce, and will also help cure the "digital divide" between poor working people and the more affluent.

HB2100/SB1572 would establish a non-profit "Tennessee Broadband Access Corporation to facilitate the deployment of broadband technologies across the state."

HB2103/SB1716 requires "the department of economic and community development to establish a ConnectTN program to bring statewide broadband expansion."

HB2099/SB1580 "Expands the membership of the Tennessee Broadband Task Force to include a representative of the department of education and requires the task force to submit an assessment of the state of broadband deployment on an annual basis.

Thank you.

4 comments:

Sarcastro said...

Ending the local franchises would also allow AT&T, for example, to cherry pick their customers. Currently, Comcast is required to provide cable to everyone who lives in a franchise area. AT&T will only offer their services to the more affluent neighborhoods.

Additionally, any increase in cost to the cable provider will be passed along directly to the consumer, making for a higher bill.

Anonymous said...

Read the "bills" not bill again. It forces competiton. Comcast can pick and choose now where it wants to franchise. In other state AT&T and the old Bell South has brought new technology not old coax cable to all areas. Also let me get this straight: cable companies should have the right to be in the phone business but phone companies should not be allowed in the cable business. (and I don't mean dish networ it's a joke)Thanks I'll be asking my legislators to vote Yes.

Joe Powell said...

Anon -
If the phone company wants to compete in the cable biz, fine. But why change state law so they don't compete the same way all other providers do, which is already provided for by law, via local franchise agreements?
And why sign over local control of rights-of-way?

Anonymous said...

"Protection of Local Control" is a complete farce, and nothing other than protection of Comcast's monopoly on cable service. Their commercial is especially ludicrous (to paraphrase): "...keep control out of the hands of corporate executives". Who the hell do they want us to think runs Comcast? Volunteers? Their own website proudly proclaims (and this is an exact quote) "Today, we’re the country’s largest provider of cable services - and one of the world’s leading communications companies."
Their argument is devoid of logic.
All they want to do is protect their MONOPOLY! Anyone who falls for this is stupid.