Texas Two-Step For Telco Video


A newly-formed consumer activist group calling itself Consumers for Cable Choice (CCC) is lobbying state utility regulators to support legislation easing the way for telco video competition to cable.

The group, which has yet to identify its members, has sent a letter to the National Association of Regulatory and Utility Commissioners, meeting in Austin, Tex., July 23, asking them to support bills in both the House and Senate that would create statewide franchises for telcos getting into video.

Their goal is to spur cable competition by exempting telcos from protracted local franchise negotiations, though still holding them to franchise fees and public interest obligations similar to those for their cable competitors in the markets it enters.

"State regulators do not have authority over locally regulated cable television," points out CCC Executive Director Robert K. Johnson, but he says that their "experience with local, long-distance and cellular telephone regulation mirrors the current cable television issue."

Johnson, who was in Washington Thursday to lobby for the bills, said the group is partially funded by telco Verizon, but that he sought them out not the other way around.

Texas is turning into something of a hotbed of the statewide franchise issue, with a bill currently before the legislature, also pushed by Verizon, that would create a statewide franchise for telcos there.