Telcos Argue Case For Easier Franchising In Front Of Sympathetic Senate Chair

I’ve logged more than my share of hours covering cable local franchise agreements so I can empathize with anyone who wants to avoid creating those piles of paperwork or going through lengthy, sometimes nit-picky negotations. But I’m a little bemused by the idea that the LFA process should apply only to cable while the video-telcos simply pay a fee and move ahead, especially since it appears to take away some authority from local governments. U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, chairman of the Commerce committee, sees it as trade-off for for the cable companies’ privileges as they compete in voice. After Wednesday’s U.S. Senate hearing on video franchising, Steves told reporters: “We gave cable special privileges when they entered the telephone system. I really don’t understand cable saying, no, we can’t treat telephone the same way when they start entering the cable business.” So far, Stevens and the committee doesn’t see a clear way to aid the telcos without causing problems at the local level.
AT&T Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre and Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg each testified; Seidenberg said that cable prices in areas where Verizon offers FiOS have cut prices to 28-42 percent. Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge sang the usual MSO refrain about how all video providers should be on the same footing. His point: cable has to offer video everywhere while the telcos cherrypick for higher-income neighborhoods.
What next? U.S. Sen. John McCain says he’ll offer a local franchise bill with a quid pro quo for a la carte. Stevens hopes to get a bill passed this year but it doesn’t seem likely. More from Reuters:.

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