Video Franchise Bill Introduced In House (reg. req.)


A bill introduced by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) Monday would give the Bells a national video franchise for 10 years and includes some allowances for cable operators missing from previous bills. What it doesn’t do: offer the kind of net neutrality coverage sought by some concerned by the prospect of tiered performance/pricing. From the bill as proposed:

— Unlike earlier versions, it takes local franchise authority away for cable in areas with competition, providing the more level playing field being sought by the NCTA.

— National video franchisees would have to pay 1 percent of gross revenue to support public access and instituional networks.

— Local governments would be allowed to offer HSD as long as rules are the same for private franchisees.

— No territorial-buildout requirements for telcos but would ban red-lining and give FCC some intervention ability for neglected communities.

As Declan McCullagh writes, the November version guaranteed net neutrality; this version gives the FCC authority to set rules and publish violations. He writes about the disappointment for those including eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo counting on Barton to spell it out. Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) response to the bill was blistering.

Ted Hearn has the most informed take for those with Multichannel News subs.

Think fast track: the first hearing is Thursday morning and it could be voted on next week.

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