News

S.C. Bill Seeks Speedy Entry

1/27/2006 7:02 PM Eastern

Pay $50, wait 10 days and your company, too, can be a new video competitor in South Carolina.

Those are among the statewide franchising details included in parallel bills filed in South Carolina, the latest state to take up cable franchising.

While debate on that bill gets going, pro-state franchising forces in Indiana are putting together a media plan to counter the expected opposition from incumbent cable operators to a state franchising proposal in that state.

In addition to South Carolina and Indiana, New Jersey, Missouri and Virginia are hot spots in the battle between telephone companies and incumbent cable companies on franchise reform.

QUICK DEPLOYMENT

The South Carolina Competitive Cable Services Act was introduced on Jan. 18, positing that video operations no longer need be “constrained by municipal boundaries.” It calls for a streamlined policy that will allow “functionally equivalent” services to compete fairly and deploy quickly.

A new provider that already has infrastructure and authority to operate in public rights-of-way could seek a video certification. Beyond the nominal fee, a prospective provider must vow to adhere to federal and state laws, describe intended service areas and identify its place of business and executives. After 10 days, the application is to be granted.

Incumbent operators would remain bound to their franchises until the stipulated expiration date. Incumbents could expand into areas they don’t already serve, though.

The telco-friendly proposal requires new providers to pay the same franchise fee as the incumbent — or, in areas without an incumbent, pay 5% of revenue to local regulators.

The bill, now in a Senate committee, would ban build-out requirements.

ARMEY ON THE MARCH

Meanwhile, Freedomworks, a lobbying group that worked to pass the ground-breaking state franchising legislation last year in Texas, plans a similar campaign in Indiana backing that state’s reform proposal.

Headed by former Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey of Texas, the group formed in 1984 as Citizens for a Sound Economy. It claims 700,000 members nationwide.

FreedomWorks backs “Choose Your Cable,” a nationwide telecommunications reform campaign targeting decision makers in Washington, D.C., plus legislators in Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas and California, where bills have been introduced or are contemplated.

In Indiana, pro-reform ads were placed on Cable News Network, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and in print media, the group said.

September