Cable, Telcos Debate in Pa.

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The latest battle over cable regulation had its first skirmish in Pennsylvania, with telephone companies arguing that local franchising is a barrier to entry and cable countering that telcos can compete now and need no governmental assistance.

Cable executives noted that regulations were changed in 1996 that allow telcos to provide video services. Under those rules, Verizon Communications negotiated 23 franchise agreements around the state.

The state Senate Communications and Technology Committee opened hearings Tuesday on Senate Bill 1247, which would allow statewide franchising, administered by the Corporation Bureau of the Department of State. That agency would have 15 days to act on a request for state operating authority. Incumbents would remain bound by current contracts. A similar bill is before the state House.

In addition to coming phone competition, 125 municipalities already have video competition, cable executives testified.

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