Colo. Statewide-Franchise Bill on Hold

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A cable franchise reform bill backed by Qwest Communications International in Colorado was postponed indefinitely by an 8-4 vote Thursday of the state House transportation and energy committee.

The bill sought to assign responsibility for franchising to the state Public Utilities Commission, which would have had 30 days upon application to approve a statewide franchise for a new provider. The bill would hold current video providers to the terms of their current local franchises until their contractual expiration dates.

But the bill came up against strong opposition from lobbyists for cities and counties, in addition to the incumbent cable providers.

Jeff Weist, assistant deputy director for the Colorado Cable & Telecommunications Association, said incumbents argued that Qwest would not be the second choice for consumers, but in some communities, it would be the fifth provider in town. Cities and the industry also argued that the point of the bill was not to create more competition in the state, but to provide a bypass of local build-out requirements.

Community activists, testifying Wednesday, also expressed concern that Qwest would use the state authority to bypass low-income communities with high-tech services.

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