FCC to Probe Video-Franchising Issues

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The Federal Communications Commission is planning to launch a rulemaking Nov. 3 that could help SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to speed their entry into local video markets, according to a meeting agenda released Thursday night.

The FCC is planning to examine a provision of the 1992 Cable Act -- section 621 -- that bars local governments from acting unreasonably in awarding franchises to companies that want to compete with cable incumbents.

SBC and Verizon are lobbying state and federal officials to relax or eliminate local franchise requirements, claiming that the process is long and delays competition. Cable companies are fighting back, arguing that phone companies are seeking regulatory advantages denied to incumbents.

In a speech Wednesday, FCC chairman Kevin Martin confirmed published reports that he wanted to explore the agency’s legal options in dealing with local governments accused of holding up phone-company entry.

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