Fla. Senate Amends Franchise-Reform Bill

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A telephone-company-friendly franchise-reform bill passed late last week by the Florida House of Representatives was amended in a Senate committee to require penetration into one-half of the low-income homes passed by a new provider.

The draft of a Senate version of the bill, SB998, was amended to require new video providers to reach at least 50% of low-income households within five years of the launch of service in the areas the provider identifies as its service areas.

The previous version of the bill did not have specific milestones for build-out or specific protections for low-income neighborhoods. Build-out guidelines in other states have required penetration of 25%-40% of low income neighborhoods by the fifth year of operation.

The House and Senate versions would assign franchise authority to the Department of State. Incumbent cable operators would be able to file for state operating authority once a certificate is issued in their local market for a competitor. Both providers would have to continue to support public, educational and government channels.

The Senate version is still in committee.