Florida’s Turn for Franchise Reform?


Lobbyists for the cable and telephone industries are gearing up for the first discussion March 23 of a Florida franchising-reform bill one lobbyist described as a "Texas-style" law change enabling statewide permits for new providers.

The bill is being promoted by Verizon Communications Inc., which has already negotiated municipal franchises in the state; and BellSouth Corp. Opponents so far include the incumbent cable industry, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties and the state chapter of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.

The draft, to be discussed next week in committee, would allow competitors into video delivery after they receive a permit from the office of the Secretary of State. No buildout or service-delivery schedule is included in the bill. Cable operators would be held to their current agreements until the competitive company reaches 45% penetration.

Regulatory oversight of the new providers would be minimal. For instance, customer-service complaints would be addressed by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.