Freedom from Franchises in Indiana?

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A bill that would authorize statewide cable franchising for new providers, while authorizing current cable providers to escape their local agreements as early as this year, has been introduced in Indiana.

The wide-ranging bill, introduced by state Sen. Brandt Hershmann (R-Wheatland), is similar to the deregulatory bill approved by Texas last year. But that bill bound cable providers to their local franchises until their contractual expiration dates. The Indiana proposal would give cable companies the option to serve out their current contracts or apply for state operating authority as early as June 30.

The current draft of the bill, introduced Jan. 4, will deregulate phone service when providers reach 50% broadband penetration; provide property-tax abatements for broadband-infrastructure investments; and declare that Internet-protocol-based services are not public utilities.

Co-sponsors of the bill include members of both the state Senate and House from both parties.