Governors Protest Barton's National Franchise

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The nation’s governors want a pending House bill changed to give states the option to take control of the cable-franchising process from the Federal Communications Commission.

The call for change came in a bipartisan letter by the National Governors Association in connection with a House bill (H.R. 5252) that would federalize cable franchising for new video providers and, in some circumstances, for cable incumbents.

“Governors strongly support amending [H.R. 5252] to include provisions that would allow states to opt out of the national-franchising framework,” Govs. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) and Janet Napolitano (D-Ariz.) said in a letter Tuesday to Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Under H.R. 5252, the FCC would take control of cable franchising of new entrants, such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., across the country. Cable incumbents are eligible for national franchises in certain cases, including if new providers enter their video markets under FCC licensing.

The bill -- which Barton is sponsoring but Dingell is opposing -- would continue to allow any cable-service provider to rely on a local or state franchise in lieu of a national franchise.

But Huckabee and Napolitano argued that the Barton bill would interfere with efforts by states to adopt statewide cable franchising in order to promote cable competition in a manner that does not ignore local needs. Texas, Virginia and Indiana have enacted statewide franchising.

The Barton bill, Huckabee and Napolitano said, “eviscerates these efforts with a federal framework that does not reflect the priorities and prerogatives of states.”

The Barton bill, passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee in late April, is awaiting full House action.

Huckabee and Napolitano also objected to provisions that would allow local governments to offer cable, information or telecommunications service without state authorization.

They called the provisions “an unwarranted federal intrusion into state affairs … which preempts states’ ability to manage broadband deployment in its political subdivisions.”