Louisiana Lawmakers Mull Video Franchising Bills


Legislators in Louisiana will take on the issue of state franchising of video providers this session, a regulatory change that was shot down by then-governor Katherine Babineaux Blanco in 2006 due to her fear it would "interfere with the contractual rights of local governments."

But the legislative session opened March 31 under a new governor, Bobby Jindal, and two bills have been introduced in the House and one in the Senate that contain several of the operational points that were in the bill rejected by Blanco two years ago.

For instance the bills would move franchising authority to the Secretary of State, which would have 10 days to authorize a certificate for a new provider.

Under the bills to be pondered in committee in both the state House and Senate, incumbent operators would be held to their current franchise agreements. Current video providers may only apply for state authorization when their current franchises expire, or if the local community agrees to let a company out of its agreement in favor of state regulation.

The bills ban build-out provisions and any local fees on new providers. Competitors would pay the same franchise fee amounts as incumbents, or up to 5%; and must provide up to three PEG channels. Local municipalities would be responsible for operating the PEG channels, though.

One of the House versions, HB869, would require franchise application notifications concurrently to the Secretary of State and each involved community. It also has a much more detailed definition of "gross revenues" for the purpose of computing franchise fees.

For instance, it would demand fees on the value of service given to governments in the form of free cable connections to municipal buildings.

The House bills have been assigned to the Commerce Committee; the Senate version was sent to the Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs Committee.