Ohio House OKs Franchise-Reform Bill - Multichannel

Ohio House OKs Franchise-Reform Bill

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The Ohio House overwhelming approved a franchise-reform bill Thursday that will transfer video oversight to the state Director of Commerce.

Senate Bill 117 passed by a 92-2 vote. The bill had previously been approved by the state Senate, but the house made some amendments before approving the bill, so the legislation must go back to the Senate for approval of the bill's changes.

Under the terms of the bill, the state official will have 45 days to approve competitive video-service agreements. As amended by the House, incumbent providers will now have to wait until a competitor files to serve a local community before the incumbent can file for state oversight.

The Senate version allowed incumbents to decide if they wanted to opt into state oversight immediately. Because of the changes, the state cable association, which had supported the bill, is now vetting the impact of the changes.

Unlike other states, this bill contains some customer-service regulatory specifics. For instance, the law would mandate that consumers be compensated for provider-caused outages of four hours or more with a credit for a full day's service. Rebates will be mandatory for outages of more than 24 hours that are caused by external forces.

The House added more service regulations to its version and revised the number of public, educational and government channels required by operators going forward. The latter amendments are also causing concern among incumbent operators.