Pa. Statewide-Franchise Bills Move Forward

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As promised late last month, legislators in Pennsylvania introduced bills in both chambers to enable state franchising for new video competitors.

The house bill, announced Wednesday, has 83 sponsors from both parties.

The similar bills would assign franchising authority to the Corporation Bureau of the Department of State. Once a potential new provider files -- identifying corporate officers, designating the area the company intends to serve and vowing to observe federal communications laws -- the bureau will have 15 days to issue the statewide operating permission.

The bills retain power for local governments to hear cable complaints and attempt to mediate resolutions. Local governments will also continue to collect 5% of gross revenues as franchise fees, but they may levy no other taxes. Channel requirements for public, educational and government channels are also preserved -- up to three channels for large cities.

New providers can terminate their video service at will as long as they give the state 90 days’ notice. Old providers are bound to their current contracts until their negotiated termination dates, but incumbents can apply for state authority to serve outside of their current franchise areas.

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