S.C. Bill Seeks Speedy Entry

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Pay $50, wait 10 days and your company, too, can be a new video competitor in South Carolina.

Those are among the statewide franchising details included in parallel bills filed in the latest state to debate cable-franchising reform.

The South Carolina Competitive Cable Services Act was introduced Jan. 18, positing that video operations no longer need be “constrained by municipal boundaries.” It calls for a streamlined policy that will allow “functionally equivalent” services to compete fairly and deploy quickly.

A new provider that already has infrastructure and authority to operate in public rights of way could seek a video certification. Beyond the nominal fee, a prospective provider must vow to adhere to federal and state laws, describe intended service areas and identify its place of business and executives. After 10 days, the application is to be granted.

Incumbent operators would remain bound to their franchises until the stipulated expiration date. Incumbents could expand into areas they don’t already serve, though.

The telco-friendly proposal requires new providers to pay the same franchise fee as the incumbent or, in areas without an incumbent, to pay 5% of revenue to local regulators.

The new provider must reserve a 1.6-megahertz analog slice, or one standard digital channel, for the state’s Educational Television Commission. Local cities and counties can request more capacity, similar to what incumbents provide.

The bill, now in a Senate committee, would ban build-out requirements.

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