Texas Ops Cowboy Up vs. Telco Redlining


Texas cable operators have cranked up the lobbying machine to fight off a bill headed to the floor of the state house that they said is nothing more than state-sanctioned redlining for Verizon Communications and SBC Communications Inc.

As part of the state's telecommunications overhaul, a bill would move authority for cable franchising out of the cities and into state hands, assuring that the telephone companies would not have to build beyond the current borders of their businesses.

"SBC and Verizon want to come into communities and cherry-pick wealthy neighborhoods at the expense of poorer areas where new services can help to bridge the digital divide. State-sanctioned redlining of poor people is contrary to everything we stand for as Texans," said Tom Kinney, president of Time Warner Cable in Austin and chairman of the state cable association.

The criticism is "straight from the cable playbook," where that industry delays and resists competition at every turn, Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said.

Although his company may not build out entire communities (he noted, for instance that its initial video system, in Keller, will reach about 80% of the community), it is investing millions of dollars in fiber-to-the-home architecture in 14 states, or one-half of the states where Verizon operates. Deployment is occurring where the telephone company can most rapidly reach the most single-family homes, he added.

"We're not required by any state or federal statute to build out 100% of an area. That's what cable's trying to fight," he said.

The Texas bill is headed for the floor of the house, having gained approval from the House Regulated Industries Committee Tuesday night.