Verizon Bill Stalls in Virginia

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Virginia legislators have tabled a much-amended bill that would have eased Verizon Communications’ move into the cable-television business in the state.

After House members tabled their version of the bill last Thursday, Verizon began amending the Senate version in an apparent effort to save the bill this session.

The original proposal would have required Verizon to submit to several commitments required of cable operators -- such as PEG-access (public, educational and government) support and payment of franchise fees -- but it would have all but eliminated local franchising. By Verizon's final submission, version No. 14, the bill would have only changed the level-playing-field language in current law.

After a hearing before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, its members deemed the issue too complicated to deal with in this year's short legislative session, according to Rich Schollman, president of the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association.

"The General Assembly had a golden opportunity to bring cable competition to consumers more quickly. Unfortunately, now, that won't happen," Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said.

"The big winners are the incumbent cable providers, who will continue to raise consumers' rates and threaten, intimidate and otherwise impede competition," he added.

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