Decision coming for franchise bill
by Keegan Kyle
The Badger Herald (WI)
City officials across Wisconsin will watch the state Legislature closely this morning as it may pass a bill that would reshape the distribution of revenue-sharing agreements with cable, satellite and other broadcasters. —>
Reality Check: Cable Prices To Drop?
Group Says Increased Competition Will Lower Prices
Channel 3000 (WI)
On Tuesday, state lawmakers will vote on a bill that, if passed, would deregulate the cable industry. But could it mean a drop in prices? The bill would allow other companies — likely the telephone companies — to provide video service with a state franchise. Lawmakers in favor of the bill said it would increase competition and lower rates for consumers. Whether the bill will actually help is subject of the latest “Reality Check.” —>
State agencies would handle TV complaints under video bill
by Steven Walters
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WI)
If you’ve been griping to city or village officials about cable TV service problems, get ready to take your complaints instead to someone in state government in Madison. A bill the Legislature is expected to pass would redirect consumers’ complaints about cable TV and digital satellite service to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
And in a development that could further confuse consumers, a second state agency – the state Department of Financial Institutions – would license video service providers. It couldn’t revoke their licenses for consumer-protection violations, however. —>
Ziegelbauer will wait and see
HTR News (WI)
The State Asesmbly may vote today on a bill, which could change who can offer consumers video programming and what local prep sports might be shown. Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, D-Manitowoc wasn’t prepared Tuesday morning to indicate whether he would vote in favor or against Assembly Bill 207, the so-called “Video Franchise Bill.” Ziegelbauer said there have been a “whole slew of amendments … I will only vote (yes) on a package that I think is a good bill.”
City of Manitowoc Mayor Kevin Crawford said Monday in his community update column that high school sports, along with school theater performances “will disappear from the airwaves three years after this new legislation is signed into law.” “The local programming issue is important because people are paying a lot of attention to it,” Ziegelbauer said. He said he would pay close attention to how local programming is treated in a final package. —>
Cable TV bill appears headed for passage
But vote will be postponed for fiscal impact study
by Judith Davidoff
The Capital Times (WI)
Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit, says there would be enough votes in the Senate to pass a controversial cable bill today, but she is going to postpone a vote until questions about its fiscal impact are resolved.
“She feels it’s come a long way over the last few weeks in terms of consumer protections,” said Robson aide Josh Wescott this morning. But those protections mean more cost to the state agencies charged with overseeing the law, and the full cost needs to be determined, he added. “Once we figure that out, we’re ready to roll here,” said Wescott, who noted Robson would refer the bill today to the Joint Finance Committee for review.
That development created uncertainty this morning for the Republican-controlled Assembly, which was also expected to take up the bill today. Bob Delaporte, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, said the Assembly could still take action on the bill, but Assembly leaders would be discussing their options this morning. “Anything could happen,” Delaporte said.
The Joint Finance Committee is set to start deliberations on Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget Thursday, but Wescott said Robson hoped to have the bill back by mid-May. —>
Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone’s testimony to the Ohio Senate on SB117
Brewed Fresh Daily (OH)
> Although the City of Cleveland has many objections to SB 117, I will limit myself today to just a couple of critical issues for the City of Cleveland. First and foremost, S.B. 117 represents a direct assault on the City of Cleveland traditional Home Rule authority as embodied in Art. XVIII, §3 and §7 of the Ohio Constitution. —>
S.B. 117 Check-in
Pho’s Akron Pages (OH)
> The Senate Committee vote looks about as wired as a vote ever is. By my count, proponents have signed on as co-sponsors four of the six Republicans (Niehouse, Spada, vice-chair Buehrer and Jacobson who is lead sponsor) and two of three Democrats (Mason and Ray Miller.) Since lawmakers rarely vote against bills they sponsor, I think we can count on this one getting out of committee unscathed.
At this point, the House side is less certain. The House Public Utilities Committee has a couple obvious utility friends on the R side, but aside from that I can’t tell much. One artifact of the last election is that the House is more closely divided than the Senate – as are the committees. Whereas the Senate committee is 6-3 R’s to Dems, the House Public Utilities Committee is made up of 12 Republicans and 11 Dems. If opponents of the bill can keep a Dem coalition together and turn a couple Repubs, the bill may quietly die in committee.
If. Unfortunately, telecom and cable legislation tends to be awfully arcane to build a grassroots effort against. I am hearing a swell of grassroots cross-party opposition based mostly on the threat to PEG access. (That’s public/educational/governmental cable access. Public access in the vernacular.) I just don’t know that there is enough time, energy or money to translate that into a lobbying force that can counter the campaign time largess the telecoms are capable of wink-nudge offering.
If you are unclear on what the bill would do, start by listening to the Meet the Bloggers podcast, then surf over to Bill Callahan’s blog where he has a new post on Senate 117 nearly every day. Meanwhile, check out the House Committee listing and, if you see your Rep. there, start emailing. Now.
Avon council opposes state cable bill, could lose more than $100,000 a year
by Megan King
Morning Journal (OH)
Avon City Council last night voted to oppose a bill going through the Ohio legislature that would make the state, not individual communities, responsible for cable franchising.
Oppose SB 177
The Free Press (OH)
The Ohio Community Computing Network encourages you to oppose Ohio Senate Bill 117 (see below). This bill would eliminate local franchising for video services. There are many ramifications to the passage of this bill including: elimination of PEG access channels (we provide telecourses and share guest speakers on Educational Access), disincentives to build broadband in rural and low-income areas (effecting our ability to serve these areas), removal of local consumer protection (no service requirements, support of community networks, etc.), removal of local control of rights of way (ATT can put a big ugly switcher station on your tree lawn), loss of local revenue, perhaps a quarter million dollars annually in Columbus (pick the City service you want to see cut). —>
Lawmakers beat partial retreat on statewide video franchising
by Aaron Marshall
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH)
After getting an earful from local mayors as well as the public access crowd, state lawmakers retreated Tuesday on several of the more controversial elements of a bill setting up a statewide franchising agreement for video service providers.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 117, which is being pushed primarily by telecommunications giant AT&T, would wipe out the local agreements that individual communities negotiate with cable companies and other video service providers in favor of a single, statewide agreement.
Changes to the bill were outlined near the beginning of opponent testimony on the bill in a Senate Committee Tuesday by state Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Dayton-area Republican sponsoring the bill. Coming out of the bill: Language which local mayors were worried would erode their ability to control public rights-of-way as well as a more narrow definition of “gross revenues” than what some communities had negotiated with their local video providers.
The bill’s current definition didn’t include revenues from such things as advertising and shopping channels, leaving communities with agreements in place covering those areas concerned they could lose big bucks. “We’re going to let that be a local decision,” Jacobson said.
Also being substantially tweaked will be language that public access TV supporters had worried would severely limit the channels that would be available for government and public access shows. Jacobson said the bill will be reworked to include a “more generous” definition of what it means for local government and public access channels to be “substantially utilized.”
Under the current bill, those local access channels would have to generate almost 10 hours a day of original programming to meet that definition. —>
Phone-cable bill is on the line
What began as a consumer-friendly proposal tacked to the cable-video franchising bill to keep basic local phone rates from rising could ultimately end up sinking the legislation.
by Monica Hatcher
Miami Herald (FL)
After the Consumer Choice Act failed to pass the Legislature last year, local phone companies hoping to break into the cable-television business figured they’d improve the cable-franchise bill’s chances this year by throwing in a bonus for consumers.
AT&T, Verizon and Embarq agreed to give consumers a roughly $150 million break by forgoing a rate hike planned for later this year. But there’s a catch: Skipping the rate hike means they have to renege on $150 million in fee reductions promised to other phone companies who use their networks, namely wireless and long distance carriers.
Those carriers are now striking back. And the perk for consumers, which in part helped the Consumer Choice Act pass the House last month, could be its undoing in the Senate.
Sprint/Nextel has asked lawmakers to amend the bill requiring the local phone service providers to deliver the reductions in the intrastate access fees they promised. Sprint said it wants to pass these savings down to customers in the form of lower in-state long distance rates and use the rest to invest in its wireless networks. —>
Franchise Fee Sticking Point In Video Businesses
News Channel 9 (TN)
Huge communication companies face off for your business in a controversial state bill called the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act. NewsChannel 9’s John Madewell explains Chattanooga’s part of the battleground. —>
DeStefano to answer citizens’ questions on biweekly television program
by Andrew Mangino
Yale Daily News (CT)
Programs on public access television starring a city mayor are not unprecedented, but they have debuted to mixed reactions and generally have not managed to last through multiple terms. In Yonkers, for example, former mayor John Spencer televised a program for several years called “Yonkers Matters,” in which he purported to focus on “the issues” but instead turned the show into a political bully pulpit, rarely inviting guests who disagreed strongly with him.
But DeStefano is casting his program as apolitical. —>
Our View: Commitment worthy of praise
Crime victim’s advocate deserves recognition for her pursuit of justice and closure
Merced Sun Star (CA)
After nearly 20 years of tireless work on behalf of crime victims, a Merced woman finally has been honored for what she has done. Jacque MacDonald became a victim’s rights advocate when her grown daughter was murdered in 1988 and the quest to seek justice for homicide victims and their families goes on.
MacDonald was the only Californian to receive the prestigious National Crime Victim Service Award, presented by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the nation’s capital. It is part of the observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week going on this week.
If there is ever a motto that should stick with MacDonald, it’s never give up. It took nine years before the killer of her daughter received a 30-year prison term. During that time she doggedly pursued all manner of efforts to keep the facts of her daughter’s death in the public’s eye and she has helped a number of other families deal with the murder of their loved ones.
MacDonald deserves recognition for the “Victim’s Voice” television program that regularly airs on public access television. She interviews grieving family members as well as police and sheriff’s deputies to keep awareness on other homicides that have not been solved. The Merced area has a number of unsolved murders and MacDonald is one of a number of people trying to bring closure, perhaps justice, in some of these cases. —>
McCollum sets her priorities as she readies for national role
Immigration, telecom reform on League of Cities’ to-do list
by John Peck
Huntsville Times (AL)
Enacting comprehensive immigration reform, expanding sales tax collections to e-commerce and keeping control of cable franchising in local hands top the legislative agenda of the National League of Cities, Madison City Councilwoman Cynthia McCollum told a convention of Alabama city leaders Monday…
Reform telecommunications laws that allow cities to retain franchising rights. The National League of Cities is suing the Federal Communications Commission for attempting to take away the franchise authority from local governments. The move would restrict control over franchising fees and regulatory decisions such as the placement of cable lines and areas to be served.
“We would have no control. If our constituents have some problems, we’d have to say, ‘Call the FCC in Washington.’ That’s crazy,” McCollum said. —>
Report Proposes Public Broadband Nets
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable
On the eve of two hearings Tuesday on the rollout of broadband high-speed Internet and video service, the studies were flying thick and fast. In addition to two released by the Benton Foundation suggesting the U.S. was behind the curve and a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, there was another from BNA division Pike & Fisher. Their study was suggesting the FCC should carve out a space for community networks from some of the so-called white spaces between broadcast channels it plans to open up to advanced wireless services, likely unlicensed ones, as part of the switch to digital. —>
compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media