TV bill passes state House panel
Chicago Business (IL)
Legislation to bring TV over phones lines to Illinois, ending cable TV’s near-monopoly, is on the move in Springfield. Ending lengthy negotiations, AT&T Corp. agreed early Thursday morning to a number of consumer protection provisions crafted for the legislation by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Consumer groups and municipalities had fought an earlier version of the bill that would have allowed the phone company to win a statewide television franchise with few restrictions.
“Illinois is getting a bill with better consumer protections than other states,” says Brian Imus, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “It should set a benchmark for consumer protections in other states. That’s a good reason to support it.” —>
Cable association shows porn at SB 117 hearing
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)
…> The attack (on Local Voice Ohio) was, basically: “Hey, where do these people get off raising money to pay for lawyers and lobbyists?” McGee read from an email the coalition’s lawyers at Walter Haverfield sent out to municipalities in April, asking for contributions to support the campaign against SB 117: “Based upon our estimate of the work involved in the above-described activities, we suggest a contribution to Local Voice Ohio in the amount of 3% of your community’s annual franchise fee revenue.” (See the whole email at Bytes from Lev.) McGee indignantly told the committee that if every Ohio city and town had responded with a 3% donation, Local Voice Ohio would have raised nearly two million dollars to fight the bill. (He said $1.6 or $1.8 million, I can’t remember which.)
McGee did not report, and nobody on the committee asked, how much AT&T, the Ohio Telephone Association, and his own trade group have raised and spent on lawyers and lobbyists to get SB 117 passed. It would have been fascinating to take an inventory of the hourly charges for pro-SB 117 consultant fees, legal fees, executive salaries, et al. that were being rung up in that hearing room while Mr. McGee testified (including Mr. McGee’s own salary, of course.) And strangely, no one asked who’s paying for all those prime-time TV4Us commercials.
But the highlight of the McGee/Kozelek testimony was the part where Kozelek lit up a big flatscreen and showed an “example” of public access programming: about a minute of people engaging in various extremely lewd acts at a bar or party. Yes, folks — it was serious porn, right there in the Statehouse, where god-fearing legislators just got through raising the moral tone of Ohio’s strip clubs.
We were warned to look away if we were easily offended, but as far as I could tell everyone (including 100% of the committee) summoned the strength to watch the whole thing.
Of course Mr. McGee didn’t say, and no one on the committee asked, just exactly which PEG channel on which cable system had carried this minute of debauchery, or how it made its way into OCTA’s porn collection, or what exactly the committee was supposed to learn by seeing it. But it sure got everyone’s undivided attention. And isn’t that what great TV is all about?
On the substantive side, a few legislators got to ask the cable people serious questions. Points for substance go to Garrison (D-Marietta), Stewart (R-Athens), Okey (D-Carrollton), Barrett (D-Amherst), and Foley and Williams (D-Cleveland). —>
Locals fight to keep rein on cable TV
by Laura M. Colarusso
Boston Globe (MA)
As the Legislature focuses on a bill that would seize from municipalities the authority to approve cable TV licenses, local opposition to the proposed law is growing. That resistance is expected to be on full display Tuesday when a legislative committee holds a public hearing on the bill, which would allow telecom companies to bypass local governments before entering their cable markets.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which advocates for cities and towns, has formed a task force to fight the initiative, known as the Massachusetts Cable Choice and Competition Act. Introduced in January, the proposed law would allow cable operators to bargain directly with the state for access to cities and towns.
“It is a bad law,” said Reading Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, a member of the task force. “It’s a bad law for local government and for local consumers. The better process is for local franchising to get the right agreement for each community.” —>
Governor signs video franchise bill AT&T wanted
by Scott Leith
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
AT&T, which harbors hopes of becoming a big force in selling TV services, got a boost Wednesday from the state of Georgia. Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill that revamps how video franchises are granted, a move that should make it easier for AT&T to compete with cable in providing TV. —>
Cable bill’s effects are still fuzzy
by Tony Marrero
Hernando Today (FL)
BROOKSVILLE — The county’s cable franchise agreement with Bright House Networks remains safe for now despite a new law that changes the rules for such agreements, according to a spokesman with the firm. “At this point it’s way too fresh to make any decisions but preliminary thoughts are nothing’s going to change with regard to any franchise agreement,” said Joe Durkin, spokesman for Bright House.
The future picture, however, is somewhat fuzzier. Changes to or a termination of the agreement could force a consolidation of the county’s three government access channels, said county Community Relations Coordinator Brenda Frazier. —>
Choice and Competition in Cable and Telecomm, Take Two (NC)
> But recently, in North Carolina, there has been a new and ominous twist in the Telecomms’ effort to protect their turf, though no one has said the Telecomms have had anything to do with this. It’s ironically called “The Local Government Fair Competition Act”. According to The Wilson Times, “The bill, which is in committee in the N.C. House, would establish a series of hurdles for local governments seeking to provide communications services, including telephone, cable television and Internet connections.
While some of the provisions can be justified, others are transparently intended to discourage cities or counties from creating competing networks, such as the fiber-optic network the city of Wilson is already installing.”
… All you state and muni level legislators who are now involved in this issue, take heed. I’m sure that North Carolina is just the first in line for this legislation, which, if it wasn’t written by the telecomms, should have been. And with the upcoming FCC spectrum auction coming up, passage of legislation such as this could be devastating to our future as a broadband economy, a future that’s already been jeopardized by the telecomm’s reneging on their 1996 promise to build out the broadband network despite billions of dollars in tax incentives they received to do so.
I think it’s time to stop bending over for the Telecomms.
John Edwards and… spectrum?
By Art Brodsky
For those of us who labor in the arcane world of telecommunications policy, this had been a red-letter week. One presidential candidate, and one person who should be a presidential candidate are helping to put the issues of who owns the Internet front and center. Who knew?
For the most part, telecommunications issues tend to be very complex and, as a result, very hidden from public view. They are important, to be sure, but they are not usually the types of things that reporters for print publications want to get into, and they are certainly not fit for television or cable news — particularly if the television or cable industries are involved.
So it was with a certain amount of disbelief on my part when I saw that Democratic candidate John Edwards had actually come out with a public letter to the Federal Communications Commission on one of the most arcane issues of them all — spectrum policy. I’m glad it was noted over at Election Central, because this is notable for two reasons.
First, it is notable because it exists. That is nothing but miraculous. Most active legislators don’t care about this stuff. Presidential candidates never do — until now. The Obama campaign has a telecom policy advisory group, but even they haven’t gone this far.
What is also worthwhile is that it was the Edwards camp that contacted public-interest experts in the field for help. That shows an unusual awareness of a very important issue. —>
Edwards, Huckabee Support an Open Internet, McCain Waffles
by Tim Karr
More 2008 presidential candidates are making an open and neutral Internet a part of their platform, while others prefer fence sitting, perhaps fearful to upset one of Washington’s most entrenched and moneyed corporate lobbies.
As reported earlier, Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson, have staked out their support for Net Neutrality. They were joined recently by GOP candidate Mike Huckabee, who last week told a collection of bloggers that Net Neutrality must be preserved. —>
compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media