MO: Blunt touts cable bill at Columbia visit

Posted on September 5, 2007 - 7:20am.

from: Colombia Tribune

September 04, 2007

Blunt touts cable bill at Columbia visit

CenturyTel — a company known in the area for telephone and Internet service — will enter the Columbia television provider market at the end of the month, putting the agency on a collision course with Mediacom and satellite companies.

The company made the announcement yesterday at its Columbia headquarters, showcasing a product that they say provides lightning-quick search capabilities, video recording technology and integra-tion with telephone service.

“We have a very fast channel change capability that is something we wouldn’t have on a digital service,” said Vickey Callan, vice president of broadband for CenturyTel. “And you have capabilities to where you can integrate some of your communication services for Caller I.D., e-mail notifications and those kinds of things.”

CenturyTel’s entry into the cable marketplace is primarily the result of a video franchise bill that Gov. Matt Blunt signed into law earlier this year. It prompts cable companies to apply to the Missouri Public Service Commission, as opposed to individual municipalities.

Jeff Davis, chairman of the PSC, said companies can still apply to infuse service into a specific area of the state. But Davis said it cuts down on clauses mandating exclusive arrangements for companies.

“The problem with each municipality is everyone wants to negotiate an exclusive franchise agreement whereby you have Mediacom, Charter and CenturyTel… providing service to an entire a community,” Davis said.

That sort of arrangement, Blunt said, is antithetical of a free market mentality.

“For many years, Missourians had no real options when it came to cable television service… they could buy cable from their local, government-sponsored monopoly or they could go without those services,” Blunt said. “Think about that for a moment what we would allow for cable. We wouldn’t allow anything else. We would never suggest having a government-sponsored grocery company.”

The legislation passed by a large margin earlier this year. Every Boone County lawmaker voted for the bill, with the exception of House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia.

Harris, who is a candidate for attorney general, said at the time he was concerned that the bill would prompt companies to "cherry-pick" markets perceived to be the most profitable. He also said he had problems with allowing companies such as AT&T to enter a sizable number of cities at the same time.

"While I think AT&T is a good corporate citizen, I am a Missourian who’s always skeptical of a huge concentration of power, whether it’s in government or the private sector," Harris said. "It seems to me that just about every lobbyist in Jefferson City was hired to lobby in favor of this specific bill, and that just makes me put my guard up."

Additionally, Blunt praised the economic development legislation that he signed into law today. He added that it would be last time he would call the legislature into session this year, barring an unforseen circumstance.

Filed under: 23rd District , Blunt , City Government , Missouri House ,

( categories: MISSOURI | State Franchises )