CO: Qwest's push for cable-TV bill gets an ally

Posted on December 10, 2007 - 7:25am.

from: Rocky Mountain News

Qwest's push for cable-TV bill gets an ally

By Jeff Smith, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Thursday, December 6, 2007

Qwest is taking another stab at statewide cable-TV franchise legislation, this time with a key Democrat in its corner.

Rep. Rosemary Marshall of Denver, chairwoman of the business affairs and labor committee, confirmed Tuesday she is working with the telco to sponsor a bill.

"I think competition is better for the consumer," Marshall said, while acknowledging that it likely will be a tough battle and that "Comcast obviously will object to this."

A statewide franchise law would let Qwest avoid the cumbersome process of negotiating with individual municipalities.

But with new Qwest CEO Ed Mueller yet to announce the company's strategic plan, it's unclear how much money the Denver-based telco plans to invest in its own TV product.

Last year, Qwest couldn't get a Democratic sponsor, and its bill was quickly killed by a legislative panel headed by Pueblo Democrat Buffie McFadyen.

Lawmakers expressed concern that Qwest would "cherry-pick" affluent neighborhoods rather than provide TV services throughout a community, and that a state law would pre-empt local control.

Marshall acknowledged that service buildout and local control remain potential sticking points, but said she's not concerned about cherry-picking per se.

"I think competition drives everyone's prices down," Marshall said, though adding that "clearly newer neighborhoods would be easier to service than older neighborhoods."

Marshall said she will meet again with Qwest officials next week.

Qwest spokeswoman Jennifer Barton said the Denver telco will start seeking additional support once a final bill is drafted.

"Franchise reform is an effort that is nonpartisan, good for Colorado, and we expect to have support from both sides of the aisle," Barton said.

Ken Fellman, attorney for the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium, said recently that some 17 or 18 states now have cable-TV franchise laws. But increasingly, Fellman said, states are adopting some kind of buildout requirement. Qwest so far has been resistant to such provisions.

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( categories: COLORADO | Qwest | State Franchises )