WA: BCAW, Urban League, Cities Say Qwest Bill Bad for Local Consumers

Posted on February 16, 2007 - 7:38am.

from: PR Web

BCAW, Urban League, Cities Say Qwest Bill Bad for Local Consumers

Opponents Say Qwest Measure Would Allow Phone Company to Serve Most Affluent Neighborhoods While Bypassing Others, Cost Communities Needed Tax Dollars and Replace Local Oversight with State Bureaucracy; Telephone Company Seeks End to Local Control of Cable Television, Critics Say

OLYMPIA, Wash (BusinessWire EON/PRWeb ) February 14, 2007 --
The Broadband Communications Association of Washington, civic groups and municipal organizations say a Qwest-backed bill filed today would widen the digital divide by allowing the telephone company to provide service only to wealthier cities and their neighborhoods.

Opponents contend that the Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE:Q) wants to strip away powerful tools giving Washington state communities control over their cable TV franchises. It is backing SB 6003, which seeks to replace local control with a new state bureaucracy.

The measure is a bad deal for local consumers, say leaders of the state’s broadband communications association, civic and business groups such as the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and the Tabor 100, and organizations representing local governments.

Leaders suggested that Qwest, which provides telephone service to millions of Pacific Northwest customers, should respect existing local franchise laws that govern how companies bring cable television to communities. They pointed out that Verizon, another telephone company seeking to extend cable TV services to customers, plans to negotiate franchises with several East King County and Snohomish County cities on a community-by-community basis.

“That’s the way it should be -- the same rules for any company that wants to compete,” said Ron Main, executive director of the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, which represents cable TV companies in the state.

“Qwest can already obtain local franchise agreements if it wants to -- just like Verizon or any of the telephone companies. Changing the rules for one company doesn’t make much sense. Neither does creating a one-size-fits-all state bureaucracy.”

A measure introduced by state Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-Seattle, takes away oversight authority now vested with local governments and hands it to a newly empowered Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.

In addition, the BCAW believes the legislation would:

* Eliminate requirements that cable television companies serve all of a community’s neighborhoods -- regardless of income levels and potential profitability;
* Jeopardize nearly $70 million in tax dollars that local communities now collect through local cable franchise fees -- money that is currently invested in transportation, health care and education programs; and,
* Threaten public, educational and governmental programming now carried by existing cable operators.

Existing franchise laws have been in effect in Washington state for nearly four decades. These laws guarantee quality service for all cable TV consumers in a community, not just those in the most affluent neighborhoods. They bring transparency to city councils and county councils that have chosen to televise proceedings on public access channels. And they give local officials the final say over activities on their streets’ rights-of-way.

Opponents say they’re particularly concerned by a provision of the bill that would eliminate so-called build-out provisions for Qwest.

“This bill would allow telephone companies to cherry pick high income areas at the detriment of lower income areas,” James Kelly, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, said. “What’s competitive about that? This kind of practice is already illegal in banking and insurance and shouldn’t be allowed for a telephone company, either.”

H. Dean Maxwell, Mayor of Anacortes, said, “Why does the telephone company want to build a bigger state bureaucracy? If citizens in communities in Washington state have a complaint, it can be taken care of locally. It’s a system that’s worked for 40 years. The telephone company wants to deregulate the existing system by stripping away local control. Haven’t we learned that’s a recipe for trouble?”

About the Broadband Communications Association of Washington

Founded in 1972, the BCAW is a non-profit trade association representing the cable television and broadband telecommunications industry in Washington state. The industry is the largest provider of broadband technology and infrastructure across both the state and the nation.

The BCAW membership is made up of cable system operators serving every corner of the state, as well as cable programmers and cable hardware suppliers. Its mission is to provide a forum where the industry can discuss common issues, develop strategies and coordinate regulatory and public policy efforts. Over the last 34 years, the BCAW has represented the increasingly complex interests of the cable industry before state regulatory agencies, in courts of law, in the Washington State Legislature and in the United States Congress.

For more information on the BCAW, please go to our website at:


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