WI: News from Wisconsin

Posted on March 25, 2007 - 7:43pm.

from: Journal Times

News from around Wisconsin
Sun Mar 25, 2007

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ A state bill would decrease the amount of money local governments receive from cable providers but would benefit consumers by increasing competition and driving down overall fees, according to AT&T lobbyists who are aggressively pushing the measure.

City officials across the state say the "video franchise" bill would lower their revenue from cable providers up to 30 percent, meaning cities would have to cut services or increase property taxes.

But supporters of the bill say the measure would lower the cost of telecast delivery by up to 23 percent and introduce competition.

Under current law, video providers _ mostly cable companies _ pay a fee to local governments in exchange for permission to run cable through public rights of way.

Under the new measure, the state Department of Financial Institutions would issue a single statewide franchise and local governments would no longer have a role. But a curious provision would prohibit that department from regulating the video service providers, a move one observer found troubling.

"They give it to an agency that doesn't know anything (about video service), then write in the law that they can't interpret this, can't regulate it and can't enforce it," said Barry Orton, a University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications professor. "That's bizarre."

The bill was introduced in the Assembly last week by state Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Ashwaubenon and in the Senate by state Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee.

( categories: State Franchises | WISCONSIN )