MA: Verizon bill stirs debate over competition, control in cable market

Posted on June 5, 2007 - 9:28pm.

from: MetroWest Daily

Verizon bill stirs debate over competition, control in cable market

By Priscilla Yeon & Gintautus Dumcius/State House News Service
State House News Service
Tue Jun 05, 2007, 05:30 PM EDT

A chief sponsor of a bill that would streamline cable franchising approval from a year to 15 days asked members of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy to deploy a task force to examine his proposal and find the best way to reform cable franchising laws in the state.

NY: For cheaper cable, aim your clicker at Albany

Posted on June 5, 2007 - 9:26pm.

from: NY Daily News

Bill Hammond
For cheaper cable, aim your clicker at Albany

Tuesday, June 5th 2007, 4:00 AM

Wouldn't you just love to tell the cable company to take a hike?

Wouldn't it be great - when Time Warner hikes your rates or when Cablevision goes out in the middle of a big game - to cancel your account and switch to another company?

( categories: NEW YORK | State Franchises | Verizon )

MA: Verizon seems to flip-flop

Posted on June 5, 2007 - 6:45am.

from: Boston Globe

Verizon seems to flip-flop
Firm seems to flip-flop on local video approvals
Firm tells investors need to get local OK's not hurting TV rollout

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff | June 5, 2007

MA: The Contradictions of Verizon's Position

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 12:30pm.

From: The Patriot Ledger

Verizon to urge faster franchise process: Hearing tomorrow; spokesman says 'system is broken'

The Patriot Ledger

During a question-and-answer session at an industry conference, Verizon's chief financial officer said the telecom giant is generally satisfied with the pace of its expansion of its new TV service.

Chief Financial Officer Doreen Toben responded to a question about Verizon's cable TV franchising efforts by playing up the successes the company has had so far in states that require town-by-town negotiations for cable franchises such as Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

MA: The threat to local access

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 10:20am.

from: Media Nation

The threat to local access

When the euphemisms start piling up, the best thing to do is to take a closer look. The Legislature's Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy will hold a public hearing tomorrow on the Massachusetts Cable Choice and Competition Act. Well, gee, who could be against such a thing? In fact, the bill represents a massive assault on local media by the telecom giant Verizon. It's also part of a nationwide campaign. The Web site is tracking the issue here and elsewhere.

The legislation, described in the Globe last Friday by Laura Colarusso and the subject of a Globe op-ed today by Nolan Bowie, would strip cities and towns of their right to regulate the franchising of cable television operations in their communities. Instead, all regulation would be carried out by the state. Such a change could result in less local programming — the government meetings, school plays, church services and community bulletin boards that don't exactly compete with "American Idol," but that form a vital part of the local media scene.

Because government-mandated funding formulas are based on the number of subscribers in a given community, larger cities such as Boston, Cambridge and Somerville have vibrant local public-affairs programming as well. Boston even has a daily newscast and a weekly political talk show, as I described in a story for CommonWealth Magazine earlier this year. State regulation wouldn't necessarily result in the immediate demise of such funding mandates — but it would make getting rid of those mandates a whole lot easier.

So what's going on? Traditional cable providers — now mostly bought up by Comcast — played by the old rules, winning approval on a town-by-town basis. Verizon, which seeks to offer cable television over its phone lines, wants to catch up quickly, which is why Verizon officials are complaining about the lengthy delays sometimes imposed by local officials. Comcast, at least for the moment, seeks to keep the current regulatory regime in place — after all, it already has the licenses it needs, so anything that makes life more difficult for Verizon gives it a competitive advantage.

In fact, there will be more competition and more choice for consumers in communities where Comcast and Verizon go at it head to head. The problem is that transferring the regulatory process from local communities to the state could well result in fewer mandates for cable providers to put money into local programming. It could quickly become a race to the bottom, as Comcast would rightly cry foul if Verizon were allowed to get away with making less of a commitment to localism.

The traditional cable providers are fighting just as hard as Verizon. Recently I noticed a commercial during a Red Sox game from a group called Keep It Local MA. It was a warm, gauzy appeal to keep cable television the way it is today. Its Web site looks like it was designed by Norman Rockwell. But if you do a "whois" on, you'll find that it's registered to something called NECTA.

A little Googling quickly reveals that NECTA is the New England Cable and Telecommuniations Association, "a six state regional trade association representing substantially all private cable telecommunications companies in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont" that "has represented the interests of the cable telecommunications industry before state and federal regulatory agencies, in the Courts, the Legislatures, and before the Congress of the United States."

So yes, all the players are looking out for their best interests. It's just that, in this particular case, the traditional cable industry's interests happen to line up with those of consumers.

The time will come when there will be no logical rationale for regulating television delivery — it will all be Internet-based, and the closed cable systems of today will cease to exist. For now, though, if regulators stop requiring cable companies to pay for local programming, then it will disappear.

The legislation, Senate #1975, is online here. The media-reform organization Free Press offers online resources here. The principal sponsor of the bill is state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, whose contact information is online here. The Massachusetts Muncipal Association, which opposes the bill, has a resource guide online here.


MA: Customers' bills to drop? Cable TV law stirs debate in city

Posted on June 4, 2007 - 10:18am.

from: The Eagle Tribune

Customers' bills to drop? Cable TV law stirs debate in city

By Jason Tait , Staff Writer

HAVERHILL - One side says your cable television bills could drop. The other says you could lose your community access television station.

The Franchise of Deception

Posted on May 31, 2007 - 7:45pm.

Triple Ploy and the Lie of Competition

In the past two years telephone companies have rushed to introduce national and statewide video franchising legislation around the country to better position themselves as cable TV providers.

MA: Locals fight to keep rein on cable TV

Posted on May 31, 2007 - 6:03am.

from: Boston Globe

Locals fight to keep rein on cable TV

By Laura M. Colarusso, Globe Correspondent
May 31, 2007

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 State Video-Franchise Bill Report Card

Posted on May 30, 2007 - 9:02pm.

from: Telecom Web

Update: The State Video-Franchise Bill Report Card

With the first half of 2007 nearly over, the scorecard for state video-franchise legislation stands at four and four. Florida became the latest state to enact such rules, with Gov. Charlie Crist signing that state's bill into law late last week.

Missouri, Iowa and Georgia have passed similar legislation, but those bills still await the governors' signatures. The list of states with new video-franchising rules in place also includes California, Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, New Jersey, Michigan and Florida.

But along with victory, there's defeat. According to TelecomWeb news break's sister publication CableFAX Daily, two states - Utah and Colorado - voted down bills in committee this year. That's somewhat unique because most of last year's failed legislation stemmed from lawmakers running out of time, says Rick Cimerman, vice president/state and government affairs at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. Two other states also have failed to pass legislation, with Washington tabling a bill to potentially take it up next year and Idaho's sponsor withdrawing legislation (all of the defeats took place in Qwest territory).

The score for defeats actually bumps up to five if you include Minnesota, which seems to be keeping legislation permanently in committee, says Cimerman. Eight states, primarily in AT&T territory, still have bills on the front burner: Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Tennessee appears the least likely to pass a bill this year, because its General Assembly only has about a month left but several big pieces of legislation to take up--including the budget and Gov. Phil Bredesen's cigarette-tax increase. The state's Senate Commerce Committee is slated to take the bill up this week.

Another state worth watching is Pennsylvania. In October 2006, the sponsors of the state franchising bills dropped the legislation but they now appear prepared to reintroduce the measures. One state senator who was not an original sponsor last year plans to introduce a bill that would create a statewide franchising law under the auspices of the Public Utility Commission.

As things stand now, AT&T has more territory covered by state franchises, but Verizon, which has applied for local franchises, has a significant lead in video customers. Verizon reported 348,000 subscribers at the end of 1Q07, while AT&T reported 20,000.

As summer approaches, 2007 reveals that some states have adopted new statewide video-franchise legislation, others have postponed, and some have voted against state legislation (select the state link to view the legislation).

( categories: AT&T | Qwest | State Franchises | Verizon )

Choice and Competition in Cable and Telecomm, Take Two

Posted on May 30, 2007 - 8:55pm.

from: Bitchslappin

Choice and Competition in Cable and Telecomm, Take Two

I've been following the heavy handed and well funded lobbying of the Telecomm Giants to get into the IPTV business by pushing (and some say WRITING) the new State Level Legislation that has been introduced in a bunch of different States across the US.

( categories: Telcos | AT&T | Qwest | State Franchises | Verizon )
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