Telcos, cables battle over statewide video franchising

Cable and phone companies who've been duking it out in the marketplace are now taking their battle to state legislators, reports Stateline.orgAt stake is access to the lucrative television market, and companies such as AT&T and Verizon want to circumvent the current local approval process in favor of statewide franchises.

Cable and phone companies who've been duking it out in the marketplace are now taking their battle to state legislators, reports Stateline.org

At stake is access to the lucrative television market, and companies such as AT&T and Verizon want to circumvent the current local approval process in favor of statewide franchises. Up until now, cable companies have had to build their networks through local governments who forced them to provide access in less profitable areas in exchange for getting local monopolies.

Despite lobbying efforts by telecom companies, Congress has not succeeded in updating the current federal law, and the FCC has not been able to agree on how to regulate video delivered over the Internet.

So companies are taking their effort to the states, with 11 states so far allowing statewide franchising. The cable companies want the same rules to apply to them and their competitors.

Phone companies want to overturn the old regulations, which are designed for cable companies that built their networks from scratch. And the telecoms maintain that they are different because they're overhauling their existing networks.

"Having a statewide process … provides a way for us to get the streamlined regulation that helps the new entrant get into the market quickly," said Jeff Brueggeman, AT&T's vice president for regulatory planning and policy.

Although both types of companies would benefit from fewer local regulation, the cable companies want everyone to be treated equally.

"Whether franchise reform is at a national or state level, our priorities in any legislative or regulatory action remain the same: a level playing field, strong protections to ensure that new competitors cannot discriminate by refusing to compete in all neighborhoods, and retaining local authority over rights of way," said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice.