Lawmakers reach consensus on competitive cable bill / Legislation will bring competition, choice, jobs and investment to Tennessee

April 7, 2008

Lawmakers reach consensus on competitive cable
bill/

 Legislation will bring competition, choice, jobs
and investment to Tennessee

 (NASHVILLE, TN), April 7, 2008 — Legislative leaders working on legislation to provide competitive cable and video services in Tennessee held a press conference on Monday to announce they have come to a consensus on the highly publicized bill.  Representatives from the competing cable industries have worked on the compromise with legislative and state government leadership for the past 14 weeks.  The result, they say, will bring competition, choice, jobs and investment in Tennessee’s broadband infrastructure.

“This legislation will bring more competition and choice to consumers,” said Senator Ketron, who is lead sponsor of the bill in the State Senate.  “It is also very much needed to provide technically-oriented services in Tennessee that we would never have without such legislation.  This will open up our state to many economic opportunities by bringing more broadband services to our state.”

Under the bill, new cable competitors could obtain a 10-year franchise certificate from the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) beginning July 1.  Existing providers would continue to pay local franchise fees directly to local government.  New competitors operating under a state franchise would also pay local governments franchise fees of five percent quarterly.   It preserves the rights of local governments to continue to issue permits for right of ways for cable lines.  In addition, the bill requires service providers to
continue PEG access and support to protect public, education and government programming.

On consumer protection, the bill specifically prohibits discrimination based on income or race with strong penalties against violation. Similarly, existing cable companies would be required to continue to serve unprofitable areas.  New providers must demonstrate at the end of 3.5 years that 25 percent of households with access to the service are low income.  All providers must also meet FCC mandated customer service standards and the TRA can require credits if a provider does not remedy service complaints.

“We worked very hard to protect the consumers, while still offering incentive for companies to provide competition,” Ketron added.  “This ompromise should protect all consumers from those who might cherry pick more profitable customers.”

Ketron said the expansion of high speed broadband to unserved and underserved communities was one of the key provisions in the legislation to foster access to rural areas of the state.  Video providers that deploy broadband in new areas would get a four to one credit against their video build-out requirements in unserved areas and  two to one credit in underserved areas, under the proposal.  Local governments may subsidize broadband deployment to underserved areas if a TRA review determines no private sector interest
exists.

“This was a long hard road to find a solution to give consumers more choices in their video services.  It will make a significant difference over the next decade to help Tennessee compete in a rapidly changing global economy,” Ketron concluded.

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Left to right – House Commerce Committee Chairman Charles
Curtiss (D-Sparta), House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), Representative
Steve McDaniel (R-Parker’s Crossroads), Senate State and Local Government
Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), House State and Local Government
Committee Chairman Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) and Representative Randy Rinks
(D-Savannah).



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