Bills would stop local control over cable TV |

Bills would stop local control over cable TV

Concern is rising over legislation circulating on the national and state levels that could eliminate local control over cable providers that enter the service area.Telecommunication powerhouses, such as AT&T and Verizon, that desire direct competition with cable television companies are leading the charge to eliminate required local franchise agreements and instead head straight to the state for permission to serve individual communities.The Town of Truckees current franchise agreement, by which Cebridge Communications must abide, sets mandates for infrastructure and franchise fees, and requires that all neighborhoods are provided with equal service, said Truckee Mayor Beth Ingalls, but a big company like AT&T can pick and choose the level of service and the areas of service. We would have no control. The movement to bypass local governments stems from large growth and change in the telecommunication industry over the past six years, said Gordon Diamond, director of marketing for AT&T. Of particular interest is the evolution of an interactive technology called Internet protocol video television, or IPTV.We are prepared to invest up to $1 billion to improve our network in California in the next three years, Diamond said. That is a significant investment. That means new jobs, lower prices to consumers, investment in the state, and certainly a new choice.

AT&T serves more than 400 communities in California alone, according to Diamond, so entering contracts with each individual community is time-consuming and inefficient. Even if we could secure one contract a week, it would still take us seven years to get this technology (IPTV) to customers, Diamond said. The regulations are outdated and have not kept pace with the changing landscape in the marketplace.And while proponents of the legislation are touting competition and new technologies, many smaller cable companies contend that while playing with the big dogs is just fine, changing the rules isnt necessarily in the best interest of consumers.Sometimes big companies dont want to give up a channel for public access, they dont want to pay a certain franchise fee, they dont want to have building requirements, said Pete Abel, vice president of community relations for Cebridge.

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