Save Muni Wireless has a report from Wayne Caswell, who testified to the Senate about HB789. Very informative stuff, so check it out. I don't know what'll happen if the House and the Senate can't agree on their competing bills, but as this is one of those times where doing nothing suits me just fine, I'm not too concerned about it.
The Statesman has a good rundown on the differences between the King and Fraser bills:
In March, the House passed Bill 789, which would deregulate most local phone rates in September, with no role for the state.
In 2008, the phone giants would have to cut the network access fees they charge rivals.
On Monday, when the Senate Business and Commerce Committee took up the bill, Chairman Troy Fraser substituted language that would slow deregulation by authorizing the Public Utility Commission of Texas to determine whether there's enough competition in a particular area before state controls are lifted.
SBC Communications Inc. and other major phone companies also would have to cut access fees a year sooner.
"This is not the bill phone companies want to see pass," said Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay. "It's very consumer-friendly."
Over in the House, Rep. Phil King has added his own provisions to Lewisville Republican Sen. Jane Nelson's bill renewing the charter of the PUC until 2011.
Under King's changes, SBC and Verizon Communications Inc. could get statewide franchises for their planned television service, bypassing cities, which stand to lose millions of dollars.
King, R-Weatherford, sponsored his own bill on statewide franchises, but it died before reaching the House floor because of legislative deadlines.
But King is determined to keep the measure alive. He says his free market approach would encourage companies to invest in new services for consumers.
"If we do it now, it gives us the opportunity to have billions — with a b — of new investment dollars in Texas," King said. "Just like we broke up the phone monopolies and the electric monopolies, this will give us an opportunity to break up the cable monopoly."
Both industries have waged fierce lobbying and advertising campaigns. Fraser said the intense lobbying by the scores of telecom representatives is one reason he waited so late in the game to take up House Bill 789 in his committee.
"The later it gets in the session, the more agreeable they get" about compromises, he said.
But King said there are "irreconcilable differences" between the House and Senate on telephone deregulation. "It's going to be very, very, very difficult to come to an agreement in the conference committee," he said.