May 23, 2005
It's SBC over TWC in the House

After losing on more points of order than I can count, Rep. Phil King finally got his bill to allow telcos into the cable-TV biz passed out of the House.

The measure was included in a larger bill that extends the life of the state's Public Utilities Commission, a tactic that attracted opposition from some lawmakers who said it was misplaced. Yet in the end, the bill's sponsor, who had suffered several setbacks on his way to passing the bill, won.

"It [cable] will no longer be a little monopoly that just gets more expensive every year," said Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.

The bill allows telephone companies such as SBC and Verizon to obtain a single, statewide franchise to provide TV service over their phone lines.


Mr. King overcame efforts to strip the cable provision from the bill. Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, said Mr. King grafted a "major state policy change" to a bill that had nothing to do with telecommunications.

"You were insistent on having your special-interest language ... in it," Mr. Solomons said.

Mr. King said the change would benefit consumers by leading to lower prices and corporate investments that create jobs. He said it would end the anachronism of cities having a say in what channels cable companies offer.

"It is not a utility, like making sure everyone has electricity or water," he said. "This is entertainment, and it's just not the city's place to regulate."

Mr. King said cities would still get the same amount of revenue from cable providers. Cable providers would pay to cities a fee equal to 5 percent of their gross revenues.

Verizon hailed passage of the bill, saying it creates the opportunity for competition.

Mr. King said he was hopeful that the Senate would pass the bill, but he did not suggest the votes are there.

Just so we're all clear here, the bill that got passed was the Public Utilities Commission sunset bill (a must-pass bill) SB408, and the amendment to it was the original HB3179. Rep. Aaron Pena gives a play-by-play:

(5:00 p.m.) Rep. Solomons comes up with an amendment that would strip the King amendment (HB 3179) off of the sunset bill. This is that one last shot into the death star, to use a Star Wars metaphor.

If you want the King matter removed so that we have a clean sunset bill then one needs to pray that Solomons (uses the force) has the votes.

Others who think that competition is healthy for the consumer then this vote is critical.

The vote is 101 SBC to 34 Time/Warner. King wins that round. Many think that last vote is reflective of the final vote. Let's see.


This can still get stripped out or modified in the Senate bill, which will be up for consideration later this week (no rush, y'all, sine die is in seven days). At least, as Bluebonnet says, one can hope this means we've seen the last of those annoying TV ads over this battle. More coverage is here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 23, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

At first blush, this doesn't seem like a bad thing. Currently, your choices for subscription TV are quite limited: your local cable company, and the two major direct-broadcast satellite services, DirecTV (owned by Fox's Murdoch) and Dish Network. It's hard to criticize having another option.

Furthermore, this may finally give SBC the impetus they've evidently lacked for the past several years to improve the number of customers (or potential customers) wired for broadband. I may not want SBC TV, but I'd love SBC DSL, and if they want to sell me and my neighbors the former, they're going to have to wire us for the latter too.

But I haven't studied the issue, so I'm certain there are several drawbacks I haven't considered. And in any case, it'd certainly be nicer if they'd require something from SBC, other than continued campaign contributions, in exchange for this.

Posted by: Mathwiz on May 27, 2005 5:33 PM