Just this morning I saw one of those call-your-legislator ads by the lobbying wing of Texas cable companies regarding the reanimated telecom bill. Since it's already passed the Senate, they probably should have been more specific about which legislators to call, especially since the House could debate the bill today.
(By the way, I'm assuming that since there were two bills voted on during the regular session but only one here that this is an amalgam of the two. Anyone know for sure?)
Anyway, here's some more on the current status of the bill:
As TelecomWeb went to press, reports from the Lone Star State indicate the bill is on a fast track through committee in the Texas House of Representatives, and it could reach the floor for a vote on Sunday. Expectations are that the bill will pass.
The action had failed to get to the Senate floor for a vote in May, just as the regular session of the legislature was ending, and the telcos had been resigned to waiting two years – until the next session of the Texas legislature – before trying again. The governor, however, recently recalled the bicameral lawmakers to handle badly overdue education- financing matters.
Without legislative relief, the telcos would have to negotiate with every city and town in the state, one at a time, to get the franchise right to deliver IPTV. Indeed, Verizon already has done that with a small number of Texas municipalities in order to launch IPTV services over its highly touted "Fios" fiber-to-the-home network.
"In a stunning effort to give aid where none is needed, today the Texas Senate took the first step to authorize the state to allow multibillion dollar corporations to redline and divide communities in the delivery of vital cable and internet services," Tom Kinney, chairman of TCTA and president of Time Warner Cable-Austin, said. "SBC and Verizon can enter the video market today without the special favors the Texas Senate conceded to them. Instead, the phone monopolies, having lost in the regular session of the legislature, pled their case to the legislature for special treatment in the special session when the important issue of school finance hangs in the balance.
"Phone rates will increase under the telecom portion of the bill. The phone monopolies persuaded the legislature to further deregulate phone services while these companies at the same time continue to receive over $200 million in government subsidies from the taxpayers of Texas. Once again, Texas taxpayers are on the losing end of a massive lobbying campaign by SBC and Verizon."
As passed, SB 21 allows phone companies to set their own rates for residential phone customers. In addition, the legislation shifts the video franchise system from municipal authority to a state-issued system with no study on how this would impact cities or consumers.