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The telecom bill is dead

The Quorum Report quotes Rep. Phil King offering a eulogy for HB789.

Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) confirms negotiations on House Bill 789 and Senate Bill 743 have broken down irretrievably, with no hope of negotiating either bill.

HB 789 was the telecommunications deregulation bill. King said the House and Senate could not come to a compromise on the statewide franchise for telecommunications services, which the House favored and the Senate did not.

SB 743 was the electric bill. King said the two sides could not agree on several fronts, including the goals for renewable energy. The two sides had a different framework for emerging technologies.

King said the two sides gave up when it was apparent the conference committee report could not be printed and distributed by midnight.

The Statesman has more.

“It’s over; it’s over,” Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the champion of the proposal, said Saturday night as it became clear that there was no chance the legislation would get to a House vote by the midnight deadline.

“The problem is, we are out of time,” said Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who led Senate opposition to the plan.

Cable companies and a coalition of Texas cities also fought the proposal, which would have allowed SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to get a single statewide franchise for their planned Internet television service instead of negotiating scores of agreements with individual cities, as cable companies do.

The failure of the measure is a rare defeat for SBC, one of the most powerful lobby forces in the Legislature. The company’s chief executive, Ed Whitacre, personally visited the Capitol this week to push for the measure, King and Fraser said.

In another defeat for SBC, the clock ran out on legislation that would have allowed it and other major phone companies to set their own local phone rates. The House and Senate could not reconcile sharply different approaches on how to end state rate controls.


Friday night, Fraser, King, SBC and cable industry executives and representatives from the Texas Municipal League started intense talks in an effort to reach a compromise.

Fraser’s idea was to allow the statewide franchise but require SBC and Verizon to provide public access channels and other services, as cable companies do. King balked, in part because Fraser proposed that the franchise last only two years, allowing legislators to adjust the plan in the next session.

“What company is going to invest billions of dollars for two years?” King said.

The talks ended early Saturday morning. SBC lobbyists then met off and on all day with staffers for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

The stalemate on the television proposal also derailed measures to encourage wind power generation in Texas and allow electric companies to offer high-speed Internet connections over power lines. So-called safety net legislation assures the continuance of the utility commission.

Encouraging wind-power generation is a good thing, so I’m sorry to see that die. Maybe that didn’t belong in a bill to deregulate local phone service and ban cities from creating their own wireless networks, however. No question in my mind that we’re better off with things as they are than we would have been had this mess passed in its entirity.

Links via Save Muni Wireless, which has been an invaluable resource – sometimes the only resource – for following this issue. Major kudos to Adina and Chip for their tireless efforts. Rep. King says he’ll be back in two years to try again, so y’all may want to maintain the domain registration for next time.

UPDATE: As Adina notes in the comments, both telecom bills (HB789 and HB3179) are dead. It was a little hard to tell which bills the stories were referring to towards the end there.

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  1. Adina Levin says:

    Thanks, Charles, for spreading the word about the muniwireless issue, and for covering more stories about the lege. Blogs make it so much easier to keep up with the twists and turns at the capitol.

    A quick clarification: there were two telecom bills
    * HB789, which deregulated the phone companies, and included the ban on municipal networks. The House version and the Senate version were completely different, and Sen.s Fraser and King didn’t reach agreement in conference committee.
    * HB3179, which allowed the phone companies to get into the cable business. It died. Phil King tried and to glom it onto SB408, the PUC sunset bill. Jane Nelson refused to accept the amendments, and that bill died in conference committee.

  2. Phones says:

    The Telecom Bill Is Dead

    Cost and time to get video over phone just went up….