Primer on S1349, the Video Choice Act of 2005

Posted by Bernie - July 24, 2005 (entry 337)

Video Choice Act of 2005 (S. 1349)

What the Bill Says:

The expressed objective of this bill is to increase wire-based competition in video services, increase broadband deployment in the U.S., and spur rural development by stimulating the transition to high-capacity networks. The argument is that in order to do this localities must be required to relinquish some of the controls they have over access to their service areas.

If the bill is passed, local authorities could not require that companies who enter their markets accept the terms arrived at through franchise discussions. Citizens could not require that companies contribute services and public access facilities in exchange for the revenue they earn.

Companies trying to break into the cable video market in a locality

a. would not have to make channels available for public access other than those already provided by existing cable agreements.

b. would only have to offer “reasonable” access where none already exists.

c. would only have to pay fees that are determined by their profits obtained from the locality; what constitutes revenue would also have to be restricted to what counts as revenue when determining the fees for local providers.

d. would not have to enter into a franchise agreement with local public authorities that want to require concessions to the public interest.

What is Wrong with this Bill:

It is possible to hold telephone companies that attempt to become video providers to the terms agreed upon by local authorities without sacrificing the stated purpose of this bill. There is sufficient incentive to enter these areas without giving up the powers that towns currently have to insist on provisions for the public interest.

In short:

Local control over public resources must not be limited to imposing fees based on a formula developed in Washington.

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