FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2007
Contact: Jeffrey Mazzella
The legislation, once signed into law by the Governor Crist, will streamline a three decade-old process by which cable franchises were awarded in the state. That system enabled virtual monopolies to dominate the pay-TV market, denying customers the tremendous benefits offered by open competition - lower rates, more choices and better service.
"Cable franchise reform has been sweeping the country because consumers are sick and tired of the lack of choice, pricing and variety they are being offered by incumbent providers," said CFIF president Jeffrey Mazzella. "Hearing consumers' voices in Florida, the state's legislature approved legislation that will eliminate the cumbersome and time-consuming system that has required potential market competitors to seek literally hundreds of franchise agreements with local communities."
The Consumer Choice Act will update the local franchising process by placing the application approval authority in one place with the Department of State, which will have 15 days to review and award licenses. Under the current system, application approvals have taken up to eighteen months to complete, slowing the delivery of benefits to consumers and providing a disincentive for new providers to enter the marker.
The legislation also protects municipalities that have become dependent on the income provided by franchise fees assessed by the communities. Those fees, as well as control over rights-of-way and handling consumer complaints, will remain with the local governments. Public, educational and government channels also will be required to remain at current levels.
CFIF supported the Consumer Choice Act of 2007 in Florida and other states because of the immediate benefits it believes the changes will produce.
"The outdated franchise system served as nothing more than a barrier to market entry for potential competitors in the cable TV market," said Mazzella. "By passing legislation to tear down that barrier to entry, the Florida Legislature not only scored a major victory for consumers, but also for innovation and jobs in the state.
"Proof that open markets work can be found in other states that have recently passed similar legislation," continued Mazzella. "Creating open competition reduces rates for consumers, encourages private investment in new technologies and creates job opportunities in both infrastructure development and high-tech positions. That's cause for celebration by all Floridians," Mazzella concluded.
The Center for Individual Freedom (www.cfif.org) is a non-profit constitutional and free-market advocacy organization that fights to advance the principles of limited government, and protect individual freedom and rights in the legal, legislative and educational arenas. CFIF opposes over-burdensome federal, state and local regulations and taxes that impede Internet evolution and e-commerce.
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