Cable CompetitionSpecifically, legislative proposals in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee would streamline the cumbersome and lengthy process now required to obtain a cable TV franchise. Three Southern States on Front Lines in Battle for Cable Competition

Unlike practically every other sector of the communications market, cable TV has managed to cling to its virtual monopoly power, helped by outdated rules in most states that discourage competition and keep consumers captive to whichever cable company holds an often-times exclusive franchise to service their respective towns.

The antiquated franchise rules have left a whopping 91 percent of pay-TV subscribers without competitive alternatives to their local cable provider.  It's no wonder consumers nationwide have seen their cable rates spike a staggering 93 percent over the last decade, according to estimates by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  

However, relief could be on the way for residents of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, where lawmakers are considering legislation that would end cable's dominance by permitting more choice for consumers in the form of competition from new providers.

Specifically, legislative proposals in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee would streamline the cumbersome and lengthy process now required to obtain a cable TV franchise.  As it stands now, video service providers cannot bring new competing technologies to market until they negotiate with each of the hundreds of local franchise authorities in those states — a process that can take many months, if not years, to complete.

If passed into law, proposed legislation in those states would quickly empower consumers with more choices as video service providers would be able to file just one application to offer their service throughout each state.   The increased competition will undoubtedly produce reduced rates and better service for consumers.

In Texas and the 10 other states where this kind of franchise reform has been adopted, the resulting competition has reduced cable rates anywhere from 28 to 42 percent, according to a recent Bank of America study. In addition to lower prices, competition has provided consumers with more control, better customer service and new services.

The pro-competition, pro-consumer bills in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee will be voted on by state lawmakers who right now are the targets of a furious ninth-inning push by cable industry lobbyists determined to preserve their overwhelming collective market share.

Now is the time, as the old saying goes, for the voter/citizen/taxpayer to contact his or her state representatives and tell them that they want a cable franchise reform bill passed.  Real cable competition is within reach for these three Southern states, but legislators need to hear from their constituents about how much they want choice and competition.

In Florida, the Consumer Choice Act of 2007 (HB 529) was passed yesterday by a vote of 104-8 in the House of Representatives, and is now headed to the State Senate for consideration.

Georgia residents should encourage their State Senators to support passage of the Consumer Choice for Television Act (HB 227). The legislation overwhelmingly passed the House on March 20th with a vote of 166 -2, and now moves on to the Senate. 

And in Tennessee, the bill that needs your support is called the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act of 2007.  Versions of that bill are pending in the state House of Representatives (HB 1421) and in the State Senate (SB 1933).

Anyone who's not sure who represents their area in the state legislature can find out easily enough by accessing the state legislature's website. Then it's time to fire off e-mails, letters and phone calls.  Legislators in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee need to hear consumers say they want franchise reform legislation — and they want it now.

To find your legislator, go to the following websites:

March 22, 2007
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