Texas Governor Signs Video Franchise Bill into Law
By TED GLANZER
TMCnet Communications and Broadband Columnist
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday signed into law a bill passed by the state legislature enabling large telecommunications carriers' such as Verizon Communications and SBC Communications Inc. to obtain statewide video franchises.
A statewide franchise agreement will significantly accelerate Verizon's and SBC's launches of their respective IP-based video services in the Lone Star State.
Until today, Verizon would have been required to negotiate individual franchise agreements with every Texas municipality in which the telecom planned to launch its FiOS TV product. (SBC has not attempted to obtain such franchise agreements, taking the position that its Project Lightspeed IPTV is not subject to local regulations because it will be deployed over the Internet.)
Obtaining a single franchise agreement normally takes between six and 18 months, Verizon Director-Western Bureau Media Relations Bill Kula told TMCnet in an interview on Wednesday.
"That's too much time," Kula said, especially considering that Verizon has rolled out or plans to roll out its fiber-optic FiOS network – over which FiOS TV will be delivered - to nearly 10,000 municipalities nationwide.
Kula said that Verizon already offers high speed Internet and fiber-based phone services over its FiOS network to two dozen municipalities in Texas. Verizon expects to offer FiOS TV in Texas by the end of the year.
Verizon Southwest Region President Steve Banta said in a company statement that the Texas video franchise law represents a major victory to those looking for choices in their cable television needs.
"This progressive legislation will define Texas as a broadband buyer's market known for consumer choice, innovative products and services and technologically savvy customers," Banta said. "We expect to accelerate our video deployment in Texas beyond our original plans and will work to give more Texans a choice for cable TV service."
Telecoms are hoping that the new Texas law will create a domino effect in other jurisdictions.
"We're hopeful that . . . other states will be motivated to similar action," Kula said, adding that New Jersey was probably the next state that will visit the issue.
Not everyone is pleased with the new law, as some objected to the way in which the bill was passed by the legislature. Indeed, a similar measure failed to pass the Texas State Senate in May, only to resurface during a special session that was originally called to address issues concerning the state education budget.
"For months, Texas legislators have been seeking a way to address the crisis in public schools and the rapid increase in property tax rates," said Tom Kinney, president of Time Warner Cable-Austin Division and chairman of the board of the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association in mid-August. "And yet, while members' attention was focused on other areas, a telecommunications bill that had failed in the regular session was reintroduced."
Ted Glanzer is assistant editor for TMCnet. For more articles by Ted Glanzer, please visit:
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